“A woman thanked me for never letting up during this pandemic and cried when she said, ‘We can’t go to concerts or festivals anymore; you’re our concert now and we love you for that.’” — Jojo Jones
Jojo Jones knows in her bones how essential music can be for many people. It heals. A hug for the ears that travels right to listeners’ hearts.
Jojo Jones calls herself a “hugger” in the physical sense and the virus has certainly put a damper on that part of her outgoing personality.
“Now I try to respect everyone’s desire to either elbow bump or remain socially distant with an awkward retreat,” the popular Crystal River singer entertainer admits.
She mixes humor to help folks overcome the lack of physical hugs by adding, “I’m still hugging, but no more French kissing.”
A working musician for over seven years, Jones made time in her frenetic schedule to answer some questions about her life and music. She just completed a six-gig week, so most questions about how the virus has dampened her prospects flew out the window.
“I’ve never studied music,” she admits, “but I am a student of musicians and other entertainers.”
Jones has taught students to sing and play around campfires, learning chords and how to impress folks, but shies away from music theory.
In mid-March and April everything dried up for her and her music. It was then that she briefly worked for a major retailer at the Crystal River Mall.
“But that was just to avoid boredom and earn a little extra cash. I had a great time sanitizing and trying to make customers and fellow workers smile ... lightening up our surroundings a bit.”
“I’m so grateful that during the shutdown of all venues, there were some great folks who hired Jay Jernigan and me to play private ‘dock’ parties where neighbors could anchor their boats and listen to the show. Those gigs really kept me afloat ...” she puns.
She credits her current partner in entertainment, Jay Jernigan, for keeping her talents in demand. She calls Jernigan her “music dad.”
Retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant “Jernigan had a stellar music career in the Air Force and could have easily rested on his laurels,” she says. She admires Jernigan, calling him “a virtuoso and precise with every note he plays.”
“He definitely keeps me in check and over the last six-plus years we’ve played together, he says I bring out a certain ‘joie de vivre’ in him ... or it could just be the tequilla.” Jones chuckles.
She also credits Andrew Camara and Jennifer Thornton with keeping her schedule busy. The trio call themselves Jojo & the Jenerators. Thornton serves as her vocal coach and mentor.
Then, Jones adds mysteriously, “she teaches me everything Paul McCartney never had time to explain.”
Asked about her “relationship” with the knighted Beatles songwriter McCartney, Jojo alludes to some dream encounters with Sir Paul and to physically attending six of his concerts.
Beyond that ... she prefers not going into detail.
The strangest thing that ever happened to her, Jones recalls, was performing on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. She was a sub-contacted musician on the ship. On the cruise, a friend and fan, Tim Simmons, tried desperately to get a headline performer in the ship’s British Pub to have Jojo sit in with him and show off her talents.
“I was embarrassed for the artist and tried to get Tim to simmer down, so I started a chant of ‘sit down Tim’ and the entire ship followed suit. I mean the entire ship. For the remainder of the cruise, he was the most famous guy on the ship ... far outshining any star power I could conjure up,” she says. “He was recognized everywhere he went as ‘Sit Down Tim!’”
Simmons soaked it up and loved the attention.
Outside her musical performances, Jones calls herself a World War Two buff.
“Anytime I travel to New Orleans, I spend a whole day in the magnificent National World War II Museum. Before any authentic New Orleans food or jazz, I pay homage to the millions that were killed senselessly and can never wrap my head around the difference in American culture between then and now.”
“Every veteran is a hero, no matter what decade, but (when World War II began) teenagers and young men would be devastated if they couldn’t enlist and help fight and die for their country back then, when the nation was undeniably united.”
It is hard to deny that audiences are touched by her performances. Jojo Jones loves her work and her ability to harness the power of music to touch people’s lives and bring all kinds of folks together.
Music proves the point — even when she cannot physically give hugs.