Coco Jones’ Time Is Now: She Discusses Grammys, ‘Bel-Air,’ And Debut Album

Complex spoke with Coco Jones to discuss her recent success, debut album, Princess Tiana aspirations, bucket list collaborations, and much more.

Lea Mende

Coco Jones was in the air, mid-flight when she discovered that she was nominated for five Grammys. Amidst the flood of congratulatory messages and calls, and the overwhelming emotions of shock and joy, Coco expressed to Complex that “the main feeling [I felt] was relief.” 

Coco Jones embodies the sentiment of "I ain't new to this—I'm true to this." Initially gaining recognition as a tween star in 2010 on Radio Disney's The Next Big Thing, she later secured roles in Disney Channel's film Let It Shine (2012) and the sitcom Good Luck Charlie. Alongside her acting career, Coco started launching solo music, including her self-titled EP in 2010 and Made Of in 2013. Although she continued to release additional singles and EPs in the subsequent years, they didn't garner the same level of impact as her initial releases.

Reflecting on that transitional period between teenage stardom and adulthood, Jones shares, “I always was wondering, when will it be that time again? When will I have that similar momentum that I had at 13? Will it ever be the same? Now it's like, OK, I knew I wasn't trippin’.” 

Her acting resurgence occurred in 2022 with the premiere of Bel-Air, a reimagining of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, backed by Will Smith. Jones stars as the new Hillary Banks, and the series has been renewed for a third season on Peacock. Simultaneously that year, she also returned to music with the release ofher EP What I Didn’t Tell You, which earned Grammy nods for Best New Artist and Best R&B Album. Her singles "Simple" and "ICU," the latter of which TKTK peaked at No. 62 on the Billboard Hot 100, also received nominations for Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song.

As Coco prepares for music’s biggest night, she shares she’s also working on her debut album, which is aimed for a summer release. Discussing her album, she says, “I want to let myself be free and not try to fit into any expectation. I want to see what happens and where that lands. But then I also want to elevate some of the sounds that I feel really put me on.” 

Check our interview with Coco Jones, where she spoke to us about her recent success, debut album, Princess Tiana aspirations, bucket list collaborations, and much more. 

"Before, I was like, 'Will they ever like this music again?' And now I'm like, 'How do I top this stuff that they like?'" 

What is the biggest thing you've learned transitioning from a child star to an adult superstar?
The biggest thing I've learned as an adult in this industry is the business side of things. I still have so much that I don't know. I'm always asking questions, but my mom did a really good job of protecting me from that whole world as a kid. As you get older, the more and more you realize this is an entertainment business and not just, “I love to sing and act and dance.” It's like this is a real industry.

Are there any challenges that you are still trying to navigate? 
I think the challenge that I'm still navigating is the balance of it all. Sometimes turning my work mind off to be present in my present life, even as a kid, I was always like, “Mom, when's the next job? What are we doing?” So I think that tendency to constantly be striving is something I'm still working on.

What are some techniques you’ve used to help you balance life and work? 
I definitely have tried to communicate more that these are the breaks that I would like to have this weekend. I don't want to do anything unless it's like, you know, Beyoncé herself calls me. Then of course, I'm picking up. But I think it's just articulating that these times where I'm requesting to do nothing are not just because I feel lazy; it's because I literally need to separate myself from this world sometimes.

How have you kept ground during your breakout year? 
I'm always reminded to stay grounded because all of this happened once before in a different way as a teen. I felt like they get it; I'm talented and now it's my time. And you know, that time was up. So it kind of taught me a forever humbleness that it’s really more about recognizing the up and down that is the trend of this world and not taking it personal. But also, realizing life has to be bigger than whether or not you're hot right now, because that just won't sustain you as a happy human.

Do you have anyone in your life that keeps you in check? 
I think my family does a really good job of reminding me to keep it cute and humble. I think it's also funny because they are the least superficial. I can tell them about something amazing that I'm doing and they're like, “What's that? Check out this funny thing that I saw on TikTok.” They know me as a sister and as a daughter. They're not really impressed by that world. They only care about me and if I'm happy. 

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What were your goals going into the creative process of your EP? 
My main goal with the EP was just to introduce myself to the world as an adult artist that is worth respect and that I am one of the R&B girls. When I put out all these different types of songs, I was just sharing the different sides of me as an artist to give everybody the flavors and see if they like them all. That was my only expectation. So to see how far my EP has taken me is blowing my mind every day. The goal that I set out for has been accomplished, and now looking at how everything is unfolded, I have to find new goals. I'm writing down different things that I want for myself because so much was accomplished this year that I just didn't expect.

Do you have any standout memories from the process of creating the What I Didn’t Tell You EP? 
A good memory from What I Didn't Tell You, the EP, was writing “ICU.” I went into the studio looking to make an uptempo [track], like, yeah, we're cute and young. And I heard this soulful track and I was like, OK, that was interesting. Let's keep going, but I couldn't get it out of my head. And so I was like, go back, go back. We're doing something different today. And honestly, the process of that song just unfolding was so seamless that we all kind of looked around like that was something. It was definitely a memory in time. We really did something different there.

You previously said you were hesitant to release “ICU” because you thought it aged you. Can you elaborate on that thought? 
I grew up singing a lot of soulful songs. My mom put me on to all of these artists, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, these belting songs, and I felt like that was something that I had done when I was younger to blow people away. Now I didn't know if people would want a soulful song, especially in the world of what was popping at the time. So I was just more anxious to see if that would click with people the way it used to when I was a little kid auditioning and I would blow people away with these powerful songs and these belting notes and challenging riffs. I didn't know if that would work. 

Are you currently working on your debut album, and is there an update on its progress? 
I'm always working on music. I'm definitely hyper focused on my debut album. I want it to come out this summer. That means that we'd have to finish it up over the next couple of weeks, and that's my goal. 

Can you give us a little insight in the process of creating your debut? Are you experimenting with different sounds, collaborations, etc.? 
I definitely am experimenting. I want to let myself be free and not try to fit into any expectation. I want to see what happens and where that lands. But then I also want to elevate some of the sounds that I feel really put me on. So I don’t want to do anything too similar, but I want to give that same feel.

"I'm definitely hyper focused on my debut album."

Do you feel any pressure in dropping new music? 
I absolutely do feel pressure to build on what I've done so far. It’s so funny—the grass is literally only green where you water it, because before, I was like, “Will they ever like this music again?” And now I'm like, “How do I top this stuff that they like?” So it's always going to be some sort of challenge and obstacle, but it's so out of my control and it always has been. 

How are you dealing with the push from fans to drop new music quickly? 
I definitely feel the hunger from my fan base, and I'm not mad at it. I'd rather you guys be waiting on me than moving on from me. Thank you for your patience. I personally feel like I don't want to underwhelm them. So as much as I'm like, I get it, I'm also like, I think you want this to eat. So let me cook.

Are there any collaborations you have on your debut, or any on your bucket list? 
I would love to have songs with a lot of talented artists in different genres. I really love Bad Bunny. I'd want to do something in Latin music. I want to do something in gospel. That's what I was raised on, and country music. I'm from Nashville. So, yeah, I see myself eventually crossing all genres.


Coco Jones wants to make songs with 21 Savage, Drake, Young Thug, and Future. Our interview with #cocojones is on Complex now

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Are there any rappers you’d like to collaborate with? 
I definitely want to do a song with a rapper where I'm like singing the cute little hook. I love that combination. I feel like that's so nostalgic to do. I think a lot of rappers are dope: 21 [Savage], Drake, Future Young Thug. My gym playlist is very trap, so I could really go there. 

R&B is having an incredible moment right now, but what do you hope for the future of the genre? 
I would love for R&B to become similar to how it was in the ‘90s, just heavily loved and able to be flexible across all tempos and all age ranges. I think R&B can be so many different things, and I want to continue to push that narrative.

Moving away from music for a second, can you give us an update on Season 3 of Bel-Air?
We'll definitely start filming at the end of this month, top of next month. I'm excited. I can't wait to see where Hillary's storyline goes. I don't know anything, though, so don't even go there, girl.

Have you gotten any word from Disney about the role of Princess Tiana for the live-action?
No, I have not talked to Disney corporate. I don't know if that would even translate into an actual production being started from a trend on Twitter. It's just so many moving pieces that would have to be aligned for that opportunity. But if it ever became real and I got the opportunity, I would love to play Princess Tiana. That would be historic. And I'd love for my daughter one day to see me as a princess.

Ari Lennox also put her bid in for the role if it were to go into production. Do you think an R&B girl should be cast? 
I think Princess Tiana is about how she carries herself, how she pushes through obstacles and expresses herself. I don't think that it's about any genre. I think it's really just about having grace and having class and having dreams and not stopping until you get to those dreams. And that is Black girls. 

"I definitely want to do a song with a rapper where I'm like singing the cute little hook. I love that combination."

What are your goals for this year? 
I really want to elevate in all ways. I want my shows to be bigger. I want to reach more audiences, reach more countries with my music. I want to be higher in the charts in all categories. I want more performances on award shows, more awards, more plaques, and more collaborations. I want my brand, even a product or maybe it's philanthropy, but I would want some sort of brand that I start that I could continue to build on as I get older. And one day if I'm 50 and I don't feel like singing, I will still have a brand that eats.

Is there anything else you’re currently working on that we should know about? 
The main priority is most definitely my debut album and Bel-Air. I'm actually releasing a vinyl for What I Didn’t Tell You. That's coming out this February. Other than that, it would really be visual centered and touring centered.


Coco Jones feels the hunger from her fans. Our interview with #cocojones is on Complex now

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Is there anything that people don't know about you that they might find surprising? 
I feel like people know a lot about me. I share a lot of my story and my journey in the industry and anything creative and probably quirky too. Something fun that they might not know is that I always make up the bed. Even if I'm in a hotel, I just don't like unmade beds. It makes me feel like my day hasn't really started. So that's a huge thing. 

What’s the most important thing people should know about you right now? 
I want people to know how grateful I am for everything. I was wondering when it would be like this again. So I don't really take these moments for granted. Especially to my fans who have been messing with me for this entire time since I was literally a tween. I'm really, really grateful that you guys stuck around, and I want to continue to make you guys proud with everything that I do.

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