Never one to keep his emotions or his past hidden from the public, Jelly Roll acknowledges that he's still very much a work in progress.

In a new interview with the New York Timesthe singer reflects on the demons and difficult times that have inspired so much of his music — and admits that those demons haunt him to this day.

"As jovial as I am in real life, the music is a reflection of a very, very dark hallway between my ears," Jelly points out in response to a question about whether or not his music will evolve into happier subject matter as a response to his success.

"[My mind is] the scariest place on earth for me. I dread going to sleep every night. The ghosts are there," the singer continues.

That being said, Jelly also wants to celebrate the positivity in his life — and that element will be a part of future musical chapters, too. "I'm going into my eighth year of marriage and I've never been more in love," he says. "I just want a wedding song — I've had so many funeral songs. I want to showcase that there are highs in life, too, and I want to figure out a way to incorporate them in the music."

He might still be mulling over how to include those "highs" in his songs, but Jelly's already incorporating them into his public presence: For example: His much-meme-ified 2023 acceptance speech for CMA New Artist of the Year, or the tear-filled video he posted on Instagram, showing fans just how overcome with emotion he was when he learned that he'd been nominated at the Grammy Awards.

"My wife asked me that day, 'What's this mean to you?' I was like, 'There's no more pinnacle in the music business than when you win a Grammy,'" Jelly explains. "Even just being nominated supersedes every award I've already won. That's the headline the rest of my life: Grammy-nominated."

"I'm lying there crying with my wife and we're looking at all the other nominees. She was like, 'You've got to post about this.' I was like, too emotional. She was like, 'When has that stopped you?'" he recounts. "That's just a good wife."

More than anything, though, Jelly's musical compass is the people he's writing music for: Those going through loss, addiction or other difficult life stages, who look to his music as a source of catharsis and comfort. Though he hopes his next batch of songs will embrace the celebratory moments, the singer says he also hopes that he won't lose focus on those listeners.

"I'm never letting what's happening with the blessing of this thing working for me to take me away from who I know I'm actually speaking to," he relates. "... Ultimately, you know what I write about, and you know who I write for."

The 10 Best Country Albums of 2023 - Critic's Picks

In 2023, the album format was much more than just a way for artists to collect and organize their songs. In fact, the best albums of the year often doubled as diaries for the artist's journey through a new life stage or personal evolution.

So many artists upped their game that it was impossible to include them all in this list. Luke Combs' Gettin' Old and Hardy's The Mockingbird & the Crow only made it to honorable mention status, which says a lot about just how high the bar was for great, transformative albums in 2023. Special shout-outs are also due to self-titled records from Zach Bryan and Brandy Clark, who released excellent personal statement projects this year, and Dustin Lynch, who delivered unflinching honesty in his album, Killed the Cowboy.

But ultimately, the Top 10 albums of 2023 were master classes in self-reflection and growth; the artists who made them have hit their stride or are still on endless quests towards personal and artistic fulfillment.

Read on for Taste of Country's best albums of 2023, which were picked by a team of staff writers.

Gallery Credit: Carena Liptak

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