Jelly Roll’s ‘CMA Fest’ Performance Was Full of Soulful Details [Watch]
On the broadcast of the CMA Fest special, Jelly injected soulful, personal color into his performance from the very first short: The clip opens with an aerial view of him standing on a small stage in the middle of the crowd, a ragged, neon cross on the floor beneath him as spotlights around the edge of the stage point upwards.
It was Jelly's first CMA Fest performance, and a triumphant homecoming for the Music City native, who yelled out "Nashville!" to the crowd in the midst of his performance.
"Need a Favor" was part of a two-song Nissan Stadium set for Jelly, which also included his breakout hit, "Son of a Sinner." His stop at CMA Fest took place just days after Jelly's much-anticipated debut album, Whitsitt Chapel, arrived.
During his time onstage, Jelly also wore a black ball cap that read "RIP Kushy" across the side. Kushy was a Nashville-based rapper and a close friend of the singer's, who he describes as part of his "day 1 family" from his home neighborhood of Antioch. Kushy died in late March — about a month and a half before CMA Fest — and when he heard the news, Jelly shared a lengthy social media remembrance of his friend.
"We did it all together, we started in the streets together and then we're able to take our dream across the country together (multiple times over)," the singer wrote. "Kushy was one of the most talented men I've ever [born] witness to in my life. He had the look, the voice, the lyrics, the charisma and the fashion (the last time I spoke to him I reminded him that the music business [is] a 10 year grind and he was on year 9 so just be patient)."
"Kushy was also a loving father, a LOYAL friend, an ambassador of everything Antioch," Jelly went on to say. "Earlier this week an inspiration to my entire community passed away."
Though he didn't speak about his late friend during his time onstage, he brought Kushy with him to the big stage of CMA Fest via a powerful, subtle message of love and remembrance. Jelly continuously keeps his roots close to him in his musical pursuits: His Whitsitt Chapel album is named for the Antioch church that he attended as a child.
CMA Fest aired on ABC on Wednesday night (July 19).