Industry Celebrates Multi-Genre Nashville Native Jelly Roll’s First Number 1



Pictured (LR): Brandon Perdue (Riser House), Lydia Schultz (SESAC), Shannon Sanders (BMI). Clay Bradley (BMI), Tom Luteran (Sony ATV), Michael Whitworth (songwriter), David Ray Stevens (songwriter), Jelly Roll/Jason DeFord (artist and songwriter), Andrew Baylis (songwriter and producer), Jon Loba (BBR). Photo: Steve Lowry for BMI

Earlier this week, BMI hosted industry members, family and friends to celebrate “Dead Man Walking,” the Nashville-based multi-genre artist’s first No. 1 hit. jelly roll.

The party, organized by BMI and SESAC, celebrated Jelly Roll and its co-authors Michael Whitworth, Andrew Baylisand David Ray Stevens. “Dead Man Walking”, which spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Airplay chart, was the first #1 song for all writers.

BMI Shannon Sander served as master of ceremonies for the occasion. “We have a lot of No. 1 celebrations, but because this one is local it hits differently,” he told a cheering crowd.

“I’m thrilled for our four songwriters today,” Sanders said. “I’m so proud of these guys. Talk about a real Nashville story… These guys have been doing this for a long time.

Pictured (LR): Michael Whitworth, David Ray Stevens, Jelly Roll/Jason DeFord and Andrew Baylis. Photo: Steve Lowry for BMI

The celebration was jovial and included many tequila shots from the stage.

the SESAC Lydia Cahill was on hand to talk about co-writer Whitworth, who was one of his very first signings. “Your humility, your drive and your passion will allow us to celebrate these songs for many years to come,” she said.

Sanders let the crowd know that three of the four writers had their own publishing, so they wouldn’t have publishers talking about it. Whitworth, however, is signed with Riser House, so the company brandon lost was there to support him.

Label Manager Jelly Roll, BBR’s Jon Lobasaid a few words about his multi-genre artist.

“I can talk about Jelly Roll—Jason DeFord– for days, weeks and months,” he said. “From the minute that Adrian Michaels introduced us, I fell in love with Jelly Roll. First by listening to his art, then by getting to know his heart. He has both in spades.

“No. 1 are rare, as you know. We plan to have more, but savor this. Soak in it,” Loba added. “It’s even more special that you can do it in your hometown and help make Nashville not just country music, but the epicenter of North American music.”

When the songwriters spoke, they talked about writing rock music in a city known for country music, and how being in the Jelly Roll circle changed their careers.

“The cool thing about Jelly Roll is that it changes lives with its songs. He changed my life,” said co-writer and producer Baylis. “I grew up in a small town. Having dreams like this is crazy, but I hope when people look at someone like me, instead of being depressed all the time, I hope they feel like they can do it.

Stevens opened up about his longtime friendship with Jelly Roll and when it was time to wrap up the celebration of a No. 1 in Nashville. “I’ve known you for 20 years,” he said. “To be born and grow up here is surreal to be here. I was fascinated by Music Row banners growing up. I always thought we would be here, it’s just something about your character.

Whitworth told the story of the night ‘Dead Man Walking’ was written at the Sound Emporium at 3am

“N°1 rock on Music Row!” said Whitworth. “Thank you BMI and SESAC for celebrating something out of the country. I love country, it has my soul, but fuck music is music. It’s awesome.”

When it came time for Jelly Roll to speak, he made sure to thank everyone in the room. He made sure to thank Michaels, who he calls “Meatball,” for recognizing his talent and helping him build a team around him.

“Meatball is also responsible for introducing me to a man who completely changed my life, the narrative and the direction of everything I thought I was going to do. His name is Jon Loba,” Jelly Roll said. “He showed me something that I didn’t think was possible. He showed me how I could continue to be myself, but we could bring that to a mainstream platform and figure out how to get that message out through America without compromising the integrity of the nuances of art and artistic freedom or expression.

The crowd said amen.

Jelly Roll concluded with a word of thanks to its co-authors. “The coolest part of this story is that four guys who never had a number 1 wrote a song, drunk and drug addicted, at 3am and the record went number 1 on the radio.”

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