Messages of Self-Importance and Self-Confidence Provide Undeniable Breakthrough
Mar 23, 2017 04:00PM ● Published by Nicole Gould
Photo Credit: Brooke Nipar
Following her breakout success, JoJo released her sophomore album, The High Road, which would be the last album released by the teen pop singer before a seven-year legal battle with her former label.
Through all the turmoil, JoJo refused to let the situation break her and in 2016 released her first full-length album in 10 years, Mad Love. Displaying her incredible vocals and extremely passionate lyrics, the album debuted at No. 1 on iTunes Overall Pop Chart and entered the Billboard 200 at No. 6, “Digital Albums” at No. 2, and “Top Current Albums” at No. 4.
This long-awaited album includes her hit single, “F*** Apologies” feat. Wiz Khalifa, where JoJo delivers an empowering message to be yourself and not allow anyone to make you feel small. The 26-year-old exemplifies a level of confidence that fans have longed for and it took no time for them to rekindle their love for the artist.
“It could sound like a song about a boy or a breakup, but I just wanted to convey a message of digging yourself, knowing who you are, and being unapologetic for it. Liking what you like, loving who you love, and just saying this is who I am.” – JoJo
JoJo will be performing at the 9:30 Club Tuesday, March 28th, 7 p.m. as part of her Mad Love Tour. Tickets are $25.
Let’s go way back to where it all started. How did the interest in singing develop and what led you to enter the acting world as well?
I don’t remember not being interested in singing. Both my mom and dad sang and there was always music playing in the house. My mom was a professional church soloist and my dad would pull out the harmonica and guitar, and jam. I was singing as long as I could remember since the age of two. I would gather friends and family around in a circle and get in the middle to sing. I would even sing for the ladies at the nail salon.
I started acting when I was six at this local theatre in Massachusetts. I became a professional in Boston at Huntington Theatre doing Shakespeare. I also did commercials for as long as I can remember. I always wanted to be in entertainment. I got my first check when I was six or seven. From there I just fell in love with it. When I saw people like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey on TV, I wanted to do what they did.
You became a pop sensation for girls at the age of 13. Now at 26 years old, you’ve come back better than ever. Tell me about your journey over the last ten years and the challenges you’ve had to face both personally and in the music industry.
I signed to a record label that was very small and distributed through Universal. Universal wasn’t what I had a problem with. I was 12 and ended up being signed to a contract that had no expiration. It could go on indefinitely. My mom and I didn’t know anything about the industry, so we didn’t know how to protect ourselves and believed these people were our family. I released two albums and started experiencing lots of success. Then things started to take a turn.
It went to a place where we couldn’t resolve things out of court and I had to sue them twice at [age] 18 and 22. All while I wanted to work it out, I never wanted to have a fight with a label. I turned in several incarnations of a third album and nothing happened. I wanted to move on with my career.
I was advised to go to school and pursue a different career, but I didn’t want to live my life wondering what if I had stopped and had been able to continue to make music, so I took that chance.
Finally, I won the lawsuit and was able to immediately sign to a new label instead of going independent. I went with a major label because I still believe having the support of a major label company and having the money is very helpful. It took a while to kind of find myself again after going through a lot professionally and personally and considering so many people’s opinions and expectations of me. What I had achieved in the past and what I wanted to achieve in the future, it overwhelmed me sometimes. Now I’m in a place where I’m living in the moment and I’m able to really, really enjoy each step of this journey.
After releasing a trio of songs in 2015, “F*** Apologies” really gave fans the opportunity to get a taste of the reinvented JoJo. Where did the inspiration behind this song develop? What led you to choosing Wiz Khalifa to be a part of the track?
The song was actually brought to me by my new label and it was partially done. It was originally called “If I Really Meant It” and I felt my personality is a little more in your face than that so I kicked it up a notch and that’s where “F*** Apologies” came from.
It could sound like a song about a boy or a breakup, but I just wanted to convey a message of digging yourself, knowing who you are, and being unapologetic for it. Liking what you like, loving who you love, and just saying this is who I am.
I think he’s [Wiz Khalifa] such an individual and I’ve been a fan of his since he started and the way he grew his fan base all by himself even before he signed. I think it’s really dope. I reached out and he ended up loving the track, sent me a verse back, and that’s how it happened.
Mad Love is your first full-length album release in ten years! How much of your personal life would you say you directly channeled into this album? What was the process like putting this together compared to years past?
For me, nothing is off limits when it comes to song writing. I’m a pretty private person on social media. I’ve never posted a pic with a boyfriend or anything like that. My album is really where I put all my business out there. All my relationships of the past six years are kind of on this album one way or another.
For example, “Reckless,” “Honest,” and “Mad Love” are all about different people. There’s probably about three different boys on there and then “Music” is about my relationship with music and particularly my father who passed away. I talk about self-love a lot on this record in “I Am” and “I Can Only.”
I had a lot more fun this time because I like being involved and I like being responsible. My own personal contribution is very important to me and I think when I was younger I always wanted to be an adult, but now I’m a young adult I actually really like it. To come in with ideas and see them come into fruition, it’s exciting for me.
I was never not in the studio. I had recorded hundreds of songs because I wanted to put out an album this whole time. By this time I was very comfortable in the studio and in any scenario.
The album has already debuted #1 on iTunes Overall Pop Chart and was a part of the Billboard 200, etc. Did you ever expect it would become so successful so quickly?
I had no expectations. I was just really, really thankful that the moment was there for me to finally release this body of work because a lot of people don’t get the opportunity that I have gotten.
I tried to not psych myself out about where it would debut. I’m very appreciative and don’t take it for granted the way this album is traveling around the world and how its growing by word of mouth.
Let’s talk about your new headline tour, which follows your tour with Fifth Harmony. You’ve recently finished up your tour through Europe. What was that experience like and what are you looking forward to, now that you’re back in the U.S.? What are you hoping fans will take away from this tour?
My favorite part about being an artist is being to connect with people regardless of the language they speak, their sex, age, or whatever it is. It’s so amazing to be able to have a shared experience with people. That’s what I’m most excited about and to see some familiar faces and bring these songs from the new album to life on stage.
I hope that they’ll have the time of their lives and feel good about themselves. I hope they’ll want to come back for the next tour. This tour is about elevating, growing, and just wanting to keep getting better and bigger.
With the journey that you’ve been through over the years, what piece of advice would you give to young artists?
I would say that the team you have around you is really important. Make sure you have a great support system and that you have a clear identity. Have an understanding of who you are because this industry can shake you up and make you question yourself.
It’s important to come in knowing who you are so you don’t get rattled. If you don’t know who you are, because we all continue to evolve, it’s worth investing in yourself.