Endlessly talented and wickedly catchy, JoJo is no stranger to the spotlight, having had her first number-one single at the age of 13. Now, after a 10-year studio album hiatus caused by label issues, she’s back on the scene with “Mad Love,” a critical and commercial success that showcases her voice and songwriting – both of which are stronger than ever. FAULT had a chance to speak with her while in the midst of her four-month worldwide tour, and we uncovered just what makes that brilliant mind and talent tick.
You have the tour coming up. What are you most looking forward to?
I’m personally really excited to perform songs from my new album and connect with fans in places that I haven’t been to in a long time or some places that I’m going to for the first time. It’s just my favorite place to get shit out: on stage. It’s my happy place.
Any particular place or song you’re looking forward to performing?
I feel like every night is different, so I don’t have any expectations; I’m just open to whatever experience is supposed to happen.
So it’s kind of more of an in the moment type of thing?
Totally. That’s how I try to live.
I saw you brought Albert Stanaj on board. What made you think he’d be the right complement to your tour?
I’m just a sucker for an amazing voice, and he has one of the most exciting voices that I’ve heard in a while. I’ve known him for a couple of years, and when he decided to put out music officially after he signed to Republic, I had my eye on him and thought that he might be a good fit for this tour, so I’m so excited that he’s joining in North America.
I totally agree; I listened to a few of his songs and was just blown away. He has an amazing voice.
Yeah, he’s a star.
I saw on Instagram you took your second solo trip of the year to Arizona. What inspires you to take those independent trips?
As a woman, I realized that I had a lot of fear about traveling by myself, not necessarily being alone with my own thoughts, but traveling by myself, and I wanted to feel empowered and self-sufficient. I also just wanted to have time to journal and think and reflect, and I think it’s been a good thing for me to do at the end of the year. I started last year after my dad passed away and I just needed some time to touch base with how I was feeling, and it’s best to do that, I think, when you’re alone. So, it’s just something that I want to do at least once a year. I’ll probably find a different place in the world or in America every year and do my solo journey.
I’m always interested in the feminist side of performance culture and how that’s continually evolving. Can you speak more to that?
I think we live in a really amazing time where rules don’t apply, and I feel really comfortable and empowered to do what I want to do. I think that embracing both the feminine and masculine sides of me makes me feel like myself. I think there’s no one way to be a woman, to be a young woman, to be successful. I think it’s a wonderful time to be a woman in music because there are so many different representations of what’s beautiful, what’s excellent. There’re a lot of different things going on, and I think it’s healthy.
What made you decide to go vegan?
I first was interested in a plant-based diet because of my voice. I struggled with my allergies for a long time, and I wanted to try something different to combat that. I’m singing every night, and I wanted that to be easier for me. So, I cut out dairy first, and then I started talking to my vegan friend and I started to feel what they told me about how when you eat animal products, you’re ingesting fear, death, and disease. I didn’t feel good about doing that anymore. So, I just slowly made a transition. I’m by no means a perfect vegan, but I do eat plant-based. That’s how I try to eat. After reading Russell Simmons’ “Happy Vegan” and watching documentaries, I feel like it’s the choice for me.
How rough is the tour on your voice? What’s your daily routine?
My daily routine when I’m on tour is typically to wake up, get my caffeination going, work out, warm up a bit while I’m on the treadmill, do some singing and breathing exercises, then I’ll soundcheck and do interviews and the show. I warm up vocally before the show and I warm down after the show. I started taking care of my voice that way because I really want to sing forever. I want to be in my 70s, singing, so I feel like if I want do that, I have to take care of my instrument, what I was given.
Your voice sounds fabulous; your new record has been on a lot my playlists.
Speaking of the new record, you had a bit of a gap between the last release. What did you find was different this time around?
My confidence. I recorded so many incarnations of the third album, and I had so many people telling me who I should be and what direction I should take, putting a lot of information out there that I attached onto. So, I feel like I was able to get my footing a bit more. Of course, there’s a big difference between when you’re recording an album at 14 versus 24. I had a lot of life experience, and I think my perspective changed. I just had more fun too! It was more pleasant.
I think that really comes across. I listened to it through a couple times; there’s this beautiful overall sense of, like you say, confidence and empowerment and just like you’re having fun. You had Wiz Khalifa, Alessia Cara, and Remy Ma. What made you decide to collaborate with them?
So, when it came to “Fuck Apologies,” I wanted to keep it within the Atlantic family, which is my new label, and Wiz was one of the first people that came to mind. So, we reached out, he loved the record, and he really just embodies that sense of “this is who I am. You can take it or leave it.”
With Alessia, she’s become a friend of mine through the industry, and I love what she’s doing and the road that she’s taken for herself. Remy’s been one of my favorite rappers since she came up with Terror Squad around the time that I came up. So, when she came back on the scene, I was so hyped, so I was like: “Oh my god, it would be a dream to get Remy Ma on a record.” We sent her “FAB” after I wrote it, she got on it immediately, and I was like: “Oh my god! I can’t believe it!” So, I was hyped!
Speaking of writing, the lyrics have really stuck out to me on this album. Is there any sort of philosophy you have when you’re writing them?
My philosophy is: “Live your life and keep your eyes open for songs. Keep your ears open for songs.” I have found that when I was a little bit younger and dumber, I would put myself in situations or stay longer than I should have just to get as many songs as I could out of it. But now, I just try to write things down constantly and work with collaborators who bring the best out of me and who we work well together.
One I thing I thought was really interesting was the “Tringle.” That’s a really unique way to hype a record. What gave you that idea?
It really came about because I couldn’t decide what songs to lead with. Well, it wasn’t that I couldn’t decide; I’m not the only person who decides, so there were conflicting opinions. So, I was like: “let’s just put out a few records. You know, it’s been so long since I’ve put out music officially and I’m with this new partnership with Atlantic, so let’s do something different.”
Do you have any future plans in mind after the tour musically or are you just taking it step-by-step?
Absolutely! While I’m on the road, I want to start writing. I’m just really interested in putting out a steady stream of content. I’m feeling so creative and I’m itching to make a new body of work, so I just want to keep going and growing and keep on moving.
My friends who do a lot of tour work talk about how there’s this weird gap, because you record an album, and then by the time you release it and get out on tour, you can be a year or two separated from the writing of the material. Is it a little weird to be performing in one creative space while you’re trying to write in another creative space at the same time?
This will be my first time trying to do that. So, I’ll be able to answer that better after this tour! But yeah, this will be my first time working on an album while I’m doing a tour. So, I’ll be doing material from my three albums, but I’m not sure!
What’s your writing process like? Are you with an instrument or a notebook?
I’m not proficient on the keys yet, so what I do are lyrics and melody. Then, I’ll collaborate with a producer or sometimes a small group of people — three or four people — and we all bounce around ideas together. Comfort is key, to have that comfort with your collaborators so that you can throw out ideas and not feel silly and feel instead empowered. I don’t have a set process, but I do have so many journals laying around that sometimes, I’ll circle things and I’ll bring them to the studio. I have hundreds of notes on my phone, and sometimes, things will spark and I’ll start a voice note. There’s really no rhyme of reason to it. It’s just all of the vibes.
With your new writing, do you have any sort of style in mind or collaborators? Any inspiration? Anything you’re looking to do?
I’m looking to just get better every day: be more honest, be more myself, and continue on that journey and surround myself with people who are excellent and inspiring. I do have a lot of different things that I want to achieve and a lot of inspirations, but I want to keep them to myself until I flesh them out.
If there was anybody in the world you could collaborate with — past, present, future — is there a special person you’d be interested in?
Bruno Mars. There’s so much amazing music and talent out there. I think Bruno is kind of the ultimate right now.
What is your Fault?
It’s my fault that I ruined my new tattoo! I shot a music video last night, and I ruined my tattoo when I got into a bath filled with milk and food coloring and bath bombs! That’s totally my bad!
MAD LOVE is out now.
Words Alex Cooke
Photography Jack Alexander
Styling Zack & Jamie (Zack Tate & Jamie McFarland)
Make-Up Kristina Theodoris using High Definition Beauty and Trish McAvoy
Hair Niki Black using @revlonprofessionaluk and @pop_pr_uk
Photographer’s Assistant – Nathan Gascon-Saiz
Stylists’ Assistant – Thomas George Wulbern
Special thanks – The Kensington