From being inspired by poets like Ezra Pound and John Keats to her fascination with military history and Tim Burton films, she has a clear artistic vision that she’s imposing slowly but surely on the world – something she manifests daily, too.
And with a new music video out this week for her track’ Consistent Dedication’, we had a quick chat with Jojo as part of our brand-new series spotlighting the most exciting emerging acts.
Hello, how are things?
Everything’s going well. I’m kind of sceptical about things going too well.
A slight impostor syndrome?
Exactly. Truman Show.
Well, there’s no need for it; your work speaks for itself. The first thing I want to ask is how you got into music. Was there a clear route?
I originally wanted to be a translator. I got grounded for a year and was in my bedroom with no laptop or anything. So I taught myself guitar on my brother’s guitar. I just taught myself from then, and it came naturally after that. I just wanted to learn songs and perform. I studied English and Photography in college, dropped out after four months, took a year off, and then went to school and did Production and Performance for two years. That’s when I was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’
And it started to work. Was there a moment you realised, ‘I’m actually quite good at this?
I always used to tell myself I was good at it, even though I probably wasn’t. If I want something, I’ll make sure it’ll happen. Even if I know, it’s not good at that moment. I always believe it will get better. I’ve always had that mindset. In college, I was surrounded by a lot of guys in class. There were only a few girls. It was hard because none of the guys would let me in their band. Some of them just weren’t very nice at all.
You said you wanted to be a translator. For which languages, and what made you want to do that?
Like German and Spanish. I enjoyed languages. I enjoy the culture. I love German, but I wasn’t good. Then when I started playing the guitar, I thought, ‘I don’t want to be a translator. This is what I want to do.’
Well, music is a universal language. Who were your main musical influences then, growing up?
My mum was the main person who showed me things. Prince and Michael Jackson inspire my performance onstage. And Hot Chocolate and Earth, Wind & Fire. All these sorts of bands.
Quite disco-infused then, which is interesting because that’s different from the output you’ve so far released…
Yeah, my mum opened me up to rhythm and dance, but most of my influences came from me finding them. When I was in school, I typed into YouTube’ really cool indie bands’, and it came up with The Shins. That’s where the name Heartworms comes from because The Shins have an album called Heartworms; The Shins are a considerable influence, lyrics-wise, on me. Then [my interests] went from Radiohead to Interpol and Kraftwerk.
Thanks for answering the question about how your name came about without me asking. Congrats on the release of ‘Consistent Dedication’, too. How does it feel that it’s out?
I’ve heard it so many times before it even came out. But it’s different now. I listened to it on the radio and thought it sounded good. Hearing the compressed sound on the radio was delicious. I feel great. It’s great. I’m happy.
It was released via Speedy Wunderground, a superb label for bringing the best out in its artists. How does it feel to be signed by them? And what has that done to your confidence as an artist?
Speedy and [its founder and producer] Dan Carey have always been the option for me. I’ve wanted to be part of them since I heard about them. I manifested it. And now, seeing my face on their Instagram account is beautiful. I’m taking it little by little. They’re lovely, and they’re very good at what they do.
What’s it like working with Dan Carey, specifically?
It’s wonderful. We were friends before I went into the studio with him. So it was nice to get to know each other more. When it came to recording in the studio, it was like I’d done it before with him.
I read you have a fascination with military history. Where does that come from?
An interest in history, in general, has always been a thing for me. But I read The Code Book about a year and a half ago, which talks about the history of codebreaking. Then I started watching lots of documentaries on that. I watched a documentary called Spitfire, and I was in tears. It hit me. I also have an uncle who, at my age, used to collect military outfits and was obsessed with aircraft. So, in a way, it does run through the family.
What was it about the stories of women codebreakers or codebreakers, in general, that got you?
I don’t know, to be honest. I haven’t gone deep into the women of codebreaking. I have another book on Bletchley Park, which I need to read. But I’ve created my cypher. I like puzzles, and I like challenges. And codebreaking is one of those great things I’d love to have as part of a campaign, like for a release. I love it so much.
Do you ever at all relate codebreaking to lyric writing?
Yeah, it’s secret messaging, like plaintext, where you can hide stuff. I love that idea where there’s a typical poem, but you can link the ending of words. I can’t explain it; it’s like another layer, something more than just what it is.
I suppose that also touches on your interest in poetry. Which poets are you inspired by?
I’ve found a bunch of new poets recently. I’m currently reading Peter Redgrove. I’ve never had a poem that’s made me cry before, and one of [his] made me cry. I’ve got Ezra Pound, John Keats, and Dylan Thomas, who’s incredible. And Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. I like dark poetry. And Romantic poetry as well – something about it is very visual and kind of cliché. And I’m very cliché. I like those kinds of things.
How does that poetry inform your lyric writing? There’s an undeniable link, but how does it do so in your experience?
I’ve never really been good at English. My spelling’s atrocious, and my vocabulary has been brutal. Reading poetry has helped me learn words and techniques. I remember when I first listened to Arctic Monkeys, and they have a lot of assonances, which inspired me a lot. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m reading, but I love how it sounds.
Let’s talk about your live shows. How have you found performing live so far?
It’s wonderful. Sometimes it isn’t very pleasant, but more because it doesn’t go to plan. But it’s that moment when I’m onstage. They’ve all been very, very good. The Great Escape was amazing.
I remember when I first played the Speedy [Wunderground] show before they decided to sign me; I was doing my soundcheck, and Dan and Pierre [Hall, the label’s A&R Representative] came in while we were doing the soundcheck. That was one of the best shows I’ve ever played. It was beautiful. I like making people feel uncomfortable. That’s my dream.
I don’t know. I guess it just makes me thrilled.
And how do you do that? Just a lot of awkward silences?
Eye contact. Serious eye contact and unexpected movements. It’s like an art performance for me.
There’s a theatricality to it – is that how you approach it?
Yeah, I don’t know what it is. I used to watch Sweeney Todd, which has Johnny Depp in it. I used to be obsessed with the theatricalness of it, the darkness. Everything Tim Burton does in that way inspires me a lot. And I like that character I have. I can be that character, and it’s acceptable.
Is that what you’re trying to capture sonically, too, in your music? A kind of sinister, slightly eerie edge?
It comes out of me when I record. I just like the darkness. I’m drawn to it, to be honest. It’s me. It’s what’s coming out of me, and I like it that way. I’ve tried to do things differently, and I’m like, ‘No, I don’t feel right.’ I always do things [based on] how I feel, not what other people want from it. I’m very strongly opinionated when it comes to it.
I was reading, too, that you try to defy the typical perceptions of female artists when performing on stage. Do you feel you’re trying to make an impact as a female artist?
I’m doing it for those who feel like they can’t be big, scary and powerful. Because I always had that in my head. I always wanted to be that – because I’m a very small person, to be honest. There are a lot of things that happened to me in the past that I didn’t do much about, and it made me feel very small and helpless. So a lot of it is this personal thing.
I think that’s another reason why I manifested it so much because it’s the only thing I ever wanted; to prove to myself that I can do whatever I want and not feel that way because they made me feel that way. I can make myself feel any way I want.
You mentioned earlier about the boys in college who said you couldn’t join their bands. Have you had any contact from any of them since?
I get messages sometimes saying, ‘It’s so nice to see you do this’. I remember this person saying, ‘I’m so glad you’re influenced by me’. I didn’t say anything back. I bit my tongue. I did everything myself. No one helped me. But it’s going to happen. People are going to think that way.
How ambitious are you as an artist?
Very, very, very ambitious. I’ve already manifested where I’m going to play next year in my head. And I plan a lot. Every day I wake up early and have an idea. Music-wise, I write a demo every day. I’m just very ambitious. If I wasn’t, I’m afraid I’d fail.
You’ve spoken about manifesting a few times. Is that something you do quite a lot?
Yeah, it plays a big part in my life. I believe you are what you think about. There was this YouTube video I watched where it talks about manifesting what you want and acting on doing it. You can’t just assume things are going to happen for you. You’ve got to believe it.
I write little cards of what I want: to be rich enough for my music, to provide for myself and my mother and give each other the best life. I have that card scattered around my room. I find it, pick it up, and remind myself that’s what I want to do. That’s what I want. And I’m working towards it. I’m doing what I can and putting all my effort into it. And I feel manifesting is very important for people who want to succeed.
And where can people next see you play live?
So, 14th of October at The Sebright Arms. I believe there are still some tickets.
She’s correct – there are. Click here to buy.