JoJo Announces Her Memoir, Over The Influence: “It’s Raw, But So Am I”

“I’m in a season of life where I want to say and do things that scare me a little bit,” she tells Bustle of the book, out Sept. 17.

In the spring of 2023, JoJo made her Broadway debut in the jukebox musical Moulin Rouge, performing eight shows a week as the secretly suffering heroine Satine. But as if covering Adele songs and pulling off cabaret-style choreography wasn’t demanding enough, offstage, the singer was working on something much more intense: telling her life story.

Now, Bustle can reveal that JoJo will release first memoir, Over the Influence, on Sept. 17, via Hachette Books under her full name, Joanna Levesque. While longtime fans may be familiar with her many triumphs and tribulations over her two-decades-and-counting career, this is the first time that JoJo has explained her story in her own words.

“I’ve never written something so long,” she tells Bustle over Zoom from her sunny Los Angeles home. “I’m normally writing three-minute songs. I’m in a season of life where I want to say and do things that scare me a little bit. And this scared me because I knew that if I was going to tell my story, that I was going to be grossly raw with it, and very, very honest.”

In Over the Influence, the 33-year-old singer will recount achieving child stardom at 13 years old with “Leave (Get Out)” and the record-label contract battle that later stymied her career for nearly a decade. But she also frames her story through a new lens — her parents’ struggles with addiction, and how those experiences eventually led to her own — in the hopes of sparking much-needed conversations about being a teenager in the music industry.

“I think my fans might be interested to know what I was going through when I was at the height of my career and what fame feels like, in retrospect, on a really mushy developing brain,” she says. “At 13 years old, to be experiencing that type of high, it feels like you’re pumped up with drugs.”

JoJo’s Over the Influence book cover.Hachette Books

During the drafting process, JoJo wrote “close to 200,000 words,” and did it all without a co-writer. “It’s raw, but so am I, so I’m glad that it’s in my voice,” she says. “I wanted to try to remember my stories before I forget them. I wanted to log this down, take these stories from my journals, and share them with the next generation of performers and young people that are interested in the music industry. Twenty years in now, I actually have a lot of insight that I think would be valuable.”

Below, JoJo opens up about her favorite music memoirs, her writing process, and her biggest fears about her book’s revelations.

JoJo performs during Fridayz Live '23 on Nov. 16, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand.Dave Simpson/WireImage/Getty Images

When did you decided to write this memoir, and why?

I decided to share the stories of this weird life of mine when I realized that [it was coming up on] 20 years since I released my first album. And I’m such an avid reader. I’ve leaned toward memoirs in the past few years, so I’ve been really enjoying reading other people’s stories.

What memoirs were you were inspired by when you began this journey?

My favorite is Rick James’ book that he did in collaboration with Dave Ritz, who also wrote Aretha Franklin’s book. He did such a good job of infusing his voice into it. I read books where I wasn’t even thinking I would connect with the artist. Jessica Simpson’s book surprised me. I really liked Matthew McConaughey’s book and Mariah Carey’s. No pun intended — the book is called Over the Influence — but we are all naturally influenced by what we’re taking in. Jennette McCurdy’s book, too — she did such an unbelievable job of sharing a story that, up until that point, I don’t think a lot of people were familiar with. She really started conversations.

Totally. And now there’s also the Quiet on Set docu-series.

I really like all the conversations, particularly in film and television. I have yet to hear a music industry angle, so I think it’s time.

For fans who know many parts of your story already, what will this book reveal?

I didn’t even realize, until looking back, how protective I’ve been of myself and other people, and I have not really shared a lot. I think some people think they know, or think that what afflicted me most was a dispute with a label. And that’s just such a small part of my experience in my life and in the music industry.

What was your writing process like?

I would bring my computer everywhere with me, to the park or a coffee shop. My uncle, Scott Blagden, is actually a published author and one of my favorite writers. I was like, “What advice would you give somebody who is writing a book but has no idea what the f*ck they’re doing?” It was like “Dance as if no one’s looking” or “Sing as if no one’s going to hear you,” [but instead], “Just write every day, and don’t edit yourself in the process.”

JoJo for her new book Over the Influence.Kenny Whittle

What was the most rewarding part of this journey?

The opportunity to connect with people and open up more conversations about things I like to talk about. I’m really interested in talking about my view of addiction and how it has influenced my life, and about fame, particularly on the developing brain and being a part of that system from such a young age, as well as just f*cking up, wanting to change, and growing from that. I felt very alone coming up in this industry and had no guidance. If I can make it a little easier on a younger person, that would make me really happy.

Tell me about the title, Over the Influence.

I’ve lost myself so many times through the process of starting so young because you’re trying to figure out who you are. There are a lot of people that could benefit from you being a different way than how you naturally are, and I just can’t live that way anymore. It’s about my upbringing, [being] really close up to addiction, being like “That’ll never be me,” and then it being me. And realizing that my mindset has a lot to do with my experience.

What was the toughest thing to write about?

I really care about people, and I never want to hurt anybody with saying the truth. But people are a part of people’s stories, so I would say that was the hardest thing was to know what was OK for me to share about somebody else who was a part of this story and striking that balance.

Are you at all concerned about the reactions of those people?

I prepared for it, but I’m human, and I’m very sensitive. I’m also in a season, though, where I’m wanting to share and connect, so I trust that. I’m coming from a compassionate standpoint even when I’m talking about things that are f*cked up.

Has revisiting your life in this way inspired any new music or other projects?

As soon as I got back from Moulin Rouge, I was feeling really juiced up and energized, so I put that into this book and music. I wanted this to be the definitive inventory of this chapter of my life, and then I want to move forward. That’s what the new music will be, and that’s what everything that follows will be.

Over the Influence, available for pre-order here, is out Sept. 17.