How Jelly Roll’s Past Felony Makes Touring Complicated
Jelly Roll is one of country music's hottest new artists, with fans clamoring for tickets on his upcoming 2023 Backroad Baptism Tour. But in a new interview, he says his past felony conviction still makes things complicated for him — even in his work.
In December of 2022, he even sold out a hometown show at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, earmarking the proceeds from the event to create a recording studio at the Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center — a facility where the singer himself was incarcerated as a teen.
Jelly Roll's legal history — and specifically, a felony charge that he incurred at 16, after he was arrested for aggravated robbery — is still impacting his life, and his ability to tour, today. Tennessee has a zero-forgiveness policy for felony offenders, meaning that Jelly Roll's felony charge is still on his record, and the repercussions have continuing implications for both his personal and professional life.
In a new cover interview with Billboard, Jelly says that international touring is complicated: Until recently, his felony charge meant that he was unable to obtain a passport. Even after he got one, planning shows across the pond has been difficult.
"The trick is, when America finally says, 'We'll let you leave,' the amount of countries that won't let you come in," the singer details. "We had to cancel my London debut show."
He also lost out on his dream house — which was in a gated community with a golf course — due to his felony.
"Imagine changing your life in such a way that you can afford the kind of house in this community that I was looking at," the singer says. "My money was welcome, but I wasn't, all because of something I did [almost] 24 years ago."
Elsewhere in the interview, Jelly underscores the severity of the charges, saying that he still thinks about and regrets the incident every day.
"I never want to overlook the fact that it was a heinous crime. This is a grown man looking back at a 16-year-old kid that made the worst decision that he could have made in life and people could have got hurt and, by the grace of God, thankfully, nobody did," he says.
But he's also not forgetting about the fact that he was charged as an adult while he was still a child, and believes that the conviction diminished his chances at rehabilitation before he'd even had the chance to turn his life around.
"I was charged as an adult before I could buy a beer, lease an apartment, get a pack of cigarettes," he notes. "...I feel like the justice system at that point kind of parked me on my only set path."