Chatting with JoJo about her “tringle” and triumphant return to the music scene

Remember how much you used to love JoJo? Yeah, us too. Well the rad musician is so back, and recently released a brand new “tringle” of three songs that we’ve been listening to on repeat. After years of essentially being kept musically hostage by Blackground Records (seriously, she had no control at all over the release of her music) she’s now stronger than ever — and she gave us the skinny on those silent years. The 24-year-old star also took some time to gab with us about her passions, success at a seriously young age, and her feelings about love. If you weren’t already a JoJo fan, you definitely will be now.

Sammy Nickalls (SN): You were discovered as a young teen; you topped the charts before most people even started high school. What was it like to reach such insane stardom at such a young age?

JoJo (JJ): It was so exciting! I mean, it’s every little girl’s dream, to travel the world, and to live out what you saw on TV. I grew up watching Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion . . . and I wanted to be my own version of that. So it was just so exciting. To be homeschooled and on the road, learning about places I was visiting, history . . . you know, it was a whirlwind, but it was honestly super exciting.

SN: Yeah, I can’t even imagine! How was that in a business setting? Was that stressful at a young age?

JJ: My mom really sheltered me from a lot of the business and how shady that can be. Of course, as I got closer to 18, I started to see it for myself. When you’re a minor, you have to have a parent sign for everything, so anything you get involved with, you’re having your mom or dad or guardian sign for you, and oftentimes a court-appointed guardian. So business-wise, I was as in control as a 13-year-old could be.

SN: Going back on the troubles you were having, your music was continually put on hold due to issues with Blackground Records. Can you tell me a little more about that situation?

JJ: It was a very frustrating and disheartening situation, especially because at 12 years old when I signed with them, I thought these people were my family. I thought they were family forever, you know? I’m a lover, not a fighter. I don’t like conflict. I can handle conflict, but it’s certainly not something I look for. So it was frustrating because since I was a little girl, all I wanted to do was perform, and I don’t even consider this work, but I love being busy. But I wasn’t able to put out music and to have that support and distribution, and it was very frustrating trying to explain to people something that I didn’t even quite understand — politics of the music industry, and things of that nature. Then I realized that in my contract, I didn’t even own my voice. Like my voice in my body. 

SN: Oh my God.

JJ: Yeah. It wasn’t as simple as changing my name and getting out, so I thought that possibly I was never gonna be able to release music officially. So I thought maybe I’d have to look at other avenues, that perhaps I’d go to college . . . it was really confusing and frustrating and sad. But thankfully I had a team that encouraged me and reminded me how young I was, and that nothing is impossible. Crazier things have happened.

SN: I bet that was a challenge, especially because you’ve been so vocal about your passion for music, and you were held back for so long. JJ: It was. It definitely gave me different tools that I’m now equipped with. I’m certainly stronger. And I appreciate every opportunity and experience more now, because I was in limbo for so long, and I felt like, you know, some of those years were kind of taken from me. And now that I’m on the other side of it, I live in the moment a lot more than I ever did.

SN: It’s amazing that you are so positive about such a hard situation. But now you’re back on the scene — how does that feel? It must be amazing!

JJ: It feels incredible! There’s such amazing support, like I said, and just the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and I’m just — it feels surreal. It feels surreal to not be fighting anymore. I mean, now I can really just love and connect with people. And that’s my ultimate passion —connection, and to be able to give and receive. It’s the most amazing feeling to be performing my new songs. I’ve done a couple shows so far, and that the audience singing the lyrics to the new music right along with me, that’s just what I’ve been waiting for for so long! It feels incredible.

SN: That’s so wonderful. I’ve gotta say, I’ve been listening to your tringle since it came out, and it’s amazing. I absolutely love “Save My Soul.” I was creeping on the YouTube comments, and one of the comments that had the most amount of likes was “This video title is wrong. It’s SLAY my soul.”

JJ: (laughs) Oh my god, you guys give me life. Some of these comments are just great.

SN: Yeah, and it seems like the tringle is already blowing up. What’s the response been like?

JJ: You’re always a little nervous and anxious whenever you release new music, especially when you officially release music for the first time in . . . a long time. Years. The response has been amazing, and it’s cool — everybody has a different favorite record, but it seems to be pretty even. And I’m excited to be filming videos for all three; I’m shooting the first one tomorrow. And I just can’t wait to bring these songs to life visually and also take them on the road. “When Love Hurts” is going to be serviced to radio next month. I’m really anticipating the build, and I can’t wait for all the moments.

SN: Absolutely. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of creating the tringle? How long has it been in the works? JJ: The tringle is three songs that we chose from the body of work I recorded from the album. In the past 10 months, I’ve recorded maybe 80 songs. Not all of them that I’m in love with, but certainly a couple dozen that I absolutely am in love with. And I wanted to lead with an up-tempo, infectious dance record, something that can be remixed and something that’s great for a workout playlist and great to dance to, and that’s “When Love Hurts.” “Say Love” is a call to action, a power ballad, and “Save My Soul” is a more personal, emotional record.I just wanted to show three different sides without showing all of our cards because there is an album which I’m super proud of, and there’s so much more content to come. The process was just that of recording an album, and then playing the album for Atlantic, getting with them, kind of going back and forth with my team and Atlantic, and figuring out how we wanted to lead. I felt like, after so long, yes, we could put out one single, and that would be cool. But I wanted to make an impact. And I wanted to do it musically.

SN: You’ve already made a massive impact, with these three songs, so I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like with a full album. Who or what would you say has been the biggest influence on your work, especially your latest? JJ: Biggest influence on my work? SN: Yes. Like, a person, or it could be love in general. I’ve noticed that you’ve had a theme around relationships, pain in relationships. JJ: Absolutely. Love is my favorite thing to sing about. I’m definitely a lover. I’m constantly in love with something or someone. (laughs) And I like to sing about all facets of it, so, you know, on the album, there’s of course romantic love, sexual love, self-love. And all of those are themes here — lack of love, all those things. So we explore that on the tringle. And really, it’s about feeling. “When Love Hurts” — love shouldn’t be painful, I just wanted to be super clear about that. I definitely don’t advocate painful, stressful love. But love has to make you feel something, otherwise if you don’t care, if you’re not moved, it’s not real.SN: That particular lyric really resonated with me. You know, the first couple months of a relationship are really fun, and you just want to be with that person all the time. And you’re like, “We could never fight! We could never get in an argument!” And then the realities of life hit, and it doesn’t mean it’s not love. But that’s when you know you still want to be with that person, want to experience life with that person. That really spoke to me.

JJ: Exactly! Aw, I’m so glad! Thank you.

SN: Oh, and what was the inspiration behind your cover? Because it made me want to paint a gold stripe on my lip every day.

JJ: (laughs) You know, I saw this makeup look on the runway, and I saw it on Instagram. I showed it to my cousins who do my hair and makeup. It was very simple — she barely had any other makeup on, but she had this striking — I don’t think it was gold, maybe another color, like red or yellow, I actually don’t remember — but I showed them this runway picture, and I was like, ‘Let’s try this!’ And that’s where it came about. I thought it was beautiful. And it reminded me of a lip ring, while not having a lip ring.

SN: Yeah. It was beautiful, and a powerful cover. So you said you’re going to be recording music videos, which is super exciting. What’s next for you?

JJ: We’re routing a tour, a tour in North America, intimate dates…just want to connect and have fun, and go everywhere. We’ll be going overseas either at the end of the year or early next year. I’m kind of just keeping my head down, and keeping working, and being the best I can.

You can listen to “Say Love,” “Save My Soul,” and “When Love Hurts” on JoJo’s website, Google Play, iTunes, or Spotify.

[Images via Instagram]

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