It’s been 10 years since JoJo appeared in the spotlight, and she’s gone from a little girl singing about a messy middle school breakup on “Leave (Get Out)” to reemerging and coming out on top after a major label battle and break from the spotlight.
Engaged in a contract dispute with Blackground Records for numerous years, JoJo was confined to releasing mixtapes and EPs for her dedicated fans. Though she was still able to showcase her soulful voice and amazing writing talent, the singer born Joanna Noëlle Blagden Levesque still felt disconnected.
During her battle with the label, JoJo had to time to reflect on life and where she wanted to go with music. With that, she came up with the idea of challenging the convention of releasing one single at a time, and came up with the “tringle”—a simultaneous release of three songs to take over the airwaves.
Since Tringle’s release JoJo’s studio album has been highly anticipated and she recently kicked of her I Am JoJo Tour. While we can’t wait for more music, we really couldn’t wait to get to know more about the woman behind the mic and music.
What about the Tringle release are you most proud of?
“I was excited to do something a bit different with my work after being gone for so long. I’m proud I was able to represent different sides of myself and do a different kind of release. ‘Save My Soul’ is the most personal record to me; it’s a song about an addict singing about their vulnerabilities and their faults. I like that I got to show people different sides of me by releasing different pieces of me.
“To be honest, this whole concept was something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Even though I’ve been branded as ‘pop’ or ‘R&B’ I’m really just someone who sings from the heart. I love all genres, and I think with Tringle and the upcoming album you’ll be able to see all the different sides of me. That’s the thing I love about music: it’s so multi dimensional and it’s a place where I’m free to experiment and try new things.”
Do you ever worry how your music will be received when you experiment with sounds fans aren’t used to?
“You know, not really. Of course when I create I always hope the fans like it and it touches them. But I never go into the studio or write a song coming from the angle of hoping it’s a crowd-pleaser. For me music is therapeutic and such a precious creative space, so I really do some soul channeling to create. And not that I’m also serious and introspective about it or anything, but I do follow my feelings. If I want to create something fun and dance-hallish, I will. If I want to write about heartbreak or anger, I will. If I write a song inspired by another song I heard or my favorite artist, I will. The point is I just follow my vibes and not really try too hard.”
What sound were you striving for with Tringle?
“I wasn’t going for a particular sound. Most people know me from my R&B sounds but really I love all genres. I think my Tringle was dubbed as ‘pop’, which I don’t mind. I think pop music is in a really cool place where it’s no longer bubblegum sounding or mass-produced. Some people were expecting more vibes like ‘Demonstrate’, but I’m all encompassing. I come into the studio with an open mind.”
What’s the creative process like for you?
“Honestly it depends on how I’m feeling. Like I said, if I’m going through something and want to release then I come in with lyrics and a sound in mind that I want to flesh out in the booth. By the same token I have songs that are written for me and I go in and put my take on it. I just go in with my mind and my pen and go from there. At the end of the day, I love music. Love is a topic I like to talk about a lot, because I’ve gone through a lot of trials with love. I think it’s such a universal concept that we never talk about enough. Love is so raw and pure and full of flaws but I think that’s what makes it special. You can love anything and anyone and that’s so cool to me. I think of love how I think of music: raw and imperfect. I think some of my best material is the unpolished tracks (or live tracks).”
Are you living the life of your dreams?
“Absolutely! Before (with my previous label) I felt trapped for a while and I wasn’t really sure of what my next move was. Everything was in limbo and I felt STUCK. During that time I was writing and creating material, but it was going nowhere. Now I feel more in control of my life and my career. I feel empowered to make moves and take risks that I couldn’t before. I know not every experience is a smooth ride and that nothing ever really comes easy, but I feel like I’m more inspired now than before. I decided to learn a lot from the experience, so I definitely say it gave me thicker skin. I was young and didn’t know a lot. When I was in a bad place with my label and stuff, it was like my dreams were on hold. Now I feel like I can really come through with it and bring what I want to bring. I think women don’t question things they’re unsure of, or kind of hold back their opinions. I don’t do any of that anymore. I’m serious about my work and want my voice to be heard and to make decisions. Of course you need people to help along the way, but I’m taking control and am in charge of my own life and career.”
What’s your advice to those who may feel stuck in a situation they don’t want to be in?
“If you’re in something (or staying in something) for the money, you’re in it for the wrong reason. Money isn’t enough motivation. It may be for a moment but the money isn’t much of a perk if you’re spending your days doing something you hate, don’t really want to do, or you’re being forced to do it.
“My all-consuming love and connection to music was why I was determined to find a way out of a bad situation, even though that meant losing out on money, or “falling off” per se. If you really love what you’re doing, you’re going to stick it out. I think of your career or life goals like a relationship: if you’re truly in love with it you’re going to fight to make it work or make it happen. If you don’t like it that much you’re going to give up way too easily and just keep bouncing around doing things you don’t like and not using that time to really grow something meaningful.
“I had to take some time to get back on my feet and start over. I feel like if you’re a good person, put in tough work, and use time to grow and learn then things it will all work out in your favor. Robin Williams was a favorite person of mine, and seeing his work ethic and dedication inspired me to be diligent to get out of my own struggles and go for my passion.”
You gave us a sample with Tringle. What can we expect from the rest of your album?
“It’s going to talk a lot about love. A lot about the struggles I went through. To be honest, I was in a dark place and you’re going to see some of that. I think it’s okay to be a bit sad and in a dark space: that’s life and it happens. But you’re also going to see me coming out of that place and re-emerging, which I think is equally important. We can’t act like depression doesn’t happen. And just because you may become depressed doesn’t mean you’re always going to feel that way. But you do have to acknowledge and deal with those emotions.
“I’m going to say some empowering things and at the same time I’m going to say some stuff that may not reflect myself or others in the best light: but I’m keeping it real and keep it honest. I think fans will like it. The complete album is still being worked on right now, though I hope to have it out by the beginning of the year. In the meantime I’m doing spot shows, going on tour, and just making sure I give my all in the studio. I’m ready to bring it.”