From an early age, Waterloo, Ontario experimental folk artist JoJo Worthington had an inkling that she would do something significant with her life. She just didn’t happen to know what that would entail.
“That feeling, that I was going to do something significant with my life, started when I was young,” Worthington tells The Times & Transcript. “The specific outlet wasn’t always known, but the idea that I could accomplish something great was always there.”
Growing up, Worthington was exposed to two rather different musical worlds. Her father was an ardent Beatles fan, while her mother exposed JoJo to the classical works of Mozart and to musicals such as Phantom Of The Opera and Les Miserables.
“Following my parents’ divorce, I lived with my mother. It was her musical taste that ended up casting the larger influence over me as a musician. Looking back at those small musical encounters, they are ultimately what set me on the path to writing and arranging my own songs. Pursuing music felt natural to me, not to mention the joyous feelings it brought me. It made sense that I would decide to pursue it.”
Although Worthington felt naturally drawn to music, finding the “right” instrument was no small order. Before she turned 14 years old, she had been enrolled in lessons for the violin, harp, piano and clarinet among others.
At age 14, Worthington’s older brother handed down a small nylon-stringed guitar to her, something she quickly grew to love. She taught herself to play the instrument, and, not long after, began composing original material, having been inspired by writing poems when she was younger.
Worthington’s musical self-discovery wasn’t quite through yet, however.
“One day I was bored with playing the guitar and decided to look towards a ukulele for inspiration. I impulsively purchased one and almost immediately realized just how significantly underrated it is as an instrument. I began playing shows with it and would be constantly hounded by people asking when I was going to return to playing the guitar, but after having been encouraged by Roy Smeck, one of my musical idols, I determined that the ukulele could be a creatively innovative instrument.”
It didn’t take long before the world at large began tuning into Worthington’s unique talent. In early 2014, her song “The Girl” won 3rd place in the Indie International Songwriting Contest. That fall, she was awarded Best Folk Artist and Best Song (“Amadeus”) at the Toronto Independent Music Awards. More awards and accolades followed the early 2015 release of her album 7, including having been named the Grand Prize Winner in the inaugural Songwriters Hall of Fame Song Competition.
All of the above has set the stage rather nicely for the release of \\ (pronounced “Two Lines”), an album she shares documents the formation of relationships and encounters in our lives that appear to be parallel, but don’t actually touch or intersect with one another.
With her decision to work with independent company Epoch Tapes, Worthington partially ceded control over the direction of her songs, opening herself to outside input from Will Crann and Connory Ballantyne, who, respectively, recorded and mixed the record.
“I put myself in a vulnerable place by deciding to share the control over my work. I wanted to work with Epoch as I felt we were aligned in terms of cultural norms. We are also good friends though, so I felt reasonably confident that we would be able to work well together. I am a bit of a perfectionist, so initially opening myself and my songs up to others wasn’t the easiest, but I learned the end result could be very rewarding.”
What: JoJo Worthington with Lydia Mainville
When: Monday May 16, 9 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton