Jelly Roll about Toby Keith for Amazon, Stagecoach and social media

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Jelly Roll may not have grown up on “Gunsmoke,” Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, like the narrator of Toby Keith’s 1993 breakthrough song “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” did. But if the western clothes fit, wear it. The rapper turned country superstar has covered the late Keith’s signature song for an exclusive Amazon Music Originals version, releasing on the same day he’ll perform the song at California’s Stagecoach festival – both for the studio version as for the festival performance. by none other than a cowboy than T-Pain.

Jelly Roll called Variety the day before the cover’s release (listen to the stream above) and his Stagecoach appearance on Friday evening to talk about the Keith tune, which will benefit the late star’s childhood cancer charity. He also discussed whether he might debut songs from his upcoming album at the festival, his four nominations for May’s ACM Awards (including Entertainer of the Year), and whether he will return to social media soon, following his decision to take time out take, belatedly created their own headlines.

Did Amazon come to you and say, Hey, we have an idea for this Toby Keith cover, or how did it come about?

No, actually Amazon just came to us and talked to us about collaborating on something fun for Stagecoach, and as I was sorting through the ideas, I had been working on ‘Should’ve Been a Cowboy’ for about a year now. my shows, just kind of a tribute to Toby when he got sick before he died. That’s when it really started to hit me, man, what better place to honor Toby than Stagecoach? Plus, Toby Keith was one of the artists who from afar, even though he never would have known it, encouraged me to get into country music.

How come?

Just with songs like ‘Should’ve Been a Cowboy’ or ‘The Next Thing on My List’ and ‘I Love This Bar’ – just the way he put his personality into his music. He was an outsider. He was unapologetically Oklahoma. There are many things he did that encouraged and strengthened me. He was very individualistic and charted his own path, in his own way, from pillar to post. He never knew it, but he was a mentor to me and just watched from a distance.

You’re a little too young to have grown up with “Gunsmoke,” like the guy in the song did, but you still related to it.

I generally like nostalgic songs, songs that take you to a place in time or have a setting. And that’s another reason why we chose Stagecoach. I mean, dude, think about it: in the middle of the California desert, 80,000 country music fans, what better place to sing “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.”

How did you get T-Pain there?

I love T-Pain and his work, and I was thinking about who would be the perfect surprise guest for Stagecoach that no one would see coming. I love putting together odd pairs because I think I’m an odd pair myself. And I think Toby was a little bit about that too. And when I started talking to T-Pain about Toby, just in general, he told me the story about how the only time he ever did something big in the country, at the CMT Awards, he presented with Toby [in 2009]. And he was just talking about how great Toby was as a person and how Toby made him feel comfortable and confused him before they went out.

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And I also think when he covered that Chris Stapleton record (“Tennessee Whiskey”), I don’t know if I speak for the whole country music community, but I definitely saw it and thought, wow, this is incredible — what a raw, pure voice. I think T-Pain had a bad reputation for his voice for so long because he leaned on Autotune but never really needed it. So it just seemed like a really cool combination and a completely different take on the song.

T-Pain agreed, and so did I – it just showed who he was again – that all proceeds from this song will go to the Toby Keith Foundation, to help children with cancer. I just thought we were doing it for Toby and the cool thing was I called T-Pain with that and he didn’t hesitate.

I covered the song and Toby’s son saw me at the CMT’s and took me aside and said, ‘Hey man, I just wanted to let you know that I saw a video of you covering this song, and I think it is. one of the best versions of it ever. And I think you’re honoring my father.’ And it just meant so much to me.

You didn’t choose Autotune for this song, so no one should expect that.

No no no no no no. I’m telling you, man, T-Pain can really sing. I don’t know if you’ve seen “On Top of the Covers,” but check it out on YouTube. He covers 10 or 12 songs in a speakeasy in Vegas and it’s just him and a band, and, dude, his voice is undeniably incredible.

This weekend is your first time at Stagecoach. Do you expect to hang out with anyone there on your evening? Eric Church and Elle King will also be on your main stage Friday night.

Well, I’m going to hang out for the weekend too. I’m such a fan of country music. Last year we blocked out this weekend even if we couldn’t play just because we were just going to come and experience it. So we hang. And the cool thing is, Eric Church is a mentor and a friend, I look forward to seeing him. I’m looking forward to talking to Elle. I’m looking forward to seeing the set of Miranda Lambert, Nickelback’s late night show. Diplo… I’m going to give away hugs, like the CMT Awards [where the promise of Jelly Roll hugs was a bit in Kelsea Ballerini’s monolog].

Nice that you booked the whole weekend. Many people don’t think to do that and then they regret having to jump right back on the bus.

Oh dude, I’m flying with my daughter, and you think I’d miss the chance for my daughter to see Miranda Lambert headline Stagecoach?

You had Flavor Flav introduce your show in Detroit on Wednesday. He was in the news today just for talking about you on social media and responding to the stories about how your wife said you were cyberbullied, and he’s clearly a big fan of both your personality and your music.

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He’s a sweet person, man. His wife is just the salt of the earth. Last night I met their whole family again. I really got to spend some time with Flav and his family, and they really are the salt of the earth.

Anything to update on what he was talking about, where your wife mentioned you weren’t on social media? Do you think you’ll stay away, or is that just a temporary thing and you’ll come back?

Oh man. I’m sure I’ll be back, but right now I’m not thinking about anything other than how I’m going to honor the TK Foundation and Toby’s family. And we’ve got bigger fish to fry, man. I don’t hate social media. And…

I probably shouldn’t go into this because no one on my team wants to, but I have no problem with social media. And it wasn’t just bullying that did this. It wasn’t just the toxicity of social media, but also its addiction. I was too busy to waste hours of my life scrolling. I can honestly say that I have been off social media for a few months now and I have never felt better or healthier mentally – never been clearer in my mind. I’ve never had much of an idea of ​​what was going on in the world either, but I’ll tell you what: I’m definitely not coming back before the elections. Bad joke.

No, that could be useful advice for people… Also in Detroit you made a new song, ‘Liar’. So was that just for a test drive in Detroit, or could Stagedoach hear that?

I feel like if I did it at Stagecoach it would be his real debut. I’ve been trying new music along the way. I’m a big comedy fan and I told my manager, I was a little jealous of my comedian friends. They get to try out jokes in front of people to see if they work before putting them on Netflix. So I actually want to do that more as a musician.

So people might hear something new at Stagecoach.

Yeah, I think we’ll do that. I tell you what, I don’t know what all the other artists do when they debut on Stagecoach, but I took it seriously. I have rehearsed more for Stagecoach than any other event in my career.

Real? You’ve done so many shows that you should be in good fighting shape. So what made you think you had more work to do?

I have 45 to 50 minutes, which is a tight window, and I want to make sure I convey the fullness of who I am as an artist, like a real Jelly Roll show. I spend a lot of time trying to get people to understand where I come from and why I do what I do, and it takes some time to develop that. It’s a premise that I have to establish throughout the show, so I’m trying to find a way to get that same message across to people in 50 minutes.

People at Coachella are there to party, and yours is party-friendly music, but there’s a serious message in there, so that’s probably an interesting balance for you to walk that line, where you don’t lose the reason why there’s a love fest going on.

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Yes, that’s exactly right. You try to find a way to do it tastefully and still stay true to who we are, but also keep people moving.

When speaking to you at the CMT Music Awards, you said you thought this was the last time you would sing a song from your latest album in a big TV setting. Can you comment on that as the ACMs arrive in May?

The four-time nominee Jelly Roll at the ACMs! It doesn’t sound real. No, I’m telling you man, if we move on, it’ll be all new music. You can tell because I tease songs at club shows. I’m on a phone full of songs screaming to get out. I experience that patience of artists for the first time in my career. I call my manager and label every day, when can we leak a song? I think I may need to go back to my “ask for forgiveness, not permission” model.

So people on your team are trying to tie you down…

No, no, not really. They don’t care what I do. They are cool.

A fun favorite statistic about the ACMs is that this is the first time since the early 1990s that someone has run out of nominations one year and then has a nomination for Entertainer of the Year the next year. That happened 32 years ago with Billy Ray Cyrus.

You know, the statistic that no one gives me when they give me that statistic is, did Billy Ray Cyrus win that year?

We’ll have to look that up. That would be a big leap.

Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. We will do it together. Look at this. [He speaks his phone.] “Did Billy Ray Cyrus win Entertainer of the Year?”… He didn’t win Entertainer of the Year. Well, I know it’s a very long shot for me to win that prize, but I think in that case I would be the first to win it too. You know what? He was actually nominated six times; I’ve never won one. American Music Awards, won three out of ten nominations. Won a Juno prize twice. Six TNN awards. Two CMAs. He won a Grammy in 2020, which is the only time he won. He didn’t win for “Achy Breaky Heart” or “Romeo” with Dolly, but won for “Old Town Road.” Crazy man. I hope it doesn’t take until 2054 before I win one.

With the role you play at every other awards show, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be Billy Ray part two.

Being nominated for an ACM is a really big deal. I am honored to just be in the building. All I want to know is: Will Garth and Dolly return as hosts? That’s the real million dollar question here.

They just announced it today. Reba came back this year to do it.

Real? Look, I am not on social media! Thanks for telling me. I would never know.

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