In 2020, Jessie Murph began regularly posting covers to YouTube and TikTok. They quickly gained a following, and ever since she’s been scoring one win after the next. She parlayed her early success with covers of Ariana Grande, Fleetwood Mac, Post Malone and others into a label deal with Columbia Records the following year. By the end of 2021, “Always Been You” — the lead single from her debut mixtape — became her first hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
Since then, the 19-year-old singer-songwriter has tallied three more entries on the chart: “Pray”; her Diplo and Polo G collaboration, “Heartbroken”; and most recently “Wild Ones” with Jelly Roll. The latest has already become her biggest hit to date, reaching a No. 42 high in six weeks on the ranking.
Over an inescapable country-driven groove, Murph and Jelly Roll romanticize risk-taking, rule-breaking daredevils with an affinity for fast cars and lifting their middle fingers high in the air. “Say you wanna get dangerous/ Now you’re speaking my language,” Murph sings.
The two musicians share a connection in more ways than one. Both are Nashville-area natives — though Murph’s family moved to Alabama when she was a child, she recently moved back to the Music City — and have continued to explore different genres throughout their careers, including country, hip-hop, pop and rock. For Jelly Roll (real name: Jason DeFord), “Need a Favor” and “Son of a Sinner” have been genre-fluid mainstays over the past year and have helped fuel a best new artist Grammy nomination and a win as new artist of the year at the recent CMA Awards.
“I think something that’s so special about him is he’s so always just so grateful,” Murph says of Jelly Roll. “You can tell he’s such a gratitude-based person and it’s beautiful. Jelly Roll has just been so positive and every time I’m around him I leave feeling so happy.”
How did this song come together?
It was such a long process. I feel like I made it months before it came out, and I never planned on having a feature on it. I was just going to put it out. But [at the] last minute, Jelly heard it and he was like, “I have a verse for this,” and I’m a huge fan of him. I went to one of his shows and sang a cover of “Simple Man” with him. Then I guess he heard “Wild Ones” and I was like, “Oh my God, please be on this.”
What inspired the song?
I’ve always been attracted to crazy things or chaos. That’s where the song came from. I don’t normally write fun songs, so it’s one of my first songs like that — really cool and different. I had been in a session all day and we had gotten nothing. In the last 30 minutes, I remember Gitty [producer/co-writer Jeff Gitelman] played this guitar lick and we ended up writing it super fast.
Once you were in the studio, were there any big changes made to the song?
We might’ve sped it up during the process to make it a little bit more groovy. But I really wanted country elements for this song — that was the palette I wanted to stay with. Stylistically, especially lately, I’ve been a little bit country leaning. I’m really inspired by country music, and I feel like it has found its way into my sound.
How did you first hear Jelly Roll’s music?
My older brother is really into country [music], so he listens to a lot of that kind of stuff. I feel like we were just in the car and he had it on. I was like, “Whoa, this is insane.” But the craziest thing was seeing Jelly live. I was just blown away.
It feels like country music is everywhere this year, in different variations. Genres keep melding together in different ways. What is your take on that?
I think it’s beautiful. That has always been my thing as an artist: I don’t ever want to have a genre because I feel that boxes you in. As you get older and grow as a person, you listen to different types of music, and I think it’s beautiful when those things mix and intertwine. It creates a whole new vibe that people haven’t even heard. But I agree, country is exploding right now.
Who else would you want to collaborate with?
My dream collaboration is Lil Baby. I’ve always wanted to [make a song with him], and it’s going to happen at some point. I’m manifesting it. I’ve been obsessed with his music since I can remember. He’s just such a real person. I feel like he sings about real sh-t. I love his melodies, his flows.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Nov. 18, 2023, issue of Billboard.