Pop firecracker JoJo was only 13 when her single “Leave (Get Out)” hit the airwaves in 2004. The Top 10 smash “Too Little Too Late” and gold-certified album The High Road followed two years later, then she seemed to disappear from the public eye—until now. Following the release of new single “Disaster” and her gig as opening act on Joe Jonas’ fall tour, JoJo, who turns 21 this month, will release her third album, Jumping Trains, early in the new year. We chatted with the singer in the parking lot of a Los Angeles tanning salon. Because, really—what better way is there to beat the winter blues?
What was the experience of touring around with Joe Jonas, and essentially getting back on the road after a five-year break, like for you? It was a great platform for me to try out some new material and perform it for the first time—to see the response I got from the audience. I got to rock out. I got to try new things and just kind of get my feet wet again. I haven’t performed in a long time, especially on a tour. So I got to try that as an adult.
We talked to you a few months back while you were on the road, and there was definitely a lot of gay love for you among the fans waiting outside your tour bus. I remember specifically the guys you’re talking about. They were so excited! And to see them smile and be so genuinely filled with joy—the fact that seeing me could elicit that reaction—is so, so special, and it makes my day every single time.
You were only 13 when you had your first hit single—a baby! When did you first become aware of your gay following? I became really aware of it when I went to London. I think I was about 16 years old, and I performed at a gay club called G-A-Y. The response was amazing. I didn’t even know that there was love for me like that. From then on, my eyes were really opened. There was such warmth and such great energy from that experience that it just made me absolutely more aware of how much good will and positivity is out there for me in that community.
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What’s the Cliffs-Notes version of what happened in the interim between your 2006 album, The High Road, and your new one, Jumping Trains? CliffsNotes! [Laughs] Upon the completion of promoting The High Road, I took some time to graduate high school and to really focus on my studies. I became really scholastic. I kind of struggled with whether I was going to go right to college or move out to L.A. to record an album. And I made a decision to come out to L.A. and focus on this record. I got to grow as a songwriter. I got to do some really stupid stuff. I got to make some great friends out here. I got to get my heart broken and break hearts and do all those things. I got to be a young adult on my own. I think that’s actually really great, because had I been “in the spotlight” this whole time, I don’t think that I would have that real-world understanding.
It’s a perfect album title, then, really. Jumping Trains symbolizes leaving old things behind, moving forward into a new frontier, new beginnings, recognizing that the unknown can be scary and dangerous, but if you take a risk and it works out, obviously the reward can be great.
What are your favorite songs on Jumping Trains? One of my favorite songs is called “Elsewhere.” It comes from a conversation that I had with someone. It was on my heart, and I really wanted to write about it, so one of my close friends and I came together and collectively wrote this song. We have a couple ballads on this record, and this is one that’s really special to me.
As a songwriter, do you think guys are intimidated to date you, knowing that they might end up in your lyrics at some point? I have no idea. I know I would be nervous to date me, because it’s like, with this girl, if I do something stupid, I’m gonna hear about it, and everyone else is gonna hear about it! I haven’t felt that apprehension, but, shoot—I would be apprehensive. [Laughs]
Jumping Trains will be released by Interscope in early 2012. Visit jojoonline.com for more info