JoJo All Grown Up05.26.11
She burst onto the music scene at the tender age of 13 with her explosive single Leave (Get Out), etching an indelible mark on our hearts – or at least our iPods – ever since. With more than 3 million albums sold, 20-year-old singer JoJo says she’s just getting started with the highly-anticipated fall 2011 release of her new album, Jumping Trains. Cotton Candy caught up with the soulful musician to find out how the transition from childhood to womanhood has changed her life – and of course her music. Here now is JoJo in her own words.
“As long I can remember, I’ve been singing. My mom says I was singing as soon as I could produce sound and somehow putting melody to it. So it’s really a release. [When I sing], I feel like I’m expressing myself better than even through conversation. I feel like [music] is the closest I can get to express my true feelings.
There were certain times I thought, ‘I’ll just be a veterinarian,’ or ‘I’d like to be a lawyer someday.’ But [music] is something I’ve just always loved so much. It’s something I couldn’t help but do.
This new album [Jumping Trains] gives away a sense of who I am because it’s really transparent, honest and a journal excerpt of a real 20-year-old, a young woman who’s trying to figure what’s going on with her life.
I don’t know that my fans completely knew me before. But I think they did starting with the mixed tape [Can’t Take That Away From Me] and absolutely with [my latest album] Jumping Trains.
I was so young when I first started out that I never really thought about the possibility of failure. I was so young, and when you’re young you just don’t really know. And you don’t think about stuff. Instead you think, ‘Anything is possible.’ Because I was so young and precocious, I never really looked at failure as an option.
If you look back, I guess I could say that I paid a price or something like that. I guess the thing I missed out on was a regular school experience. I was home schooled from 7th grade, so the only time I’d been inside a high school was to film inside of one, which is really interesting because I didn’t really have that experience. Yet, I got to travel the world. I got to meet incredible people. And with my tutor, I got to learn about places that I studied in my books and then actually go see them, like when I was in Germany or Japan. It was really incredible. But as far as that actual experience of interacting with my peers, that would be the thing I missed out on. But I wouldn’t trade [my experiences] for the world. I would not. (Giggles)
I still remember what it was like when I heard my first single [Leave (Get Out)] on the radio. (Giggles) I was in Boston, MA – where I’m from – and I was with a few friends and my mom. We were at this ice cream shop. You know, I was 13. My mom was driving us around. (Laughs) While at the ice cream shop in the parking lot, suddenly on KISS 108, the local radio hit music station in Boston, I heard my song intro guitar with the beat. (Sings the beat out loud) And I said, ‘Oh my God! I cannot believe it!’ [My mother] started jumping around in the car. We started freaking out. (Laughs) I mean, I couldn’t have anticipated that [my first single] would take off the way that it did. I had no idea what to expect. (Laughs)
So for those who want to make music their living, I would say don’t get discouraged if this is what you feel you were truly, truly meant to do. If you have the right intentions, you know that you work hard and have the talent, then don’t be deterred by setbacks. Don’t go into [music] for the fame or the money; do it because it’s something that you absolutely are passionate about and love to do.
I draw inspiration from everywhere. Right now I’m in New York [City], and I’m so inspired by the energy of the City. Just the fast pace of it and the lights and everything is open so late. I’m certainly inspired by people and music, just life around me. What I think has really inspired [my new] album [Jumping Trains] are the things that I’ve gone through for the past few years. I like to go into the studio with my feelings fresh on my heart, and let them out. So I’ll come feeling a certain way, whether I just got into a fight with someone or whether someone is ignoring me or I just did something weird, awesome – whatever is on my heart, I’m able to release that. So, real life inspires my music.
Hopefully my fans relate to my honesty and that I really try to not just sing a song but feel a song. I think that when I do that people can feel it. You know? It’s just real. So hopefully that’s why people gravitate towards me. I would like to think that. With this new album [Jumping Trains] I made myself vulnerable, and I really hope that people can relate to the things that I am talking about.
I was 15 when my last album [The High Road] was released. This time I was fortunate enough to either co-write or write every song [on my new album]. So I was able to take my time with it for about two years and get everything together. I just kept recording. I had so many songs. Now I’m at a point where we could narrow it down and really be able to come up with a cohesive sound, something that I feel separates me from anything done before. It’s something that I’m very confident about because, like I had mentioned, it’s very honest. I pushed myself vocally, as a writer, and came up with something that could be an experience, not just a bunch of songs thrown together.
Jumping Trains is the title track on the album, and it’s one of my favorite songs. It symbolizes a bunch of things. It symbolizes growing up from a girl to a woman, from Boston [where I’m from] to Los Angeles [where I live now], and just leaving some things behind and moving on to the next chapter of life. It can be scary. The very idea of freight hopping, jumping trains is really scary. But it’s kind of exhilarating, and I wanted to play on that. Also, I like the forward motion. It’s the title of hope.
[From this album], I want people to learn that it’s OK to make mistakes. I feel like our teens and 20s are for learning, and I just want them to know that I’m doing the exact same thing on the exact same journey, and what they are feeling I’m going through. Hopefully I can be a mouthpiece for my peers, and we can grow and help each other. I listen to John Mayer and other artists that I respect, and they help me get through my day with their music because I can relate to what they are writing about, so my desire is to be something similar with other people.”
As told to Natasha Danielle Smith