Though a prolonged legal battle to extricate herself from the contract she'd signed with a now-years-defunct record label kept the former child star out of the spotlight for a decade, JoJo has been quickly making up for lost time.
After finally gaining her artistic independence following years of lawsuits, she released a trio of singles in 2015, then followed with her first LP for Atlantic Records "Mad Love." this past October, which debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes Pop Chart, No. 2 on the Billboard Digital Album Chart and No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart.
She kicked off her world tour Jan. 15 in Dublin and visits The Depot in Salt Lake City this Tuesday for a make-up show after postponing her scheduled Feb. 27 concert due to laryngitis.
Even if "Mad Love." hadn't been a success, JoJo was just happy to be out of label purgatory and able to "officially" make music again.
"It was very freeing. It taught me patience. And it taught me appreciation for my life, to be able to continue on with this dream that I started as a little girl," she said in a phone interview. "When you achieve success at a young age, you can sometimes feel like you deserve certain things, and I think this experience taught me to really appreciate everything, and to really be able to live in the moment a lot more this time around."
JoJo definitely had "success at a young age" covered.
An appearance on "Kids Say the Darndest Things: On the Road in Boston" led to invites to perform on "Oprah" and "Maury," and a reputation as a child prodigy that yielded a recording contract offer at age 6 (which her mother turned down). Several years later, an appearance on "America's Most Talented Kids" led to a tryout with Blackground Records/Da Family and a record deal at age 12.
Her debut single, "Leave (Get Out)," went to the top of the Billboard Pop Songs chart, making her, at 13, the youngest recording artist in history with a No. 1 hit in the U.S. Her first album, 2004's "JoJo," peaked at No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard 200.
She appeared in a pair of movies, "Aquamarine" and "RV" (the latter of which opened at No. 1), in 2006, and also released her follow-up album that year. "The High Road" debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and lead single "Too Little Too Late" got to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Though there are so many horror stories about child stars being ruined by having some fame thrust upon them at an early age, JoJo said she was living her dream.
"That is what I wanted! I was never pushed into it, I didn't have a stage mom. My mom was just supportive of her precocious child, and I was kind of a weird little kid. I'm thankful that I had a support system that allowed me to do what I wanted to do. It definitely is a unique way to grow up," she said. "… I'm thankful, I've had the same best friend since I was 8 years old, and we're still best friends now, and I'm very close with my family. But I think traveling the world was actually the best education I could have got. … I loved it, and I don't feel like I missed out because I got different experiences."
She also got to experience the bad side of the recording industry, though.
JoJo said in 2007 that she was working on her third album, and added a year later that she was waiting for Blackground/Da Family to sign a new distribution deal. By 2009, her parent company said it had a deal with Interscope, but her album was still not released, causing her to file suit.
The label went defunct after releasing Timbaland's "Shock Value II" in 2009, but JoJo's contract had years left on it. In the interim, she put out a few unofficial mixtapes and did a few small tours, but the frustration of being told she couldn't make new albums so long as her old deal remained in dispute led her to start examining options other than performing.
"After the fifth lawyer told me that I would never be able to get out of my contract, I started to believe it. I was very depressed … [but] instead of being upset about the way I thought things should be, I accepted the way things were and then tried to do the best with that," JoJo said. "I was constantly in the studio, constantly making music … and when it didn't work out, I decided that litigation was the only way that I'd be able to move forward if I wanted to continue on with a life in music, as a recording artist. … I did think about, 'What else should I do? Should I go be a teacher? Maybe focus more on songwriting, behind-the-scenes stuff?' But I didn't want to live my life wondering, 'What if I had fought? Could I have won?' And I'm really glad that I followed my heart."
She did eventually win, securing her release in January 2014.
The new album, which she did much of the writing on, has three central topics: "the good, the bad, the ugly" of love (after a breakup she was going through at the time); her relationship with her father, who died unexpectedly in November 2015; and, not unexpectedly, a sense of finally being in control of her life and career.
"I just allowed my feelings to come to the surface, and I'm really lucky I worked with some amazing collaborators and co-writers who really helped me take conversations we were having and turn them into songs," JoJo said. " … I was 24, 25, 26 during this time of my life, and I'm finally feeling comfortable … being the director of my own ship."
That's also been a weird experience for her, but the kind of weird she'll gladly take more of.
With Keisha Renee
When • Tuesday; doors at 7, show at 8
Where • The Depot, 400 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $23.50 advance, $28 day of; Smith's Tix
Note • Tickets purchased for the originally scheduled Feb. 27 show are valid for the rescheduled date