With Jo’s brand new album “With Love” now available, Jo is now represented by David Hahn’s Associates Celeb Agency management team!
Complete with the new representation we’ve got a brand new official biography. Check it out below!!
Jo O’Meara still speaks fondly of Collier Row, the Essex housing estate just north of Romford, where she grew up. “It’s one of those places you could leave for twenty years,” she says, “then you’d come back and immediately feel like you’re home.”
It’s nearly twenty years since Jo left the band that propelled her to international success, and sixteen years since the release of her debut album Relentless. But to an entire generation With Love, the sensational new album from one of British pop’s most distinctive voices, will immediately feel like going home. “It’s been my dream for so long to make this record,” Jo smiles. “Although sixteen years is quite a lot of life to cover in one album…”
At the start of 2020 Jo found herself at something of a crossroads. She’d had a blast over the previous few years, touring the world with former bandmates banging out decades-old hits, but there was an impulse, she realised, to give her vocal cords a bit of a stretch. A friend suggested she contact Brian Rawling, the Grammy-winning producer with whom she’d last worked on Relentless back in 2005. “I was scared of getting back in touch,” Jo admits. “I was frightened of rejection, I suppose.” She inboxed him anyway. He replied within five minutes, and by Friday that week Jo was in his studio. “He just went: ‘Let’s do it! Let’s make an album and jump straight in’,” she remembers. “And then lockdown happened.”
The complexities of 2020 only made Jo more determined to make the album happen. “A lot of people spent last year analysing what they wanted to get out of life,” she adds, “and I knew that what I wanted was to get myself back into the only thing I know how to do well: music.” And so, in the gaps between lockdowns and on further sessions via Zoom, she and Brian made it work. “I put my heart and soul into the music,” Jo says. “Everything I’ve got is in this album.”
Though the voice may be instantly familiar, the Jo O’Meara we’re reunited with in 2021 — reflective, affectionate and expressive — may seem very different to 21-year-old Jo S-Club we met at the tail end of the last millennium. In fact, the Jo we meet today is who Jo was all along. “Jo S Club was suppose to be the ‘ballsy blonde’ of the band,” she laughs today. “She was bossy, mouthy, and the leader of the pack. It was easier to hide behind that character because beneath it all I was incredibly shy and lacking in confidence.”
S Club’s achievements barely need repeating, but they included four UK Number Ones, numerous multi-platinum albums, two Brit awards, multiple arena tours, one Oscar-snubbed movie and several TV series watched by 90 million people in 100 countries, leading to many of their songs becoming global hits. But while S Club may have been one of the most painstakingly packaged pure pop outfits of the 90s, it’d be a mistake to feel its members, particularly Jo, hadn’t put in some serious legwork.
In her teens Jo had started singing in pubs, bars and open mic nights. “Sometimes I was seen as being weird because I was this teenager turning up at a working men’s club singing old Patsy Cline, Connie Francis and Brenda Lee songs,” she remembers. “I was heckled and booed, but that was my apprenticeship.” She found a place at the Italia Conti performing arts school through a scholarship (“just as well — my family would never have been able to afford to send me there otherwise”), and by 16 she’d caught the eye of the team behind *NSYNC, going on to join the earliest incarnation of girlgroup Solid Harmonie, flying out on a Lufthansa every weekend and recording with a young Swedish songwriter by the name of Max Martin. After unexpectedly going gold in Germany fronting another band Jo returned to Essex, to open mic nights and occasional professional engagements, before eventually being spotted by the S Club team while singing in a country and western bar.
The rest was half a decade’s worth of pop history but all parties — even S Club ones — come to an end. For Jo, the later stages were hard work. A back injury had made the band’s more vigorous dance routines impossible, and the media’s obsession with Jo’s weight took its toll on her self-esteem. The last year of S Club was something of a blur but Jo does remember the final show, at London’s G-A-Y: “We left the Astoria at about two o’clock in the morning. We stood in the pouring rain, looked at one another, gave each other a hug… And we each went off in separate cars. I remember looking out the window as I drove off, thinking: ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now. I’ve spent the last six years without a moment to myself, and now there’s nothing. I don’t know what to do next.’”
The first step was to live for a while as Jo O’Meara, rather than Jo S Club — looking back, she sees it as “rediscovering myself”. Her spectacular debut solo single, What Hurts The Most, was a hit, and an album, Relentless, received positive reviews. And then… Well, no one knows what the future holds, but Jo was certainly thrown a couple of particularly intense curveballs. She made some good decisions, but she made some bad ones too. The more complicated side of the music industry didn’t help. Richard Carpenter, who’d first heard Jo’s voice on the radio after Never Had A Dream Come True became hit the US Top 10, was so taken by this young vocalist that he suggested an entire album in which Jo would add her voice to songs his late sister Karen hadn’t had the chance to record. But contractual obligations meant the idea fell apart. Just as frustrating was the fact that Jo’s own career hit an unexpected wall when her label shut up shop shortly after the release of Relentless, meaning plans for future single releases were shelved. “It was a bit of a kick in the teeth,” Jo reflects, but she took a philosophical view back then (“I told myself: nobody’s died, worse things happen”) and she takes a similarly even-handed view today: “Well, I mean, it’s not as if the label went bust on purpose.”
It’s poignant, then, that Relentless’s title track — originally planned as a single in 2016 — now reappears in acoustic form, all these years later, on Jo’s first solo album in over a decade and a half. “I think there was some unfinished business there and it feels that I’m going back to finish what I started,” is how Jo sees it. “There was a circle that was incomplete for so many years.”
On With Love, Jo’s completed that circle in considerable style. In Surface she sings of how we portray ourselves and how we can be let down by how others choose to portray themselves. Hope You Dance finds Jo going back to her country roots (recording in Nashville, she says, is still on the bucket list), while Sweet Surrender picks up the pace and Missing You is a fresh interpretation of John Waite’s 80s classic. Then there’s Closer, one of Jo’s favourite songs on the album, which has all the hallmarks of a future wedding classic. “I was thinking about how with first dances at weddings, the songs are so often from the groom’s point of view — all ‘you’re in that dress’ and everything. With Closer, I wanted to write a song from another perspective: a bridge singing to her groom.” Elsewhere it’s impossible not to be moved by Lay Your Heart On Me, which Jo originally wrote in dedication to a friend who was battling cancer. That friend never had a chance to hear the finished song, which was eventually heard for the first time at his funeral.
As Jo was putting the finishing touches to the music, one final song seemed to appear from nowhere and made sense of the whole album: I’ll Be There ended up being something of a sonic departure for Jo, but the strength of its message resonated so strongly that it became one of the album’s pivotal tracks. It felt, Jo smiles, like a gift. “It’s a song about being there for someone, even if it feels like they’re pushing you away,” she says. “It’s saying: I’ll be there for you. No matter what. At the end of all this, I’ll still be with you.”
The significance of that sentiment was not lost on Jo, who’s seen fans stick with her through thick and thin. Many started this journey with Jo when they were kids and many, like Jo, are now parents. And for this reason there was never any question about what the album’s title might be. “I’ve made this album with all my love,” she smiles, “but I’m also sending it with love to all the fans out there that have been so supportive to me for all of these years, through the ups and downs. I’m so proud of what I’ve done with this album, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”
With this album Jo feels like she’s finally become the artist she always dreamed of being. There’s no mistaking the ambition in the music, but Jo’s typically down to earth about what happens next. “I don’t know what’s around the corner,” she says, “but I’m giving this everything I’ve got. I’ve done my best, and if my fans enjoy it that’ll mean the world to me.”
You can check out Jo’s artist page by clicking here.