In the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts, JoJo grew up in a home filled with song. Her mother, a church soloist and trained musical theater performer, would practice hymns and arias alike while a young JoJo watched, listened and learned. She imitated her mother's incredible range as well as the sounds that breezed through the family's home stereo: Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Etta James. "When I was two years old, I would sing nursery rhymes. I would do riffs on them and make them jazzy," JoJo remembers. It was at this early age that she taught herself to interpret the pop and blues tunes she heard with her own distinctive and unique style.
Eager to perform in venues other than her living room, JoJo searched for her first big break. She found it in a small newspaper clipping that advertised an audition for CBS-TV's Kids Say the Darndest Things On The Road In Boston. Her soul and passion left the producers speechless and she was immediately given a spot to perform. Once JoJo hit the stage, Bill Cosby, the show's host, asked her to sing a little something for the people-packed Faneuil Hall. JoJo belted out a show-stopping rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" which earned her an overwhelming response from the audience. (As well as from Bill Cosby, himself.) A phone call from The Oprah Winfrey show followed soon after, inviting the young girl to appear on the show. "When it came to performing, I just had no fear," says JoJo.
All at once things began to happen. Calls from talk show producers and music festival organizers began to pour in. JoJo did them all, singing at places as diverse as a Boston Celtics basketball game and the Republican National Convention. But it was at McDonald's 2001 Gospelfest (at Town Hall in New York City) where JoJo brought down the house with one single song. On a bill with music greats such as Melba Moore, JoJo let loose her pipes on "I Believe in You and Me," Whitney Houston's smash hit from The Preacher's Wife. "The place went crazy!" JoJo exclaims. "They gave me a standing ovation, and when I walked off stage, Cissy Houston, Whitney's mother, said to me 'You did a great job out there.'" Such a glowing endorsement was simply priceless to the young singer.
While appearing on the TV show, America's Most Talented Kids, JoJo was noticed by a man in the audience who introduced her to Vincent Herbert, famed producer and owner of Da Family Entertainment. JoJo was signed to Da Family and offered two major recording contracts before finding her perfect match with Barry Hankerson and his label Blackground Records, home to Toni Braxton, Timbaland & Magoo, and the late Aaliyah.
After being signed to Blackground, JoJo spent the next four months recording tracks for her self-titled debut in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, working closely with famed producers such as Soulshock & Karlin (Whitney Houston, Craig David), Vincent Herbert (Destiny's Child, Toni Braxton), Mike City (Brandy), Brian Morgan (SWV), The Underdogs (Tyrese, Ruben Studdard), and writer Static (Aaliyah, Ginuwine). "It was a great experience working with them in the studio. Everyone had such an incredible vibe, and that comes through in the songs," JoJo enthuses.
The album showcases JoJo's talent, not only as a singer, but as a songwriter as well. She penned three tracks for JoJo, including: "Keep On Keepin' On," "Yes or No," and "Sunshine." Her favorite cut, "Keep On Keepin' On" is especially close to her heart. "It was really hard when I was younger. We were the lowest income people in our town," she explains. "My mom and I lived in a rundown one-bedroom apartment and we lived off very little money. I wrote 'Keep On Keepin' On' because I knew I wasn't the only one going through hard times," she says.
The final product is an album infused with assured, confident vocals and lyrics that speak way beyond JoJo's tender years. The ballads are deep and soul-filled, and the up-tempo tracks are bumping and make you want to dance. Her music strikes the perfect balance between attitude and innocence-which is exactly what JoJo is all about.