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Interview:
Pop singer JoJo gets back to where she once belonged
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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After a brief say in pop purgatory, JoJo is back.

And she doesn't plan on going away any time soon.

After coming out of the box strong as a teenager with hits such as "Leave (Get Out)" and "Baby It's You," JoJo -- born Joanna Levesque in Vermont -- was waylayed by legal battles with her record company and production team. But she's come out on the other side, with an EP called "III" -- led by the single "When Love Hurts" -- with plans for her third full-length album in the new year, which will end a 10-year gap.

"I'm happier than I've been since I can remember, actually. I really feel comfortable with who I am and what I've learned about myself.

"And I'm so thankful to have the opportunity that a lot of artists don't get after they get in a legal situation, and jsut to have a fan base that's supported me. So I'm really soaking up every moment and not taking anything for granted."

"I'm having such an amazing time," JoJo, 24, says by phone from a tour stop in Missouri. "I'm happier than I've been since I can remember, actually. I really feel comfortable with who I am and what I've learned about myself.

"And I'm so thankful to have the opportunity that a lot of artists don't get after they get in a legal situation, and jsut to have a fan base that's supported me. So I'm really soaking up every moment and not taking anything for granted."

That's not to say she didn't despair during that legal impasse. The negotiations were long and protracted, and she filled the time by still making music along with the occasional TV and movie appearance, including "Hawaii Five-O" and Lifetime's "True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet." She even considered heading back to college to study sociology and anthropology at Northeastern University.

"It seemed like at every turn I was told that I wasn't gonna be able to get out of this contract and that I would never be able to own my voice again," she says. "There was no time limit on that contract and it was for seven albums and they wouldn't let me put albums out.

"So I felt very much trapped and I felt like, 'Who am I if I'm not able to sing and not able to do what I've been doing since I was even younger than 13. So I definitely went through a depression, but having been through all of that makes me a lot more thankful and gives me a perspective that I truly appreciate this time around."

JoJo resurfaced with her own mixtape, "Agape," in 2012 before signing with Atlantic Records for the "#LoveJo" EP in 2014 and then "III," which she refers to as a "tringle" of three singles designed to showcase different styles as a kind of appetizer for the album. JoJo says she's "70 songs deep" into the project, working with collaborators such as Sweden's The Family, Benny Blanco, Jason Evigan, Diane Warren and British upstart MNEK.

"I'm probably going to keep recording because I love being in the studio," JoJo says. "We experimented with a lot of different things. It's about having a cohesive album at the end of the day. I don't want it to be too all over the place, but I want it to be true to myself in that I do listen to a lot of different music -- like, I love dance music, and House music has really influenced me in the past few years. It's given me energy, so I want to make sure that I'm showing that side of myself.

"It's just about finding the right blend. I know it's an uncertain time in music, but I still believe in albums. I love listening to body of work from an artist and really diving into their world that they wanted to invite us into."

JoJo and Aaron Camper

Wednesday, Dec. 16. Doors open at 8 p.m.

The Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale.

Tickets are $20.

Call 248-544-3030 or visit themagicbag.com.


Web Site: www.themagicbag.com

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