The Jonas Brothers Debut The Album to Their “Incredibly Uplifting” Fans

The Jonas Brothers Debut The Album to Their “Incredibly Uplifting” Fans

On Saturday, the final night of the five-night Jonas Brothers residency at the Marquis Theatre, the first sign that fans were in for something different was the number of mic stands and chairs on the stage framed by a yellow balloon arch. When Joe, Nick, and Kevin appeared later, they were joined by a full horn section and seven backup singers, along with their regular backing band, to premiere eight songs from The Album, the new collection of music they’re releasing on May 12. Sitting side by side a few days earlier, the brothers reflected on the risk of playing a slate of songs their audience had never heard. “I think that says a lot about how we feel about this project,” said Kevin, 35. “I feel like we really wanted—or at least I, myself, thought this album deserves to be played, and be played live.” 

The expanded personnel onstage reflected the complexity of the new record. It was helmed by songwriter, producer, and singer Jon Bellion, known for his work with Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and Maroon 5, who brought out a different side of the brothers in their writing and recording sessions. It’s been four years since the Jonas Brothers reunited for the album Happiness Begins after a six-year hiatus. That they’re embarking on a new album cycle with a major promotional run-up is a reflection of how successful that decision was both musically and personally. They’ve had six Top 40 hits since 2019, including their first number one song, “Sucker,” and to reunite, they had to figure out a way to balance their personal lives, solo ambitions, and careers, something they have said they struggled with in the past. Last week, it meant revisiting their entire lengthy back catalog for a series of intimate shows at the Marquis, each night devoted to a different album. 

For days, peals of excited screaming would break out in Times Square as the brothers arrived at and left the theater. The Beatlemania atmosphere that still survives despite the fact that many fans are now in their 20s and 30s really does have a lot to do with the brothers’ chemistry as performers and their comedic camaraderie in conversation. During an interview at Republic Records’ studio space last week, Nick, 30, talked about why he loved playing with his brothers again despite the achievements of his solo work.

“I’m really proud of that chapter of my journey. But I would just look to my right and left in those moments and be like, This was so much more exciting when I was doing it with Kevin and Joe. And that’s the element of this that I can’t really explain to non-fans or people who have never come to a show,” he said. “That’s what I think is so wonderful about our fans—and such a unique thing about Jonas fans in particular is that it’s really its own subculture, and it’s incredibly uplifting.”

They had been joking online about the challenge of remembering lyrics to more than 100 songs, and Joe, 33, added that he was a little concerned about what would happen if no one knew the lyrics on Saturday, in case he forgot himself. “Last night went smoothly as far as remembering stuff goes,” he said. “It’s funny—a fan sent me a certificate online and it said, ‘Congratulations! You remembered all the lyrics.’” But the brothers didn’t need to worry. The feel-good, ’70s-inspired songs connected with the audience—and plenty of people were already singing along to the first single, “Wings,” which was released in February.

Now the brothers are balancing their musical ambitions with their growing families. Joe, and his wife, Sophie Turner, are parents to two daughters, and Nick and Priyanka Chopra Jonas welcomed their daughter, Malti Marie, in January 2022. Kevin continues to raise his two daughters with Danielle Jonas, his wife of 13 years, and he also started a production company and hosted the show Claim to Fame with their youngest brother, Franklin Jonas. They’ve also supported a few business ventures together, like the restaurants their parents run in North Carolina and Las Vegas, and Rob’s Backstage Popcorn, a snack line sold at Walmart.

The residency took place after Oscars week, where Nick joined Priyanka as she hosted the South Asian Excellence at the Oscars celebration, and Sophie and Joe hit the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. On his way to New York, Nick stopped in Austin for a SXSW panel about his work raising awareness for type 1 diabetes. “It’s like AI generates our schedule now,” Nick joked. “We just say, ‘Keep us really busy’ and then it just populates it.” 

Joe explained that it really does take a lot of human effort. “There’s a big master calendar and it’s quite overwhelming to look at. But we have select dates that we try to hold—birthdays, anniversaries, weddings we’re going to. Other than that, it’s like, just book it away,” he said. “There’s also days off just for, like, now you can breathe.”

 In the late 2000s, their touring schedules were more grueling and were packed with tons of promotional events, but that pace is harder to maintain now that everyone is older. “Not to sound like, ‘Oh, we’re so old,’ you know? But I was thinking back to the number of things we used to do on the reg,” Nick said, “Like softball games and golf tournaments. All this stuff we would do to fill the day before the show. Whereas now, we resurface at two or three. We have breakfast, we work out and get our minds right.”

By Cynthia Parkhurst.

In between their many other engagements, work on The Album started last year, when Bellion sat for a meeting with the brothers at Nick’s house. The producer came prepared with a presentation about how he thought he could help them expand their sound. Joe said he was a little skeptical at first. “I was like, why are we meeting with him before working together? Can we just, like, hang, get in the studio, and start the process?” he said. Instead he was blown away by Bellion and his vision. “If you were to put electricity into a human being, I think that’s probably what you would have. And he was like, ‘I know exactly what I think. This is what I think the Jonas Brothers sound like, and I’ve got all these ideas’…and we’re just like, whoa.”

They had Bellion extend his trip in Los Angeles so they could record something he had sketched out with them in mind. It eventually became “Montana Sky,” a spacious pop song with a breezy, filtered acoustic guitar and a thrumming baseline, which set the mood for the whole album. Lyrically, the sessions with Bellion became an opportunity for them to write about parenthood and relationships, especially now that they’re all fathers. “We’re meeting each other at the same place in our own individual ways, but we have a lot of common ground,” Joe said. “So all those ingredients in the pot with Jon Bellion being the one to stir it, I think that was what helped us achieve The Album.

Nick said his favorite song from the record at the moment, “Little Bird,” a stadium ballad with jangly guitars, started as a conversation between Kevin and Bellion. “It’s a song about parenting, which is sort of an overwhelming thing to summarize and it’s very specific to each individual’s journey. And it also runs the risk of being totally cheesy,” Nick said. “Kevin had shared something with him about his idea of a little bird, and the desire to protect your little ones. It just really resonates with me, and it’s a cool version of a parenting song.”

Kevin said he was looking forward to debuting “Little Bird,” but his favorite song was one written for his wife, reminiscing about their original meeting on vacation. “For me personally, it would be ‘Vacation Eyes.’ I think that song, you know, has a special meaning for myself in my journey with my wife,” he said. “But at the same time, every time I listen to it, it just puts you back on the beach in a fun way. It’s just where you want to live.”

In our conversation, the brothers cited a few different influences on the music, from the Bee Gees to Carole King to Jefferson Starship and other music they listened to with their dad as children, along with decades of pop music that they’ve studied for songwriting inspiration. “We’re also complete by-products of Max Martin in a way too. We grew up with all of that great ’70s music, but also at a time when pop music was so incredible,” Nick said. “The Swedes were doing such amazing work and the other greats at that time as well really had a direct influence on our pop sensibilities.” 

As for the laconic and cheeky title The Album, Nick said that it was a statement of purpose that was chosen after they had rejected a few others. “Eventually we had this big meeting, we all sat down, and we answered a simple question,” he said. “What do you want people to take away from this body of work? And it was that if they listen to any one of our albums—if we were to say, ‘Go and listen to this one’—it would be this album. So we said, ‘This is the quintessential Jonas Brothers album.’”

The title reflects the goals they’ve set for themselves this time around, especially in an industry that is changing constantly. “It’s hard to know anymore what quantifies anything as a success story or not,” Nick said. “I think our goal is always to play big, exciting shows, but also to push ourselves creatively, and do something that we’re really proud of.”

For the last few weeks, the brothers have been teasing “Waffle House,” another song off The Album, with humorous videos on TikTok. The song is based on the memories of late-night dinners at the famous 24-hour restaurant chain, when the entire family would decompress and occasionally squabble. (On Thursday night, Kevin’s nine-year-old daughter, Alena, attended the show with some friends, and they filmed a version of the video the brothers did a few nights before.) 

In a certain way, the song is classic Jonas Brothers—it’s got a funny premise, a catchy chorus, a few different spots for Nick and Joe to show off their impressive vocal ranges, and a true story at the center. But it’s also a real departure for the group as well. Instead of the sweet pop-punk of their early years, or the smoother grooves of their 2019 album, it’s a throwback to an earlier era of rock where the choruses were huge, and on Saturday night the backup singers were a key part of its ability to bring the house down.

They do have fond memories at the Waffle House and slipped into banter when asked about their personal orders. Joe said he keeps it simple. “You don’t go to your favorite burger place to order, like, a taco. You go there to order the best burger, right? So you gotta go and order a waffle. My joke back in the day was always, ‘Do you have any waffles here?’ Which never got laughs. I always thought it was funny,” he said. “Waffle with the chocolate chips on top. A side of fried eggs, bacon, toast.”

Nick said, “Waffle, yep. Black coffee.”

Joe chimed in, “Oh, I forgot that!” 

Nick continued. “Scrambled eggs, bacon.”

Kevin said, “Waffle, coffee, bacon, eggs—and grits.” 

Joe added, “Gotta go with the grits.”

So yes, the brothers genuinely enjoy the restaurant, but there’s a nice metaphor for the value of family in there too. Waffle House is famous for only closing in the most dire circumstances—so reliably that FEMA unofficially uses it as a metric to measure damage from a weather emergency. The lyrics discuss the difficulty of spending time in a family of stubborn, determined people and how “it’s always love” even if some nights they “tried to kill each other.” 

It reflects the perspective on their early years presented in the 2019 documentary Chasing Happiness and the emotional reasons for their 2013 breakup, which frayed their relationship as collaborators and as family members. In a basic sense, they weren’t getting along anymore and felt like they had different goals and musical ambitions. Before they could reunite to make music, they had to figure out how to work together in a new way.

Kevin said he was surprised by the response he got to the family’s honesty about the breakup. “I remember being in a grocery store with my wife, Dani, and the girls, and this mother and two teenagers came up to us and said, ‘We watched your documentary. We sat down and we talked for the first time as a family, like, no phones. And we actually talked about what was going on with each other,’” he said. “They had an in-depth conversation, and she thanked me for it. And I was like, ‘Oh, we were just being truthful about our thing.’”

Despite touching on some heavy subjects, “Waffle House” is still an upbeat pop song. That tender balance—between the emotional seriousness of growing up and the downright fun of nostalgia—goes a long way to explain why the Jonas Brothers revival has, by some measures, brought the band success that outstripped their original run. In order to get back together again, they had to decide they really wanted it, and getting there was difficult. They’re planning to release a joint memoir, Blood, that will delve deeper into this side of the story, and each night of their Broadway run last week, they asked three actor friends to introduce the show with a reading from the book.

Nick confirmed that the book is coming out later this year. “It has been pushed back for a number of reasons and, and we’re just now speaking about it for the first time, setting the record straight, which is just that we reviewed it and we weren’t pleased with where it was,” he explained. “Our experiences and our perspective on them were different from—when we first sat down to work on it, which was the beginning of our tour four years ago—they are now. Our lives as individuals, as husbands, fathers, and brothers, have changed so much. So we just looked at it and said, ‘Okay, let’s put a pause on this until we’re absolutely sure we have this.’”

In the past, all three brothers have spoken about the fact that they had to put a new emphasis on open communication to make things work. Last week, Joe added that they have had to make some ground rules, including not giving unsolicited advice about parenting or marriage. “That probably stems from the breakup,” he said. “When we got back together, we made these secret Jonas commandments that are just pretty much just like, ‘Hey, don’t give advice if you’re not asked for it.’ Because we all love doing our own thing, and we’re coming together with all this joy and excitement from outside stuff that we’ve done and our personal side of things.” 

Kevin said that a few years ago, he wasn’t sure that his daughters would ever see him play. “I never thought they would be able to see the Jonas Brothers onstage,” he said. For him, success is the fact that they’re making music they’re proud of.

“Let’s just be there for each other, because we love to do this,” Joe added. “We’re still doing it, and it’s a blast.”