Think ‘JoJo’ and chances are the lyrics to her debut single Leave (Get Out) will start playing in your mind. Well, newsflash: that song was released 12 years ago, its follow-up Baby It’s You the same year and the equally-catchy Too Little Too Late way back in 2006. So what has US pop singer JoJo – real name Joanna Levesque – been doing for the past decade? There was a somewhat-public legal battle with her record label, after they left her in limbo with no distribution deal in place to get her songs heard. There were the self-released tracks she put out online and sporadic gigs to keep her dedicated fanbase going. And, finally, came the new deal with Atlantic Records which brought JoJo to London on tour earlier this month. The morning after a sold-out show at Islington Academy, we sat down to breakfast, and had JoJo explain it all.

On her sold-out show the night before… ‘It doesn’t make sense. I haven’t had an official release in 10 years, but I did a 23-city tour in America and I’ve just did five European dates, and it’s been like that every night. It really does overwhelm me and I’m so taken aback every time.’

On her new music… ‘It’s been 10 years since I released an album, which is insane, saying that at 25. When you’re 15 you don’t really know who you are and at 25 I’m still discovering that. I’m allowing people in a little bit more, there are absolutely no frills on stage, it’s just me and three musicians. There are barely lights, there’s barely smoke, it’s just me and the music. It’s a statement of this is who I am and this is where I’m at, and let’s get to know each other a little better, and I hope it’s just the beginning of the conversation and the journey.’

On feeling like her career was over… ‘I talked to a handful of lawyers when I realised the old label wasn’t going to do anything at all to get my music out there, but I was stuck, and several of those lawyers told me I should just go to college and figure out another career. I was devastated by that prospect; not being able to continue with a career I began building at the age of six, really. That’s why every night feels like a dream now that I’ve signed my new contract and gotten back out there.’

On Kesha being trapped in her contract with Dr Luke… ‘I sympathise with her and understand probably more than most people. I was truly depressed when I couldn’t record and I can imagine that’s how Kesha feels, but the outpouring of support for her is a great thing. I felt utterly alone, except for my fans, who were campaigning to Free JoJo and raising awareness. I just hope that she can work for Sony exclusively [as opposed to Luke’s Sony imprint]. It seems like that’s what would make sense.’

On body image… ‘I’ve always had a strong sense of what makes me feel comfortable, but a big reason why my video for Demonstrate didn’t come out was because certain people behind the scenes at my label said I looked too fat, and they didn’t want to put it out. I’ve never been bigger than a US size 4 [UK 8]. That really, truly fucked me up and made me wildly insecure.’

On expressing her sexuality… ‘I’m actually much more sexual in my personal life than I am on stage, but it is cool to play with people a little bit, to look them in the eye and connect with them. I think the gaze is the most sensual thing for me on stage. It’s not necessarily my comfort zone though, expressing that for a bunch of people; I prefer one-on-one.’

On emerging talent… ‘I really like Alessia Cara. She’s dope. Her vibrato is like that of a jazz singer from decades ago. It’s so dope how she’s blending that with hip-hop beats and forging her own path.’

On music she loves… ‘Kendrick Lamar is my favourite artist right now. He’s so good at shaking things up and starting conversations with his music.’

On Beyoncé… ‘I thought it was amazing that she dropped Formation the day before the Super Bowl, like ‘I don’t care if everyone knows the song,’ but of course everyone knew it anyway. I have mad respect for her. MNEK and I watched the Super Bowl together and rewound to Beyoncé’s part three times.’

On people filming her shows for Instagram… ‘I think we’re missing something when we watch a concert through our phones. You can’t move or jump, because you want to get the right shot, but that’s just the world we live in now. I saw Missy Elliott perform recently and she was like, “I’m old school, put your phones away! You need to feel this shit right here!” I don’t necessarily take that stance, because I’m a millennial and I do it too, but I totally feel her.’

On inspirational women… ‘I’m reading a book called My Life On The Road by Gloria Steinem right now and it is giving me life. Her activism, her organisation, everything she’s done not only for women, but for the oppressed in general. She’s ceaselessly fighting for people and that really inspires me to keep going and not be tired, no excuses. But also the way that Hillary Clinton has handled herself on the campaign trail, stood up in the face of adversity, people calling her a liar, people talking about the way she dresses, the way she looks, the affair her husband had. I have mad respect for her.’

On the Kardashians… ‘Khloe’s confidence, her personality, her humour; she’s so sexy. But I like them all, they seem like sweet girls and very hard-working.’

On men… ‘We need men. We need each other. I love men, I love the differences between us and I love the similarities, and I love how we can bring out the best in each other. I think they need to be aware of what triggers us to feeling emasculated, and if they can also stay in touch with their feminine side – because both sides exist in all of us – then we’ll all have a much better understanding of each other. Gender is so fluid.’

On dating… ‘Isn’t “undefined” the story of our 20-something selves? I feel like more and more young women like us aren’t just saying they’re fine with not defining their relationships, but they actually are. When you’re focused on your career, maybe a guy just doesn’t fit in. I’m single right now, but I am dating. I’ve never been on Tinder or used a dating app, but I know people getting married who met on them, so I have no judgement.’

On love… ‘I’ve had an open relationship, I’ve had a serious one, I’ve dated, but I think my favourite thing is being in love. It’s so magical.’


Posted by admin on March 23 • Interview

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