Joanna “JoJo” Levesque exploded onto the scene like several tons of dynamite. When her debut single, “Leave (Get Out),” came out in early 2004, the 13-year-old singer captured the ears and hearts of many with her sound, passion and flare. She went on to release her debut self-titled album later that year, and followed it up with The High Road two years later. Both discs landed inside the top five on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and combined to sell more than seven million units worldwide. In addition to “Leave (Get Out),” she is also known for the brilliant hit songs such as “Baby It’s You,” “Too Little Too Late,” “Disaster” and dozens of others.
Label issues have unfortunately plagued the blossoming singer’s career for the majority of the last decade or so, with 2006’s The High Road still marking her last full-length album. Still, she has managed to stay quite active, releasing several EPs, mixtapes and more. But after finally being freed from her longtime label in 2013, JoJo signed with Atlantic Records in early 2014, and is now ready to take the world by storm yet again.
On Aug. 21, 2015, JoJo released III, a “tringle” EP that marks her official Atlantic Records debut. Featuring the tracks “Say Love,” “Save My Soul” and “When Love Hurts,” III brilliantly showcases the 24-year-old’s beautiful set of pipes, and she sounds, looks and feels better than ever before.
Touring nationwide for the first time in a number of years, JoJo will be stopping by locally at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall in New York City on Nov. 3 and Coda in Philadelphia on Nov. 4. Tickets to nearly all 23 of her upcoming shows sold out in just a few hours.
I recently caught up with the rejuvenated JoJo to discuss the relationship she has with her loyal fans, III, the I Am JoJo tour and more. Excerpts from our conversation are below:
I’ve been following you and your career since you emerged on the scene in 2004 or so. What’s it mean to you for your longtime followers to have stood by you for so long, despite the previous label problems and whatnot you had in the past?
It’s absolutely everything. I think it’s unique. The specialness of the people who support me is not lost on me at all, and “thankful” is not even the word I feel. It kept me alive, kept me hopeful, and that’s why performing and being able to connect is one of my greatest joys—to put faces with Twitter names—and it’s an incredible feeling.
Do you have any regrets with how you were handled, or wish you did anything different to avoid that type of situation?
Well, I got into a record contract at 12 years old, and I can’t live with regret and I can’t live thinking “what if?” All I can do is, at 24, continue to move forward and be my personal best from now on. Were there frustrating things going on? Absolutely. But I can’t look back and be angry about it.
Hypothetically speaking, where do you think you would be today if you were properly handled over the last decade or so?
I have no idea. Maybe the pressure of being in the spotlight since the age of 13 would have made me into someone who I don’t like, I don’t know. But I do know that having the time of being able to grow into myself as a young woman, without the scrutiny of the spotlight, has been a positive thing for me as a human being. So yeah, I don’t even know what’s gonna happen next year, so I definitely can’t hypothesize on where I would be. But I’ve been putting out music constantly.
Your new “tringle” release has received laudatory reviews every which way. What was the recording process like, both physically and mentally? Did you do anything new this time around?
The experience was kind of surreal for me because, getting into the studio after I had signed that contract with Atlantic, I knew that this music was actually going to be heard. For a while, I wasn’t sure how we were gonna keep releasing things, keep doing mixtapes and things like that—which I love—but I knew that this was gonna be an official release that was gonna have the support of the label and push and that whole thing, so that was a little trippy for me. And nerve-wracking! I was definitely nervous going into this because I want my fans to be happy and I want to be happy, so it’s a blend of… you know, considering the new label and the expectations of the people who have supported me and also keeping in mind the way that the climate of music and the industry has changed, so there were a lot of things in my mind.
What I did differently? (Pauses) I don’t know that I went in and I was like, “I’m gonna do something differently as far as how I’ve done it before.” I just pushed myself vocally and really wanted to make sure that I was living in the moment as I’m singing the records, whether they came from my pen or whether it’s a song that I related to that I wanted to put my voice on.
“When Love Hurts” has recently been added to radio, and the new video for it has had great support as well. What are your thoughts on being back on the airwaves and making official videos once more?
It’s exciting. I was very anxious for a while to see how it was going to be received, and now there is a bit of relief since it’s out there, and I’m committed to the build. I’m not in a position of Justin Bieber where you put out a single and it skyrockets to the top. Of course, we all hope for that, but I’m really committed to the long term and building a career and grinding it out because that’s just always been my experience. And I love it! It doesn’t feel like work because it’s not (laughs). I’m living my dreams, you know, finally.
Did you have additional songs recorded for the tringle that you thought about putting on there but either didn’t fit or wanted reserved for a full-length album?
Yeah, there’s an album that we’re finishing that I’m really proud of, and the tringle is just a taste that’s a bit more mainstream and ready for radio, these three songs. And there were others that I considered maybe replacing one or two of the songs with, but I did feel that it was a great representation of where I’m at vocally and subject wise, and I wanted to make sure we had an up-tempo, dance-infused record, a power ballad, and a mid, so we chose those three.
One song that came out a few months ago and got everyone’s attention was “Far From Heaven,” but it was seemingly taken down almost immediately. Could you provide any clarity on this?
That record got leaked. It was a demo that I cut. An incredibly talented songwriter and producer, Jen DeSilvio, wrote that, and when it came out, the publishers and Atlantic took it down because it wasn’t supposed to be heard. But I love that record, and it’s always, when things like that happen…
It’s obviously happened to you a few times now.
Definitely. I’m not the only one by any means, so I think it’s kind of just, if there’s a desire out there for new music, somehow people will find it, I don’t know, through email or, I don’t know…
With that being said, what has it been like since signing with Atlantic, and did you think you would ever sign with a label again given your past troubles with them?
I did think that I would sign with another label because, after having the experience and support of Universal—who was Blackground’s distributor for the first two albums—I knew that I wanted to compete in that way that I did when I first came out. And being an independent artist is a great option—there’s so many people that are absolutely killing it and just thriving—but after fighting uphill for so long, I just wanted to have different departments that would help, and at the end of the day, I’m making pop music, and I think that it’s still helpful to have the support of the team that comes with a major label.
This will be your first nationwide tour in several years now. What do you think it’ll be like to hit the road? Any cities in particular you’re looking forward to?
Woo! I’m really excited, and again, I just want to make my supporters excited with me, and happy, and I wanna kind of take them through the journey of where I started and where I’m at now, so doing songs from the first album all the way up through the tringle. I just want to connect; that’s what I’m most looking forward to. And the meet and greets will be fun for me.
I love tour life. Like, I love being on the bus, I love going city to city, and we’re hitting a lot of cities that I haven’t been to in a while, or haven’t performed in for a while, so it’ll be great to hit those. Philly and New York are two of my favorite places to stop on the East Coast, and I’m a Boston girl, so I look forward to that. And then we finish up the tour in New Orleans on my birthday, so that will be really fun.
That should be special, huh?
(Laughs) Yeah, I can’t wait.
It seems like nearly all of your shows sold out in just about an hour or two. Did you think something like this would happen so quickly?
No, I didn’t at all. I was really surprised (laughs), and very emotional. I’m surprised when people… I’ve always been like that, though, even when I was 13, 14, 15. I’m always surprised when people come out to my shows. And I like, sent a picture of myself with a tear streaming down my face to my manager when she told me. It’s been an interesting past few years, so this is incredible.
What are your plans for after the tour’s over?
Continuing to make sense of the album that’s to follow, and going overseas and promoting the tringle over there and continuing to build a touring life and a touring base. And yeah, there’s some things I’m really looking to forward to aside from that in the future as well, but I’m just excited to stay busy and do what I love.
The I Am JoJo tour comes to the Marlin Room at Webster Hall in New York, NY on Nov. 3 and Coda in Philadelphia, PA on Nov. 4. III is available now through Atlantic Records, and her third full-length album is expected to be released next year. For more information, go to iamjojoofficial.com.