FRISCO, TEXAS - MAY 11: (L-R) Jelly Roll and Lainey Wilson perform onstage during the 58th Academy Of Country Music Awards at The Ford Center at The Star on May 11, 2023 in Frisco, Texas.
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'Save Me': How Lainey Wilson Made a Great Jelly Roll Song Greater

"Save Me" predates Jelly Roll's mainstream country run.

The original 2020 version of "Save Me" brings everything you'd want from a Jelly Roll song. A four-minute change of pace on rap-heavy album Self Medicated, it's a stripped down, acoustic pouring out of the singer-songwriter's heart, delivered with the soulfulness of Chris Stapleton or even Otis Redding. It's a masterfully-composed piece of Jelly Roll's very heart from a troubling time in his journey to superstardom.

"It was the middle of the pandemic. And when I say middle of it, I mean we were spraying boxes with Lysol. And I just couldn't sit through that. I was like, "We got to work'," he told Apple Music. "And I was in such a dark space because of that; I knew I needed to write. My father had just died a year before. So I'm still learning how to grieve through that. And then I'm like, 'We got to write. I got to get this out of me.' So 'Save Me' came from a really dark space. It's still really hard to sing."

Yet it came right before the mainstream was ready to embrace Jelly Roll. Fortunately for those of us who might've missed out otherwise, it got a shiny new coat of paint —and the optimal collaborator— for 2023 album Whitsitt Chapel.

Touches of steel guitar add a new layer to the song, as does the selection of country megastar Lainey Wilson as Jelly Roll's duet partner. Wilson's voice and the new arrangement bring a otherworldly haze to one of several Jelly Roll songs that double as a prayer from someone who's not too proud to confess a plethora of sins.

"It was a no-brainer," Jelly Roll told Pure Country Radio about working with Wilson. "Lainey's like a sister. I think she's got one of the best voices in country music, and we're already friends so it was just such an easy collab. Now, admittedly, what I didn't think about at the exact time, the first thought was just like, 'Man, wouldn't this be cool to do a real duet?' But I didn't realize how much of an impact the song was going to have on me when I heard it from the perspective of a woman."

Jelly Roll stressed that the song seems to connect deeper with listeners than his past solo recording— and not just because of his rising pop culture profile.

"I tell Lainey all the time, she's like, 'This song is doing incredible.' And I was like, 'It has nothing to do with me, Lainey.' I've already put this song out," he said. "I was like, 'People are hearing this from the perspective of a woman right now, and it's putting a whole different energy into the universe from this song.' You know what I mean?"

The Jelly Roll and Wilson version earned a 2023 CMA Awards nomination for Musical Event of the Year.

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