Jelly Roll Breaks Down Helping a Family in Pain

The family at the center of one of the most emotional scenes from Jelly Roll’s documentary has opened about their experience with the singer, and what led them to him and his music.

Chanell Clarke, her mother Minia Smith and Smith’s 16-year-old granddaughter Abby found their way backstage at the Grand Ole Opry last fall, and it wasn’t three seconds before tears flowed.

If you watched Jelly Roll: Save Me on Hulu, you saw this scene. Clarke and Abby told Taste of Country how they got there, and that story is even more powerful, but tragic.

“She said it was like getting a chance to hug my brother again, her son,” Clarke shares, speaking of her mother’s emotional first meeting with Jelly Roll. Cell phone video shared with Taste of Country captures the other women’s tears, as well.

In March 2021, Minia Smith’s son Brandon Smith was shot and killed in his home in Phoenix. Police would take his wife into custody, and she’d soon be accused of killing him. Their daughter — then 14 years old — was home at the time, later saying she heard the gunshots and walked into the living room to find her father wounded on the floor. The family dog was also shot.

Abby is the couple’s daughter. She has since moved with Clarke to Tennessee to start a new life. Last fall, the family saw that Jelly Roll was set to play Bridgestone Arena, so they bought tickets. Then, they saw he was set to play the Grand Ole Opry even sooner.

“First I got front row tickets (to the Opry) and then I made him a flannel and on the back it said, ‘Mama Tried,’” Clarke shares, revealing her hobby.

That flannel ended up in Jelly Roll’s hands before he left the stage, and from there, the group kind of barnstormed backstage, hoping fate would lead them to the singer. It worked!

Reporting by ABC 15 in Phoenix describes Diane Smith’s mental health struggles and her husband’s fight to get her help. Clarke adds that her brother knew his life was at risk. In fact, they all feared his wife of 13 years during the three months before he died, but he wouldn’t leave, because he couldn’t leave without his daughter.

“We had blankets covering our windows because ours was the corner house on the side of the street,” she tells Taste of Country. “She would throw stuff in our backyard. I had two small children, so I wouldn’t even let them play in our backyard.”

In January of 2021, Clarke remembers cleaning house while listening to music on YouTube when “Save Me” started playing. She froze as she soaked in the lyrics.

“Somebody save me / Me from myself / I’ve spent so long living in hell,” Jelly Roll sings.

“I just stood there and was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Word for word that sounds like everything that my brother is trying to say to us,” she recalls.

Another Jelly Roll song called “Glitter” had a similar impact. These words meant so much then — more with him gone.

“We played your song at his funeral,” Minia Smith shares with Jelly Roll in video provided to Taste of Country. Through tears, you hear her tell the hitmaker their story, and then her cell phone camera pans up to find him overflowing with emotion.

Toward the end of their visit, Jelly Roll takes Abby and speaks right to her. His effort and emotions are extended in this uncut version of the video. One truly sees how their story impacted him.

“There’s an old phrase that says we are overcome by the power of our testimony. You have a real strong testimony,” Jelly Roll tells Abby, his anguished voice becoming a forceful whisper.

“And you’re going to do a lot of good for the world with it one day. You hear me? You cry about it anytime you want to. You never let nobody tell you how to grieve. You take your time. You talk about him every day if it’s what it takes for you to get through it. Because one day you will talk about him with a smile, I promise.”

“It was really amazing how he said that to me,” Abby shares, reflecting. “I felt so special and just — it couldn’t have been better than that.”

The teen seems to be taking her favorite singer’s words to heart. While soft-spoken and still under a great deal of duress, she admits she’s very happy living in Mount Juliet, Tenn. She told Clarke — her adoptive mother — as much recently.

“She hugged me and said, ‘I feel like I have a second chance at life.’”