JoJo: "I Don't Think About Things That Aren't True to Me"

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Originally form Massachusetts, JoJo (AKA Joanna Noëlle Blagden Levesque) was only 13 when she recorded her first album. Her debut single, "Leave (Get Out)," reached number one on the Billboard Pop Songs chart in June 2004. Since then, JoJo has gone on make several movies, including RV, starring the late Robin Williams. 

After a legal struggle with her old music label, JoJo has emerged refreshed with new material and a new music video. She kicked off her North American tour on November 2 in Minneapolis, following the recent arrival of III, a collection of three new singles marking JoJo’s long-anticipated Atlantic Records debut. All three tracks on the “tringle” — “Say Love,” “Save My Soul,” and “When Love Hurts” — will also be featured on her third solo album, slated to finally arrive in 2016.

She talks with the New Times on her new label and her experience making movies. 

New Times: A decade has passed since you began recording. Do you feel as if you've grown from your old music?
JoJo: Of course. Have you changed since you were 13?

Yeah, I think It's just a natural progression. I'm 24, and I'm presenting myself how I feel in the moment now.

Your music has become less pop-driven over the years. Was this part of your natural maturing process? How would you describe your music now?
I would describe it just letting the music that I listen to influence me and letting my life influence me. I love pop music and I'm definitely not afraid of saying that, but I just do whatever feels right. Coming into a new situation with a new label, I wanted to come in with an open mind and try different things. I would say that pop music means a lot of different things. It can mean that it's influenced by hip-hop, R&B, alternative, all different stuff. At the end of the day, it reaches a wide array of people.

What inspired the push for your latest project?
I just had spent the last few years in a lawsuit with my old label and trying to gain control of my voice again. I wanted to come into this next chapter not dwelling on that negativity, but having a new, fresh energy and embracing my youth. I feel like my creativity comes in waves, as I'm sure yours might too – I think that's natural. I've recorded hundreds and hundreds of songs in the last few years and wasn't able to use them for this old record because I had to start fresh with the new label situation. Coming into this, I just wanted to make songs that made me feel good, moved other people, and definitely pull from life experience. I don't think about things that aren't true to me.

You're with Atlantic Records now. How does it feel to be with such a historic label? Have they helped you grow as an artist?
Atlantic has been great so far. I love their roster, currently – just like you said, the legacy that they have. I was just at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame paying tribute to Smokey Robinson, and there is a whole exhibition there. And just to kind of go back and see the influence that they had on rock and roll and pop music as we know it, it's very inspiring to be continuing that legacy. I like the philosophy that they have about building careers, and that's something I want to be a part of.

You've worked in some movies with a lot of famous actors, namely Robin Williams. Did you get to know him at all?
Yes, I did.

What was it like working with him?
He was a wonderful person, a wonderful person. His daughter is one of my best friends, Zelda, and she just directed my latest music video, coming out in a couple of weeks, for "Save My Soul." I met her through filming RV with him. He was just an incredibly giving, present individual, and an example of an amazing work ethic.

I've also noticed you've worked with Bernie Mac and Johnny Lewis. Did you know either of them?
Bernie was really, really nice. My interaction with him was limited, but he was hilarious and just had everybody laughing all of the time.

And what about Johnny Lewis, did you know him at all?
No, I didn't.

And Bill Cosby, you worked with him when you were young. Do you have any memories of working with him?
He was funny.

What's your newest album all about?
Well, the new album comes out next year. It's a combination of things I've been through in the past few years. I wanted to make music that felt true to where I'm at, but also keep in mind what I'm talking about with my girlfriend and what's going on around me. I would say that the music is emotional, not dwelling on dark things, and hopefully it'll move people.

Did you want to talk about your old label?
It's something I want to move on from.

7:30 p.m., Wednesday, December 9, at the Culture Room, 3045 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets start at $25 can be purchased through ticketmaster.com or at the venue. For more information, visit cultureroom.net or call 954-564-1074. 

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