I’ve seen a lot in my 30 years. I was raised throughout New England, mostly Massachusetts, but came of age in Los Angeles and on the road. I've been singing since I was a little girl and I'm lucky enough to have known what I wanted to do since before I can remember, really.

I can't think of a day that I've gone without music. I've gone a day without solid food—juicing or something—but I've never gone a day without music. It's like my energy source. Both my parents were singers. My dad is more of a blues singer, while my mom is more operatic or showtunes-esque. My parents were not together for very long but when they were, they really bonded over music. That was what brought them together. Both of them definitely could have pursued a career in music but life got in the way—the realities of having to provide and be an adult. So music was just always around. I start my day with it, I fall asleep to it. I find music in everything, from somebody breathing heavily to the BPM on the treadmill, to the sounds of the ocean.

I was very precocious. My mom would take me to Providence where they have this thing called WaterFire. They had food and music and boats and fire in the water—it was a sensory overload and I loved it. I saw street performers and I was like, That’s what I want to be. I want to have people surrounding me and perform. So I would intentionally wear a hat to put it down on the street and then get up on a pillar and start singing. My mom didn't stop me. People would gather around and I would collect money. I was singing a bunch of different Aretha Franklin songs. “Chain of Fools,” “See Saw.” I sang “Old Time Rock N' Roll” by Bob Seger. I'd sing James Brown, The Jackson Five. I started doing that at probably seven or eight years old.

I start my day with it, I fall asleep to it. I find music in everything, from somebody breathing heavily to the BPM on the treadmill, to the sounds of the ocean.

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I'm just grateful that my mom didn't stop me from being as weird and as laser-focused as I was. Because a lot of parents would have, for sure. Basically, if I was born in 2021, I would definitely have been put on medication. I was such an energetic and quirky little girl and I'm grateful that my mom wasn't necessarily afraid of that. She just nurtured it.

I was bullied all throughout school. I never felt like I really fit in. We were in such a small town. I was singing a lot and kids thought it was stupid or they thought that I thought I was better than them. They thought I was annoying, and I'm sure I was.

We had a cousin in California and I was like, “Ma, I feel like I'd fit in better there.” And because she didn't have anything tethering her—she didn't really have a strong home base, necessarily—she was like, “Let's do it, let's move.” Our lives changed very shortly after. California has been a big part of my formation as a human being, just as much as my earlier years in the south of Boston.

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I've lived in L.A. for over 10 years now. It's so strange, people like to say that L.A. doesn't have a cultural identity, but I see so much in the different neighborhoods here. There's such a strong music scene, such a strong food culture. There's such a strong intersection of different languages and different interests represented here. I lived on the west side for seven years, I’ve lived Downtown, and now I'm in the Valley. I've gotten to see a lot of Los Angeles and there are so many things that I really love about it and that have inspired me.

Eating my way through L.A. is one of my favorite things to do. I love when people come and visit me, I can't wait to take them to some of my favorite spots. I actually have a little side passion: my other Instagram is JoJo's Sweet Spots and it's my plant-based explorations of different restaurants, and recipes for baking, cooking, and mixology.

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The way that I think about my experiences or my life, particularly over the past 10 years, is in boyfriends. Like, oh god, I was dating this guy at this time and I was living here. And then I was seeing that guy for two years and we were living there. Part of me, leaving the west side after seven years, was kind of throwing my hands up and being like, okay, it's time for me to find a new part of town now that this particular relationship is over. He can have the west side, I don't want to run into him. Let me find that next place to explore.

I lived with one of my best girlfriends and writing partners, and we had our whole own saga of Sex in the City-type things where we were both single, dining, going to live concerts, volunteering together, and sharing clothes. It was such a beautiful year that we had. Creating songs together, watching movies, and nursing our hangovers on the floor. I think everybody’s experience is shaped by the company that they're with, whether that's a romantic relationship or friendship or family or job.

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When you sign a contract with a major label, particularly if you're 12 years old and your family doesn't have any experience in the music industry, you don't know what you're getting into.

For a long time, I was unable to record music. Well, I was constantly recording music, I just couldn't officially release it or make money off of it. Being in the studio constantly, writing, recording, but none of those songs were seeing the light of day. That really toyed with my understanding of the value of my creativity—and my beliefs, even. Will I ever be able to continue on in this career that I started before I was a teenager? It was very strange to be in a contract where I didn't have legal control over my voice.

It was disheartening. The commodification of anything pure can be disheartening. Being able to have success and make money and enjoy the good things that can come along with fame, those are all positive things. But there's also negatives that come along with that. When you sign a contract with a major label, particularly if you're 12 years old and your family doesn't have any experience in the music industry, you don't know what you're getting into. I was told, “You'll never be able to sing again. You'll have to find something else to do.”

I felt stagnant, like I couldn't envision a future for myself. And that's the first time that I really experienced depression. I had seen it a lot in family members growing up, feeling like you can’t see a future for yourself where you’re happy or seeing all the lost potential for yourself. But it's cyclical. I have periods of feeling well and in-tune, where I'm able to clearly state all the things I'm grateful for and continue to attract more. In those moments, I really do feel that I'm a magnet for good things and able to recognize all the beauty that surrounds me. But in periods of depression, it's really hard to see possibilities, to see a future, and to get that gray lens off of your perception.

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My new project came from me feeling that way again at the end of last year, after the cycle of promoting my album, Good To Know, which came out right before lockdown. We decided not to postpone the release, but then we postponed a tour. Then we canceled it because we realized that, okay, this lockdown is going to be a lot longer than we thought.

I got into a really dark place again. I wasn't doing the things that I need to do to maintain my mental health: journal and work up a sweat and eat a balanced, plant-based diet and talk to a therapist and engage with my friends. I wasn't carving out the time or finding ways to do those things at home because we were in such a new situation, you know? And it really got the best of me. I started to feel like I wasn't good enough to make music anymore. That I wasn't good at writing songs, that I wasn't a good singer. I didn't feel connected to my voice anymore, which was very concerning. I was at a place where I didn't even know who I was at the end of last year. Or why I was.

I was in pain, still resentful of all the songs that I wrote and recorded in my early 20s that never saw the light of day. I needed to shed that and be lighter.

My manager’s known me since I was 12 years old. I was transparent with her about how I was feeling and she was like, “I think you should write through it. I think you should write and see what happens.” I was scared. I was disbelieving. I was jaded. I was in pain, still resentful of all the songs that I wrote and recorded in my early 20s that never saw the light of day. I needed to shed that and be lighter.

The process of making Trying Not To Think About It, my new EP, helped give me back my confidence in writing about how I was feeling. Part of me hopes that whoever listens to this EP can relate to the material, and the other part hopes that they don't relate at all. I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable in their own skin. I don’t want anyone to beat themselves up, to have felt trapped inside their mind. But maybe you've felt like you needed a lift or some assistance—maybe even some chemical assistance to feel better, whether that's pharmaceutical drugs or cannabis or whatever. Because it's a challenge to be in this world and to keep it all together. And nobody can. Nobody can do it alone. I hope that this project makes you feel like you're not alone and also maybe makes you smile. Because the process comforted me. And I hope that people can find comfort somewhere in it, as well.

It's really hard for me to understand how casually we look at having a glass of wine. I don't see why it should be any different from the way that we view people smoking a joint.

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My relationship with weed has definitely evolved over the years. I used to be somebody who waked and baked, like for a period of six months. Then I realized that I wasn't being true to my nature. I really do like to be productive and I don't find that consuming like that allows me to be—or at least the type of weed that I was smoking wasn't really conducive for productivity. I've gone through periods of not smoking it at all, but I’m always a fan of CBD and taking drops. Really relishing in the anti-inflammatory benefit of it and the other good things that can come from CBD.

I enjoy smoking at night so I take a few hits of something then. I like these pre-rolls by Dad Grass that I found at the Life is Beautiful Festival. It’s really, really high CBD. It chills me out. I don't know if it's psychosomatic or not, but it is so nice. It's funny, I know most people like to smoke indicas at night, but I’ve found that I love to smoke a little sativa. I love to take my dog for a walk, take a few hits, watch something, and then go to sleep. That's my routine. I don't smoke during the day and I don't smoke when I create. But I'll either take an edible or take a couple hits at night. That's my current relationship with it. It's really hard for me to understand how casually we look at having a glass of wine. I don't see why it should be any different from the way that we view people smoking a joint.

For as long as I’ve been making music, weed has always been around. It's a part of a lot of people's creativity, and the culture of being in the studio. Some people will have a drink and some people will have a joint—I've always seen that. But as far as the stigma, I don't know. The older I get, the less fucks I'm capable of giving.

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To get to perform and connect with other human beings again is going to be really emotional. It's been a long time. For this project, there are going to be six intimate live shows. Everybody will be wearing masks. We'll be in our pod and traveling in a sprinter van and just really trying to be as safe as possible. I didn't want to be the first person to go on the road and to be a guinea pig, but now that I see that the world is opening back up and know we're going to be as safe as possible, we have to. Other industries are opening up and I think it's important that the touring industry doesn't die in the process. As a fan, I know how much I want to see live music, and as a performer, I want to be able to put on a performance. So it'll be very satisfying to be able to promote this EP and bring these songs to life in a way that I didn't get to with the album that I put out last year.

I literally went from not believing that I was any good anymore to feeling confident in my abilities again.

I'm going to do songs from Good To Know, as well. COVID definitely informed how I'm putting together the set list. I wanted to put a night together that feels immersive, like a mood. A blue type of mood. Sensual, but blue. A little sad. That's where I was when I was writing this and some of that was in Good To Know. I literally went from not believing that I was any good anymore to feeling confident in my abilities again. And that was through the exercise of putting pen to paper and getting my ass in the studio.

I think what the pandemic taught me is that we thought we were more in control than we really were. All we can control is our perspective. We don't know what's going to happen next. We never knew what was going to happen next. We just thought we did. But we have to be like water as much as possible and take a new shape sometimes. Transform, but stay true to who we are. Water can be vapor, it can be ice, but it's always water regardless of what form it's in or how it's flowing.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. JoJo photographed by Maggie Shannon in Los Angeles. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.