After nearly 20 years in the spotlight, it’s all too easy for the Jonas Brothers to believe the source of their appeal is rooted in familiarity—a cozy sweater that survives a decluttering spree—as if we subscribe more to their celebrity than artistry. Even now, in a new era of musical maturation, they still operate as the small-town boys who somehow hit the big time in Hollywood—and held on for dear life. It’s a mentality that no doubt makes 34 million Google hits, sold-out stadium shows, and the insatiable appetite for the band’s outfits, opinions, and spouses difficult to explain.
Nonetheless, our investment in the Jonas family of Little Falls, New Jersey has paid tenfold in dividends. There have been world tours and Grammy nominations, as well as collaborations with the likes of Daddy Yankee are enough to stir any millennial into a frenzy. They’ve released six studio albums as a collective, as well as an additional seven solo or with other groups, with 10 songs reaching the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2019, they secured their first no.1 with “Sucker,” their first single as a band in six years. This year, they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—cementing- ing their names into pop culture forevermore.
The 30-something musicians might now rebrand to the Jonas Dads. With Nick recently welcoming a child with wife Priyanka Chopra, each bandmate is now both husband and father, finally “finding each other” at the same moment. Titled The Album, their first project in four years indicates a fresh start for the band and a definitive shift in their sonic direction. Taking cues from the Laurel Canyon creative crew of the 1970s, the Brothers eschew saccharine dance pop to formulate their own brand of folk-pop—replete with their most revelatory lyrics yet. Their first two singles from the project, the effervescent “Waffle House,” and swellingly balladic “Wings,” are dramatically different, united only in their efficacy to soundtrack the varying mental states of a Pacific Coast Highway road trip up to Esalen. It’s dad rock done well, and for the very first time, the band feels free.
The stage is set for a reintroduction, and the Brothers have the mic.
“Burnin’ Up” was possibly the most seminal pop song of my tween years. What’s it been like to watch your fans grow up with you, and have your music mature at the same rate?
Kevin: It’s been amazing.
Nick: Really, really special. We feel like we’re at a point now where people that were in their youth when we first kind of came onto the scene, had a period of time where maybe they were coming into their early 20s and were embarrassed to admit they were fans. And now, as you get into your late 20s and 30s, you’re unapologetically yourself and kind of unafraid to live your life. I think that we’ve been on a similar track to our fans with our life experiences, and so we’re looking out seeing people coming with their families and sort of mirroring what’s going on all our lives. It’s a really special moment and we couldn’t be prouder of this chapter we’re in.
It’s difficult to fathom how young you all were when you got your foothold in the industry. Kevin, you were, what, 20 when the debut album dropped
Kevin: Much younger than that...17 or 18? We’ve been doing this for a while. The self-titled Jonas Brothers album came out in 2007. It was all within the formative years of your life, then making music that spoke to you in that moment. When you listen to our albums we age ourselves with technology. The same way we watch movies that talk about AIM, we were singing about MySpace. We talked about those things because that’s what we were going through. And now, [even though] our album and music has shifted in that we’re talking about things that are relevant to ourselves, especially in this new project. Being brothers, fathers, husbands... things that are relevant to where we are today.
It’s interesting your careers predated social media, now that artists are so reliant on algorithms to pop off.
Nick: It’s pretty bizarre. When we first started, MySpace was really becoming popular, and now we’ve gone through so many other social media platforms to ar- rive at the era of TikTok. But I think it’s an incredible tool for creators and artists alike. There’s that balance of using it as a promo tool, but also needing to actually engage with the platform as a user to better understand how to connect with the audience that’s using this app all the time. So it’s way different in 2023 than it was during the time we released our album, Happiness Begins, in 2019. Every artist’s goal these days is to have this song trending on TikTok. It’s more important to the success of a project than a lot of other outlets where we used to put a lot of importance.
How has your dynamic evolved as brothers and bandmates during these shifts?
Kevin: We’re meeting each other at the same place, at this moment, for this album. I’ve been truly blessed to be able to see these guys grow as fathers and how incredibly amazing they are. I think for all of us, it’s about prioritizing our families outside of work, but at the same time, doing the best we can to continue making things that matter to us.
How did you protect yourselves, and each other, from going off the deep end in those early days? Is there a formula to navigating fame successfully
Joe: I don’t know if there was really a science. We were so young, kind of teenagers in an adult world. And as thrilling as our lifestyle was—and it was very fast-paced—there are just different pressures just like high school. High school bullshit on a big stage, with a platform. I think what it comes down to is we had each other, which sounds cliché, but that’s the truth. A lot of young artists that do go through fame are doing it on their own. And that’s a really scary thing to think about. It wasn’t like we just departed when their holidays came up. We actually went to family dinners together, so we were able to take off that hat and reconnect. That was always what kept us grounded, and also just being there for each other. We had each other’s back.
Was there ever a sense of competition, either during the band’s early output or when you ventured out as solo acts?
Nick: We’re siblings, we’re competitive, right? That’s built into our DNA. We’d be lying if we said that we weren’t competitive, but I don’t think it’s the toxic version of that when it comes to our careers. Our MO is that we’d love to see somebody with the last name Jonas win, whether that’s solo success or the work we do as brothers. We’re kind of a family-first operation, we genuinely believe that supporting each other individually is the key to our collective success.
What were those conversations like when you were coming back together? How did each of you individually navigate that process?
Kevin: It was really interesting to see from the outside, because I didn’t do solo music, to see Nick and Joe both absolutely crush and release successful albums each. It is so fun as a dynamic shift to come back to the Jonas Brothers and then continue to make new music, but also have solo individual efforts. We know we all have it in us to do what we want but to be able to look at each other and support it in that capacity has been so rewarding.
Joe: It was really special to be able to take that leap of faith and try things on my own. I did a solo album, and then I did an album with DNCE and it lives on. It’s really encouraging to have outside inspiration that we can bring to the table when it makes sense. Members of DNCE now are part of the touring band, so it feels effortless to play a DNCE song in a Jonas Brothers set. I felt like I’ve always needed that for my soul to try something on my own, but there’s just something that I can’t really put into words about sharing the stage with my brothers. It’s a unique special thing because it’s how we started. So it’s always gonna be where I think I feel most at home.
Your sound has shifted dramatically over the past two decades. What does creating look like for the Jonas Brothers now?
Nick: It’s very different now. We have to find ways to make it make sense for our lives, since we all live in different parts of the country. We feel free to express ourselves, our stories, but also to go somewhere musically that was new and exciting for us.
Can you pick a hit?
Nick: I don’t think there’s ever any guarantees. “Sucker” was number one out of the gate. The rest took time to cultivate an audience and find their feet. It’s a really interesting time now where it’s like, ‘How do you quantify a hit?’ Where it’s actually adding value to the artist’s career, and frankly, their livelihood. The simple answer is no, we can’t pick a hit. But what we found is that when we’re authentic to ourselves, and we do what feels right in the moment, and build a game plan with our team, it works out better for us. But who knows what tomorrow will bring in regards to the success of any one song?
How has the concept of success evolved for each of you?
Joe: The idea that we can still do this for close to 20 years, that’s what feels like the pinch me moment. We try not to focus on the numbers of it all, or what song’s working. We pride ourselves on playing live shows, we want to play the biggest venues in the world. We love the idea that we can play to as many people as possible. We’ve noticed songs do well and start to chart, we notice songs maybe aren’t charting as well. When we were younger, I think we were more inclined to like to watch it every day, but that’s just unhealthy. We’re happy that we can wake up and get to be a band. If you can find some sort of healthy outlook, you’ll be able to sleep at night.
Kevin: It’s not always easy either. We’re putting our world, our life out on our sleeve, and when it’s not exactly accepted- ed or doesn’t connect there are moments that are difficult. I’m gonna speak for myself, but like Kevin quantification of this is being able to be on stage. The level that we’re touring is pretty amazing. Nick: But also the brilliance of today is that gatekeeping is so played out at this point. Everyone has the power to decide what they want to listen to, what they want to watch, they’re their own critic. It really empowers us as artists who have historically had I’d say an “interesting” relationship with critics at times where we were most eager to receive critical acclaim. It really affected our ability to create freely and limited our creativity. We’re most free when we’re being ourselves.
How do you protect and preserve your relationships, amid all of the noise?
Joe: We all probably have our own different kinds of practices. For me, therapy, meditation, writing a simple gratitude list every morning, certain things that I’m able to just first and foremost protect myself so I can protect others around me. I think it’s like looking after myself as much as I possibly can and just having little check-ins here and there. I think just years and years of doing this, there are constant pressures that you can let creep in, but as long as you have a pretty strong foundation you should be pretty good.
Is it helpful, in that sense, to be with someone in entertainment who under- stands the peaks and pitfalls of it all?
Joe: To each their own—I can’t obviously speak for everyone. I think it varies. It’s about people connecting with people. I have a lot of friends in the entertainment industry whose significant others aren’t. I think it’s nice to come home and talk about something that’s not work-related, you know? I’m so happy being able to relate and not relate to many different things in my personal relationship.
This has been a really interesting few months for music, specifically with the dawn of AI-generated hits—à la The Weeknd and Drake’s viral song. What do you foresee as to AI’s ascension in the industry?
Nick: It’s funny you should bring this up, I’ve been dying to talk about it. It’s really interesting timing across the board. As TikTok continues to be the pathway for an artist to have the best shot of having a hit, there’s no telling what song is going to take off—now a three or four-year-old song that’s been sped up or slowed down can go number one. So already technology is having an effect on the way in which music is created and obviously the way it’s consumed.
This technology is taking it one step further and literally using hours of an artist’s material to create “new” music. As it’s happening in real-time and every- one’s playing catch up, both the people using AI to create music and the people whose livelihoods will be affected. It’ll be really crucial that the artist’s community and songwriting community find a way to protect the interests of creators. It often takes too long for certain steps to be taken to protect the interests of individuals and their creations. I think it’d be really interesting to start the conversation now and get a group of for- ward-thinking individuals both from the creative side, but also from a legislative side to really begin the dialogue.
It also becomes an ethics question of, ‘Okay, the Drake song slaps,’ but should I engage with it?
Kevin: It comes down to the monetization side of things, right? Then it becomes—there’s an interesting article written—is it just that everyone’s voices are copywritten at that point? Is it going to be a license out of your voice? And at this point, you, anyone, and everyone can just make your music for you. Like that’s a scary world we live in, but it’s the reality. So how do you guard against it? I think there is also opportunity and I think it’s an exciting thing that we’ve, we’re all working towards to figure out together.
How does this moment feel for you? Obviously, Happiness Begins came out pre-pandemic, it must be confusing and exhilarating to come back in an all-new climate.
Nick: What has been really interesting about this next chapter post-COVID, is we’ve got sort of a multi-generational thing happening: parents who brought their teen kids back in 2008 to a show are coming with their kids. The four-year gap between Happiness Begins and this album was sort of dictated based on the state of the world. I think we intend to close that gap in a time where it’s so important to just be active and continue to release music.
Has there ever been a blueprint as to how all this might pan out? A guiding light?
Kevin: I don’t think anyone has an exact plan, right? We have other individual projects that are happening as well outside of the group, so there are times when we have to work towards something. But the cool part is that we give each other that runway, that space. I think that’s some maturity almost 20-plus years of doing this together. It’s been really wonderful to be able to experience personal life outside of the band because I think, then, it helps us bring our stories back when we’re writing.
That must truly be the key to the wheels staying on.
Kevin: It helps.
Photographed by Kurt Iswarienko
Written by Beatrice Hazelhurst
Styled by Sydney Lopez
Creative Director: Luis Barajas
Set Design by Rusty Snyder
Groomer: Nicole Elle King
Producer: Sarah Schecker
Production Assistant: Emma Nusbaum
Prop Assistant: Ande Jonas