What did you do with your summer vacation?
Fifteen-year-old Lebanon, Tenn., native Coco Jones spent her break crisscrossing the country promoting her Hollywood Records debut EP Made Of before joining her fellow teen pop sensations Mindless Behavior and OMG Girlz on the former’s “All Around the World” tour, which stops Friday at Southaven’s Landers Center.
“When I talk to my friends, they are all like, ‘I went to the movies’ and stuff, and I did none of that,” says Jones ruefully as she walks out of a radio interview in California’s Bay Area. “But they’re like, ‘You perform almost every day.’ I miss it sometimes, but you sacrifice for what you love.”
Since she was a small child, what Jones, whose real first name is Courtney, has loved more than anything is singing. The daughter of former Tennessee Titans defensive end Mike Jones and his wife, Javonda, a former session vocalist with the likes of Ronnie Milsap, Jones says she began singing as an toddler.
“My mom says she discovered I could sing when I was 2 or 3 singing to Barney. I would recite everything he would sing in perfect harmony,” says Jones, who was singing the national anthem before NFL games at age 7. “For a while it was just something I liked to do, like a hobby. But as I got older and started doing talent competitions around 9 and 10 was when I really wanted to pursue music as a career. At 11 I started writing my own music, and at 12 I was signed by NBT.”
NBT is “The Next Big Thing,” Radio Disney’s annual unsigned talent competition where Jones, shortly after releasing her self-titled debut CD, got her first big break. Her NBT track “Real You,” a song whose positive message is characteristic of the self-possessed young singer, was a Radio Disney hit and led to her landing a starring role in the 2012 Disney Channel original film “Let It Shine.” The movie, a hip-hop version of the Cyrano de Bergerac tale with Jones cast as the Roxanne character, Roxie, was the channel’s most popular film last year.
“I think music and acting are every different. With music I’m so comfortable. I know how everything works. I know music like the back of my hand. I’m so used to performing and singing and going in the studio, it’s like nothing to me. Acting is somewhat a challenge,” says Jones, who has also appeared on the Disney television shows “So Random!” and most recently, “Good Luck Charlie.” “Music will always be my home. If I hadn’t started singing, I never would have started acting. Music is what got me where I am today, so music will always be my No. 1.”
In December, Jones debuted the Rihanna-flavored dance track “Holla at the DJ,” the leadoff single off the Made Of EP. The song is Jones’ biggest hit to date.
Now on her third major tour after the Radio Disney Tour and the Next Big Thing tour, Jones is looking forward to unveiling some songs from her upcoming Hollywood full-length, due in August.
“It’s got kind of a different feel,” says Jones, who worked on the album with producers Pop & Oak, Jackson, Miss.’s David Banner, “Whip Your Hair” helmer JukeBox, and Ester Dean. “There are some more different styles that maybe you wouldn’t expect from Coco.”
As she stands on the cusp of music stardom, it’s easy to forget the incredibly poised Jones is still just a teenager, not even old enough to drive. But the home-schooled singer, who is accompanied by her mother on tour, still lets the normal teenager slip through.
“Anytime I have a break, I’m going to go home and chill with my family, even if it’s just for a night. That’s how much we love being together,” says Jones, who has three siblings — older brother Steven, also a songwriter; aspiring high school football player Mikey Jr., and little sister Aja, who “hasn’t really found her thing out yet.”
“And when I go home I still have to do the dishes. I go back to a completely normal life. In Tennessee, they don’t think of me as Coco. I’m just Courtney.”
with Mindless Behavior
and OMG Girlz
7 p.m. Friday at the Landers Center, 4560 Venture Drive, Southaven. Tickets: $56.10, available at the box office and through Ticketmaster. For more information, call 888-280-9120 or visit landerscenter.com.