In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the Jonas Brothers' breakout self-titled album (their first with Hollywood Records), we're celebrating with a week full of JoBros features for our readers. This exclusive interview originally ran in its entirety in a 2007 issue of Life Story.
The rise of the Jonas Brothers has been a pretty amazing one, their career actually having its start in the fact that Nick had been signed by Columbia Records for a solo album. But as circumstances played out, that solo act became a group effort with Kevin and Joe coming aboard. The result was the album It’s About Time, which by anyone’s estimation, for one reason or another, turned out to be a disappointment in terms of sales.
By the time the album had finished its run, the label made it pretty clear that they didn’t quite know what to do with the brothers Jonas, and released them from their contract. Looking elsewhere, they ended up at Disney’s Hollywood Records and the rest is history that’s still unfolding. J-14 had the opportunity to sit down with Nick, Joe and Kevin and look back at the different stages of their recording career.
How the Jonas Brothers band got their start
J-14: The pursuit of music as a career really started with Nick, right?
Nick Jonas: I recorded a Christmas song and Columbia Records wanted to sign me. For that solo project I wrote a song with my brothers, it became a group project and we started recording together.
Joe Jonas: They thought Nick had an angel-like voice, which is what got him signed. He was working on that solo project and one day Kevin and I said, “Hey, Nick, do you think we can writing a song together?” We wrote “Please Be Mine,” which was the first song we wrote together and the fans love it. We walked into the label one day and Dave Massey, Nick’s A&R guy, freaked out and said, “Whoa, there are brothers?” From that moment, we immediately became a group project and started working with different people every day. It was just really great and that’s kind of the story.
Kevin Jonas: I really do think that song was the breaking point for us. We saw that we could do it, we loved it and we had fun together. The songwriting did come naturally, it really did. Like Joe said, the first song we ever wrote together was the song that got us signed, you know, so it was either luck, fate or something in between.
J-14: That’s terrific for the band, but, Nick, I just wonder if there was ever a moment of unease over the fact that this was going to be a solo career.
NJ: For a minute it was a little tough, and then it was all good when I realized how cool it would be to tour and record with my brothers.
J-14: Do you think there was a difference in sound in terms of what a solo album might have sounded like compared to a group album?
NJ: I think my sound was a little more adult contemporary. If I were to release a solo record, it would probably sound a little more funky than a Jonas Brothers album, a little more R&B and soul-like. I love that kind of music and I would say that’s my style.
J-14: What were the early days of pursuing music as a career like?
KJ: We did demos in a basement for weeks on end. We didn’t tell anyone we had gotten signed, because people can freak out a little. But we started working with writers. I remember that I missed three to four days of school every single week and people were, like, “Where are you?”, but I couldn’t say anything, because we’d talked about keeping it to ourselves. Truthfully, it could backfire on you in a sense and we didn’t want that. My school knew the truth and they were amazing and really honored what we were doing. They were so helpful with what we did, and we actually went back and played two sold out nights in the school to say thanks.
J-14: How do you approach songwriting? Is the process a collaborative one?
JJ: We approach songwriting as a group. We live together, travel together and love to write together. Everything we do we can turn into a song.
NJ: We get our inspiration from a lot of different places. A lot of the songs are from personal experience. So things that we have gone through in the past year we have been able to put into song and make it cool.
J-14: Getting into the studio must have been a whole new experience for you guys, right?
KJ: Oh, absolutely. We were up for days and days. We worked with a guy named P.J. Bianco, who was actually a friend of our father’s. We started writing songs with him and other people and it was really great. We were playing a lot of instruments and were just hanging out, pulling up iTunes and listening to other songs that we’d like to consider. And there’s a basketball court in here, so we played a lot.
J-14: I would imagine there’s a whole other level of connection to a song you’ve written as opposed to one written by someone else.
KJ: There definitely is. You have to connect with a song, and when you write it, that connection is already there. It’s your baby; your passion is in that song.
On what happened with their first album It's About Time
J-14: It must have been hard to keep the faith given what happened with Columbia Records. Here you’re signed, you release an album and yet not a lot came out of it.
JJ: We were always hoping that it would happen at some point, although there were definitely times when we thought, “Oh, great, not again!” Like when we left our previous record label or, say, we’d go up on the charts and then we’d disappear. We’d be so frustrated and wonder when the big break was going to happen. But patience really pays off. We just continued practicing and waiting and writing songs, and it’s the happiest feeling ever when you see your album has debuted at #5 or one of our songs is #8 on iTunes.
J-14: What was recording that first album like?
KJ: It was an interesting process. We were trying to find out who we were and how to do it. We were definitely new to the whole music thing. The first album was a real collaborative effort between us, the writers and the A&R people at Columbia Records. We really worked to find out what our sound was.
How signing with Disney and Hollywood Records changed the JoBros' music career
J-14: Do you think signing with Disney and Hollywood Records was the major catalyst of your success musically?
JJ: I think Disney had a major part in this. Before the Disney push we were seeing a slight change, but right away, after they put the first video on Disney Channel, on our MySpace page we suddenly had hundreds of thousands of “friends requests” in an hour. It was just unbelievable to see how crazy the response was. Our fanbase grew faster than ever. We had so many more fans in the course of one month than we did in two years. Disney is just knocking balls out of the park right now with amazing things, and we’re so glad to be a part of it.
NJ: By the time Disney picked us up, we really knew who we were as the Jonas Brothers. We kind of took a hold of that and started writing some really cool songs while we were on the road. Then we realized that right after the video started playing on the Disney Channel, a lot of people started showing up at the shows. It was just a different thing. It was a pretty cool moment. We suddenly had an average of 2,000 people at our shows, whereas before that we were lucky if it was 200. It was pretty cool and things are still happening now.
J-14: Would you say that your music evolved between the first album and the second?
NJ: Our music has evolved because we’ve all grown up quite a bit from the last record. We have all had so many maturing experiences over the last couple of years. It’s been amazing.
KJ: I think our first album was a little more raw. We were learning who we were. Now our album is more tight. I think we figured out who we want to be and what we want to sound like. Our writing has grown.
JJ: It’s different because it has a lot more electric guitar. A lot more loud music.
NJ: And the lyrics and music are a little more advanced than the last one in the sense that we learned how to play our instruments a little better. As a result, we were able to come up with cooler chords.
J-14: You guys definitely seem to have a harder edge than a lot of Disney’s other acts.
JJ: We’re definitely more of a rock band compared to a pop band. We play our own instruments and write our own songs and go up on stage and play with our hearts. When people come to our concerts, I can definitely promise them that they’ll have a good time, because the energy in the room is so much fun and the audience screams its heart out. It’s a fun time!
After that trip down memory lane, we're breaking down some questions that people are still asking about the JoBros, years later.
Are the Jonas Brothers triplets?
The Jonas Brothers are not triplets, but they are brothers (as their name so graciously implies). Kevin is the oldest, Joe is the middle child, and Nick is the youngest out of the JoBros band.
Where do the Jonas Brothers live?
The JoBros grew up in Wyckoff, New Jersey. Kevin still lives in NJ with his wife, Danielle, and daughters Alena and Valentina. The other guys are based out of the Los Angeles area. As of October 2015, Nick was living in Ellen Degeneres' house and paying her rent! In March 2016, Joe purchased a house in Sherman Oaks for $3.7 million.
What was the Jonas Brothers' first album?
The Jonas Brothers' first album was called It's About Time. It was released under Columbia Records, although they were dropped from the label after underperforming sales. Their first album sold 67,000 copies.
Do the Jonas Brothers have a sister?
The Jonas Brothers do not have a sister, but they do have a younger brother, Frankie. The 16 year old is sometimes referred to as the "Bonus Jonas." He made a cameo in Nick's "Remember I Told You" music video.
Do the Jonas Brothers play instruments?
All of the JoBros can play the guitar. Kevin also plays the mandolin, while Joe's got the tambourine and keyboards on lock and Nick can also play the piano, keyboards, drums, bass guitar, and percussion.
How were the Jonas Brothers discovered?
It all started with Nick. He said that he was discovered as a kid, simply by chance. He recalled, "I was singing in a hair salon when my mom was getting her hair done. Someone heard me singing and mentioned that I go see this agent and the agent sent me out on auditions for Broadway shows."
He released a self-titled album Nicholas Jonas in 2004, from which Columbia Records expressed interest in signing him. Once they found out about his talented older brothers, the deal evolved into a full-fledged band.
What was the Jonas Brothers' first song?
The first song that the Jonas brothers wrote together was "Please Be Mine," which appeared on their first album.
Where are the Jonas Brothers now?
Kevin is an entrepreneur and owns a gaming company called Philymack Games, which works with artists like Demi Lovato, Bea Miller, and Chord Overstreet. He's involved in a slew of businesses, including the influencer marketing company The Blu Market, where he is a co-CEO.
Nick and Joe are both still singing, Nick as a solo act and Joe as the lead singer of DNCE. In 2014, Nick released his self-titled album Nick Jonas, which included the infectious hits "Jealous" and "Chains." He's also been acting in TV shows like Scream Queens and Kingdom. In June 2016, he released his latest album Last Year Was Complicated. He also co-headlined a tour with Demi Lovato (who just so happens to be Joe's ex), the Future Now Tour.
After a couple years away from music, Joe formed DNCE with his bandmates Jack Lawless, Cole Whittle, and JinJoo Lee. Their songs "Cake By the Ocean" and "Toothbrush" have been played all over the radio, and the band even made a cameo apperance in Grease: Live. They also opened for Selena Gomez (who just so happens to be Nick's ex) on her Revival Tour. Joe is currently dating Sophie Turner.
Who broke up the Jonas Brothers?
The band announced that they were breaking up in 2013, shortly after they canceled their tour. Their spokesperson said at the time, "There is a deep rift within the band. There was a big disagreement over their music direction."
Years later, more details emerged about who initiated the split. Nick has flatly admitted that he started the conversation about breaking up the band. "It did start with me, the conversation about the group reaching its time, and closing that chapter of our lives — for many reasons, the biggest one being that we were no longer jelling in the way that we used to as a group," he confessed. "And I think we all had different things in our hearts. I definitely did, and I felt a lot of freedom when I was able to go and just create, and sort of start over again."
While Nick started the conversation, in a Reddit AMA with Joe, the singer says he wasn't on speaking terms with his brothers when the split occurred.
“I was seeing a therapist and I wasn't on speaking terms with my brothers. When it happened, we were focusing on going on another tour and we had plans to hit the road and do what we had been doing for a while. Nick brought it to the table that he wanted to focus on different things, like acting and doing music on his own. At first, it was really shocking to me because it was kind of all I had known was the Jonas Brothers, forever. So, I was pretty mad and confused because, I was like, I've been putting so much time and effort into this for so long and now I just have to stop and figure out what's next," he said.
"And maybe I was a little envious of Nick because I knew that he already had kind of a leg up and had plans to work on music already and he was creating and producing. So, I was probably mad at him, too. I remember kind of losing it a little bit and I didn't speak to anybody. I closed myself off and we cancelled the tour and didn't really know what was going on. We were honestly trying to figure out if it was the right decision to call it off or do a final tour or final goodbye, but I think, for all of us, we did it for ten years and it was a lot of time doing one thing. After taking some time away, I realized that maybe I could start to travel and do some other stuff. I really took a long time to figure it out and I wasn't even creating. I just traveled and tried to really find myself because I was doing this Jonas Brothers thing for so damn long. Now, I think that I'm really glad I took so much time away because I'm able to find myself and create music that I'm proud of. I started a little bit of acting and opened a restaurant. I was trying to see if maybe there was a different career path that I would go into. Ultimately, I realized that I really enjoy the music stuff, so that's really where I found home."
Kevin told HuffPo that breaking up as a band saved their relationship as brothers. “Being able to play shows and travel together was great, but then once at the end there, the friction was too much and we just really needed to break away and kind of do our own things for some time...I think that’s why we’re close now, because we’re not in the band. We chose to be a family, not a band," he said.
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