“I’ve been to jail 40 times in my life,” Jelly Roll said in one of the opening lines of his documentary, Jelly Roll: Save Me, which was released on Hulu on May 30. “If I wasn’t a musician, I’d be dead for sure. Or in prison doing life. I was in and out of juvenile my whole childhood, almost.” However, music wasn’t the only thing that saved the country singer from a much more detrimental fate. The 38-year-old was doing time after violating his probation by selling crack when his daughter, Bailee, now 15, was born. That was the last time he went to jail. “My daughter saved my life and she doesn’t even know it,” Jelly Roll admitted.
“On more than one occasion, my daughter was a divine intervention in my life,” Jelly Roll, whose real name is Jason Bradley DeFord, added. He revealed that he met Bailee’s mother, Felicia, at a mutual friend’s house. She got pregnant while he was selling drugs, which eventually put him back behind bars. Bailee was born on May 22, 2008, and Jelly Roll found out via a prison guard. “I think I lived an extremely selfish life until that moment,” he shared. “I think it was the first time in my whole life that I thought about putting somebody in front of me. In that moment, I made a promise with her that I had to be there for her. It’s almost like something clicked right then.”
Jelly Roll was 23 years old when Bailee was born. When he got out of jail, he began putting his energy into music. However, since he didn’t have a stable career and had a rocky past, he did not have custody of Bailee when she was a toddler. “Bailee’s mother made it hard on me at first,” he shared. “She made me go to court to even see her. I barely got to see her in the early years because I was traveling so much. I was a very less-than-present father. Not to mention, I was drinking myself to sleep every night.”
When Bailee was seven, Felicia, who has Fibromyalgia and was “always in pain,” began to “really go downhill,” according to Jelly Roll. “I could see the writing on the wall that her pill addiction was spiraling out of control,” he explained. “Then I see Felicia end up in a full-blown heroin addiction.” When Jelly Roll and his wife, Bunnie XO, saw how Bailee was living, they knew they needed to give her a better life. They eventually got full custody of Bailee.
Now, Felicia is sober after six years battling a heroin addiction. “We’re proud of her, but it was really rough on Bailee,” Jelly Roll admitted. “And it really helped me straighten my s*** out because It made me realize how important it was for me to be there for her.” Seeing Felicia’s condition also helped Bunnie XO give up her pill-popping habit. She said she has “never touched a pill” since getting full custody of Bailee.
Bailee also spoke in the documentary and assured viewers that she is in a good place today. “I had an extra, interesting, traumatic childhood,” she said. “Bunnie did, my dad did. They’re important reasons for why my mom is in my life now and is sober. As a teenager, I’ve moved on. I’ve worked through my childhood. But that doesn’t make it go away. It made me who I am today.”
In addition to Bailee, Jelly Roll also has a son, Noah, who was born in 2016. However, he mostly keeps the child out of the public eye to respect his mother’s privacy. Jelly Roll has not revealed the identity of his son’s mother.