Friday, June 17, 2011

Interview: JoJo On Jumping Trains, Marvin's Room, Living in Los Angeles, & More

If you haven't been keeping up with JoJo since her first two albums, JoJo and The High Road released, you are missing out on the best mix tape of 2010, Can't Take That Away. Now a young woman with more life experience and more knowledge of not just music but the music business, JoJo is set to release her third album, Jumping Trains later this year.

JoJo's strength is truly underestimated. Over the past few years, JoJo has pushed through one great record label battle. Because of her persistence in standing up for her art, fans across the globe can now expect a new album in the coming months. As a longtime fan of hers (and I mean, I was heading out to my local mall when she made a Radio Disney appearance back in the day), I am thrilled to share my interview with JoJo in which she talks about her upcoming album, her "Marvin's Room" response song, Los Angeles, traveling, and much more. Check it out below:



Starting out with your most recent success, are you shocked at the response from the urban blogs of your “Marvin’s Room” cover?
I was completely shocked! It came to me so randomly. When I heard the song, I listened to it three times. My best guy friend said to me, "Jo, you have to listen to this song. You're going to love it." So I said okay and I hung up the phone to listen to it. In the car ride from the hotel to the airport, I wrote my take on it. I was obviously super inspired by Drake and his melodies and the whole vibe of the song. I was very nervous to play something so explicit but with no risk, there's no reward. So I wanted to take that chance in doing something that was honest and in your face and indicative of what's going on around me, being a young woman in my 20s.

When is the new album, Jumping Trains set to be released?
Since we're still mixing the album and choosing the title songs, there's a lot of people involved in the process so it doesn't go as quickly as you know, we'd want it to. But we're looking for a fall release date.

And what about the music video that you recently shot?
We shot a video for the buzz single, “The Other Chick.” We were ready to move forward with “The Other Chick” but I am the type of person who never stops recording. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe that's a bad thing (laughs) but anyway, we got to the studio and made a few records that the label flipped over. So we thought that maybe we should re-evaluate the plan and go with one of those tracks. I'm totally comfortable with that. All of these songs are my baby so I'm not necessarily attached to one more than the other. So our plan right now is to shoot another video and move forward, go to radio, and do all of that stuff for one of the new songs.

“The Other Chick” is perhaps the most honest that we’ve heard from you on this level. Did the decision to share such honest songwriting on this album come naturally or did you ever have any hesitations about sharing certain things?
Sometimes there's a hesitation but it's very therapeutic. It might be selfish because it might make the people that I am talking about feel uncomfortable but what are you going to do? I think that people connect to the truth and raw emotion. I wanted to be transparent. I wanted to say things that we all think in our head but don't know how to put into words and say. I strive to say things that might be bold or are a little off the edge... but I think we're all a little crazy at the end of the day. (laughs)

You mentioned earlier that you are constantly recording so what exactly is on the new album time line wise?
The majority of this body of work is from after the mix tape. One song that stood the test of time is in fact, "Jumping Trains." I recorded that song a significant amount of time ago but it applies even more today than when I first recorded it. I think that's the oldest record that lives on here but the rest of them are quite recent, mixed in with a few that just remained firm in our minds. I recorded about 100 songs. The goal was to take songs that we loved and replace them with songs that we loved even more. It's hard to let go of certain songs but what we've come up with, I think is a cohesive body of work.

Please do not let those songs go. 100 songs? We want to hear them!
I know, I know! I don't know what to do with them. (laughs)

Now your music has a common theme when you listen to "Leave (Get Out)" and then "Too Little Too Late" and more recently, "My Time is Money." I also love how you always touch upon inspiration like with "Keep On Keepin On" and "All I Want Is Everything" but what other subjects will you touch upon on the new album?
One of the themes that I explored on this album is independence... and making a name for yourself, being a strong young woman. I think one of the things that is most explored is being strong and vulnerable. In most of the songs, I walk that line of having my guard up and having an edgy exterior, you know, metaphorically having a razor blade under my tongue. But I'm still a young girl. I'm still sensitive, emotional, I care. It sounds kind of deep but that was my intention with each of these songs, to express that line that I think a lot of us walk.

And there's no place like Los Angeles so can you talk about the inspiration you've found since moving to LA as well as your favorite and least favorite aspects of the music community there?
That's a really great question. I've had the opportunity to travel the world from a young age and then of course, there's no place like home, there's no place like New England. But Los Angeles has certainly influenced this album. Jumping Trains is a bit inspired by my move from Boston to LA. It's given me the opportunity to grow, develop, and be around like minded people. I've also been around some really shady people. For the most part though, I've really gotten the chance to be around people that inspire me and be constantly in the studio jumping from session to session just learning and absorbing so much.

I've also had the opportunity to understand what the night life is like. It's important as an artist to look at the people dancing and moving, and seeing what the common thread is between all of the different genres of music that pull people in. What's great about LA is that it is a melting pot but there's a lot of people out here who are trying to do the same thing. So that's a double edge sword. It's a good thing and a bad thing. But there are people from all around the world here, so it's a great place to be inspired and be young. I am honestly having the time of my life here.

With your first two albums having more of a pop feel to them, do you still feel connected to that pop sound since you've moved to LA and recorded more of a colorful array of sounds for Jumping Trains?
I'm proud of what me and my team accomplished with those two albums but to be honest I do feel a bit of a disconnect. I was so young. I was just so excited to be in the studio and have those opportunities but I didn't know what it all meant. I don't think that it was purpose-driven. Based on the pop sound that was represented on the first two albums, this album is just a little more cut dry. This album is a pop record but it's pop with an anger management problem. It's infused pop. It's infused with all of the other things that I love like hip-hop, country, soul, and whatever else. Because I was able to really take my time with this, it's come out more eclectic and still very cohesive.

That's so interesting that you brought up country because I wanted to ask if we would get just a bit of that vibe on this album. Can you elaborate on that?
Yeah. One of my favorite songs that I recorded, "Paper Airplanes" was unfortunately leaked. But a lot of people are saying that it has a country feel in the sense of the melody and the songwriting. When I say that I'm inspired by country music, I really mean lyrically. I think that country songwriters are some of the most impressive. They are creative storytellers so I really got a hold on that inspiration.

In a recent interview, you talked about your collaborations for this project and mentioned Rodney Jerkins and The Messengers to name a few... but did you work with Ryan Leslie for the album or do you plan on working with him again?
I love Ryan Leslie! I am such a fan of his work. We worked together on my last album but we didn't work together for this album. Though I am certainly open to working with him again in the future.

Who would you say are your favorite artists under Interscope, the label that you are now under?
Certainly Lady Gaga and Gwen Stefani. The list goes on and on when you look at the roster. I think it is a really impressive place for females. Look at Fergie, Gwen, Nicole Scherzinger, and Lady Gaga.

And which of those is your number one dream to duet with?
I would say Gwen Stefani. She's the coolest woman on the planet. She exudes cool.

Now you've been very interactive with your fans on Myspace and Twitter. What's your favorite aspect of social media?
I love the ability to invite people into your world by sharing things so quickly, like what your listening to, what inspires you... I think you get to create an environment from your background picture to your profile picture to the way that you tweet and writing in ALL CAPS. You know what I mean? You're able to create an environment that gives people an inside into what your whole persona is.

So are you done with Tumblr? Are you going to create a new account?
Oh God, that was a nightmare! I don't know what's going on with that Tumblr. It was originally my Tumblr for a couple of months and then somehow it got hacked into. I haven't had control of it for months now. I feel a little violated and freaked out. So I think I'm really turned off now and I won't do it.

Back to Twitter then. I noticed you mentioned in one of your tweets that one of your goals was to buy an acoustic guitar. What’s the update on that?
I love your questions. Well, my update is that I did go to Guitar Center and I purchased an acoustic guitar. (laughs)

Nice. So what was the first song that you learned how to play on guitar?
When I was growing up, me and my dad would sit across from each other and he would play me chords. I think the first song that I ever learned how to play was "Margaritaville" which isn't quite appropriate but it's 3 chords, so I think that's why he taught it to me. (laughs)

Who are you listening to right now?
The artist that I've been listening to the most consistently for the past five years has been D'Angelo (laughs). Also, Bilal. His album is called, "1st Born Second." I love Cee Lo's album. I'm really in the neo soul vibe right now. I love Erykah Badu and Common. I'm a huge John Mayer fan, he's a constant in my life as well. I am always listening to him. Jill Scott. I am also really into Rascal Flatts. I know that's random but I really, really like their music.

As you were recently in New York for a Girls Who Rock Event, did you get the chance to see a Broadway show and are you interested in pursuing Broadway?
I didn't see any shows this time. The last show that I saw was In The Heights. Jordin Sparks was in it and it was so amazing. I love theatre. It takes a whole different mindset and work ethic to be on Broadway. Whenever people say that they've been on Broadway, I tip my hat to them because I know it's not easy. I would absolutely love to do it one day. I think it would be a great challenge, an incredible memory, and a way to further explore what it means to be a performer.

Lastly, aside from songwriting and singing, what else can we expect to see you do... perhaps some more acting?
I would love to! Though I've been so excited and obsessed with this upcoming album that I haven't even opened my mind up to pursing more films. But it's certainly a passion of mine so I can't wait to do more acting in the future. I also want to continue my education and get a degree. I'm really interested in sociology. Specifically, I want to study cultural anthropology and musicology. I'm really interested in seeing what defines cultures and how music plays a part in that. I would also like to travel and see more of the world, just soak up culture and learn as much as I can. I'm also a foodie! I would love to explore and try different delicacies. I'm all about it!

Stay tuned for JoJo's album, Jumping Trains this fall.

For more JoJo, follow her on Twitter.

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