When Jelly Roll looks back at the 2023 CMA Awards — the night he won his very first CMA trophy, and gave book-ending performances that both opened and closed the show — he'll be able to remember all of the details.

That's by design: Jelly has been working hard on staying present during this fast-paced moment in his career, and milestone awards shows like this one are no exception.

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"I was just telling my wife a second ago, I haven't touched my phone tonight at all," the singer told press backstage after the show on Wednesday night (Nov. 8). He was proudly holding his CMA New Artist of the Year trophy, but even more special to him than the win, he explained, were all the memories he created during the big night.

"I have lived this moment," Jelly affirms. "I got to sit next to Zach Bryan, my wife and Post Malone, Lainey Wilson. I soaked in every conversation — literally, I don't know what the phone said. I'm hearing good things. I hope it's true."

Jelly's schedule from 2023 is one that run even more seasoned touring artists ragged. He mounted an enormous headlining tour this year and kept every date, despite running into voice-affecting illnesses and a family emergency that kept his wife Bunnie Xo off the road for several of the shows.

But Jelly's in this career for the long haul. He's invested in keeping himself healthy, and that means going back to the basics.

"I'm doing better than I've ever done," he acknowledges. "I'm eating better. Losing weight. Drinking water. Not drinking as much — but when I drink, I still drink a lot."

More than anything, he's found his purpose in releasing meaningful music that connects to fans, especially those going through difficult life stages. "Me and my wife spoke about it one time: I was acting kinda weird at the house one time and she said, 'You know, you haven't written a song in three months.'"

"I think what helps me with my mental health and helps me be so [joyful] is one, coming where I come from and two, understanding the therapy that is involved not just with songwriting but with music in itself," he reflects. "And the true power that music holds. Listen y'all, I'm not here — respectfully, I'm here to connect. I'm not here to entertain. That's what I think music does. Before I was as articulate as I am now — which, I'm proud of myself — I could only speak in the form of song."

The 2023 CMA Awards aired on ABC from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday night. Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning co-hosted the show.

2023 CMA Awards Red Carpet Pictures

See the best dressed from the 2023 CMA Awards red carpet.

The 2023 CMA Awards aired live on ABC from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 8. Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning hosted the show for a second straight year. Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Lainey Wilson and Morgan Wallen were nominated in the Entertainer of the Year category.

Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes

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