JoJo on Being Alone, Self-Discovery & Owning Your Voice

Following the release of her fourth studio album ‘Good To Know’, BRICKS Editor Tori West chats to JoJo on the importance of growth, self-development and her hopes and dreams beyond a COVID-19 world.

[Tori] How are you currently getting on in isolation? What does a normal day look like for you right now?
JoJo: I’m doing pretty well. I’ve been really busy; talking to people about the album and hanging out with my dog, practising piano, cooking and baking. I’m grateful that I have a safe, comfy place to rest and actually shelter. So I do feel very grateful for that, just trying to keep it in perspective like yes, I’m bored sometimes, but there are people who are really not okay right now, so all things considered I’m doing really well.

It’s so important to recognise your privileges within isolation, I’ve been thinking about that a lot.
Yes, seriously, there are such disparities and it’s so so unfair. Like yes, we’re all in this together, but there are some people who really are truly alone, truly isolated and maybe don’t even have a home. So like I said, I think about it, I think about it everyday. I’m really grateful to be able to be comfortable right now.

You’re isolating with your mother too at the moment?
Yes, she just moved out to LA from Boston a few months ago. And of course, I wanted her to stay with me while she came out here and found her own place and everything but COVID-19 threw a wrench in everybody’s plans. So we’ve been here isolating together but it’s actually really great. She’s awesome and we respect each other’s space and know that we’re different people.

I’m a person who really enjoys space and variety. I love travelling – being able to just have the freedom of going to another town taking a little day trip or even just going out to go grab a bite to eat or whatever. So this is a reconfiguration of normality.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of being like water and how you know water goes with the flow, whether that is upstream or downstream. It goes in that direction, but it can change form while still being itself; it can be ice, it could be vapour, but it’s still water and I just really like the idea of trying to adopt that ideal.

I love that. That’s so beautiful. You have just released your new album ‘Good to Know’, in your opinion how does it sit in comparison to your previous releases?
I feel just more, what’s the word I’m looking for? I feel more confident and settled; I’m just not putting too much weight on any one thing. I made this album and now I need to get over myself and give it to everyone, put it into the world and then I’ll be already ready for the next one. I still feel like I’m just continuously growing and getting better and evolving. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself while recording ‘Mad Love’ and I was at a different place within myself. I am a perfectionist by nature, but I was much harder on myself back then to the point of suffocation or paralysis. With this album, I gave myself a lot more room to trust myself and just let it be.

Your single, Man’, is about being your own biggest fan and your latest release ‘Lonely Hearts’ really continued this journey of self-love that you’ve been on. To you, why is self-love so important?
I’m single and this is the first extended and intentional period of my life that I’ve really wanted to look inward and not date at all. I found myself recycling relationships a lot and kind of settling into things that didn’t fully feel right to me. I realised that I had an issue with being alone. I didn’t really want to be alone. I thought that I had it all together, but I feared actually dealing with myself and I realised that I was using a lot of different mechanisms to get outside myself, whether that was relationships, love, sex or substances.I really wanted to make sure that before I enter into this next decade of my life — I’m 29 right now — I wanted to make sure that I have a firm foundation in myself so that I couldn’t just be swayed by my next relationship; I wanted to know my boundaries, myself, what makes me feel good, my routines. I just needed to establish those things. It’s also not the first time that I’ve gone on a self-love journey either, and I’ll probably go on it a dozen more times. It’s not like you to arrive at that place and be like, you know what? I love myself, then that’s it. I think of it as an evolution, you know – the things that have happened and self-discovery.

I realised that I had an issue with being alone. I didn’t really want to be alone. I thought that I had it all together, but I feared actually dealing with myself and I realised that I was using a lot of different mechanisms to get outside myself.

I don’t think there’s ever an end to learning about ourselves, we’re all in a constant journey of self-discovery.
Exactly. It’s evolution and expansion.

I’d say I’m a completely different person since my previous relationships for sure. We’re a similar age and I definitely think this is the stage of our lives where we want to be by ourselves, learn more about who we are, discover what’s important to us and so on.
It’s such a powerful time yet I don’t know that much about it. But we’re in this time according to astrology called Saturn’s Return and I don’t know if you’ve read about it, but it is basically a return to our true selves, who we were before the world got to us and influenced us in society, and before we became afraid of ourselves. It’s a really powerful time where you might find that you want to look inward and get to know what your soul is really telling you.

What would you say is the track you have the most connection with on this album and what are you hoping other people will take from it?
Damn, I would say, maybe ‘Think About You’ and ‘Don’t Talk Me Down’. ‘Think About You’ is about this relationship that inspired a lot of songs I wrote for this album. I felt like I was in a really desperate place where I couldn’t forgive myself for the way the relationship ended and the part I played in it. I just couldn’t imagine a reality where I could move on and that’s a really vulnerable truth.
Then ‘Don’t Talk Me Down’ is talking about just how as women, sometimes we – well actually, it’s not just a woman thing, but I can only speak for myself from that perspective. Sometimes we’re made to feel that you shouldn’t trust your gut instinct, that what you’re thinking or feeling is wrong. You’re gaslit and basically, in the track, I’m saying look, I feel this conviction to walk away from this situation, don’t talk me down from my position.

I recently watched your Uprox documentary – it was such an emotional, open interview where you spoke a lot having to battle your old label as ‘they owned your voice’ and fans couldn’t have access to new music you wanted to release. I couldn’t begin to even explain to you how I would feel if I wasn’t allowed to share my own voice with BRICKS or do the work I do because I need it, I’m such a workaholic. So I can only imagine how frustrating that must have been. It must be so incredible when you released Mad Love, and were allowed to release music again. What would you say was the most valuable thing you learned from that difficult experience?
Everybody is going to go through things that are unpleasant or that are not the way that they planned, you know, and we have to be prepared in some way to breathe through and commit to staying in it. You know what I mean? Committing to not giving up. So I realised that that’s how you win, by not giving up and playing the long game.

You speak about your passion for writing and sharing your gifts, and for me, that’s music and performing and being an artist. That’s who I am, it’s not just about one project, fame or attention, those things wouldn’t have made much difference. Really it’s about longevity and being able to sustain this for the rest of my life. So, sustainability I think was a lesson I learned and also that nothing is really the end of the world. I read something recently that asked you to think back to three problems ago. It’s hard, because there’s always going to be something new and you’ll look back on it and think, wow, it wasn’t even that big of a deal.

You have such a loyal fan base, they helped campaign for you with #FreeJoJo while you were going through your legal battle with your old label. I know you’ve had to postpone your tour, so what’s your relationship like with your fans now? How are you connecting with them during this time?
So true! I actually feel super connected to them during this time. Not only because I have put out the new album, but I’m able to share a lot of music and content with them. A lot of us are using social media right now, whether we’re artists or people who love music because we want to feel connected since we’re not able to feel people’s energy. Instead, we’re connecting through apps and getting on each other’s IG lives, and just participating more. I’m on social media way more than I usually am but it’s because I miss people. I do miss that exchange, so it is nice for us to come together and know that we are not alone – we’re listening to the same thing. It’s not like I’m trying to stay connected, I want to, it feels natural.

You’ve also previously opened about your experiences of feeling pressure from the music industry, especially in regards to your appearance and body. What advice would you give to a young person starting their career in the industry? What would you be saying to your younger self?
The dopest quality I think someone can possess is confidence. I wish that I had the confidence to say to the older men who told me that I didn’t look thin enough to sell music to just go fuck off, you know? I wish I had that confidence back then.
I think that times have changed and we’re pushing back against that rigid, ridiculous way of thinking because women are more than just props. We’re more than products and I think we’re tired of industries profiting off of our insecurities, from being told that we need to be smaller or bigger or lighter or darker. There is room for us all.

I’m not sure if it would have been easier if someone were to go into the industry now, I don’t know. Because now there are social media, it’s really hard to grow up without developing a complex about what’s important. I know a lot of people’s self-worth is attached to likes and comments and that can be so dangerous for your mental health.

You became the youngest solo artist to have a number-one single in America, Which is such an incredible achievement. We’ve spoken quite a lot about growth, how much do you think you’ve grown since then?
I think I have a much stronger sense of self today and I love it.

I think it must help that nowadays we have a lot of platforms that are also working towards championing the voices of women and what we’re doing more so than 10-15 years ago. We literally both grew up in a generation of media that saw tabloid circling women’s flaws.
Yes! There was so much shame, it’s great that we’re now rallying against those things that society always deemed shameful. We won’t be slut-shamed, we won’t be fat-shamed. It’s just so good that we have this aggression towards shame, as we should, because it’s just the worst.

Lastly, what are your hopes and dreams for the future beyond Covid-19?

I want to travel the world to connect with as many people as possible. I hope for happiness and expansion and growth. It will be such an amazing experience to play and listen to live music again. You appreciate those things, even more, when you’ve experienced not having them.

Listen to JoJo’s new album, ‘Good To Know’ now, available on all streaming platforms.

JoJo, BRICKS July Cover Story, 2020

DIGITAL HAIR Evanie Frausto
NAIL DESIGN Ailsa Chaplin
NAIL EDIT Tallola Parsons