People say that the best way to put yourself at ease during interviews with celebrities is to imagine them in funny situations. Blame it on that unforgettable 2009 video of a shaggy-haired Joe Jonas booty-shaking to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” in leotards and pumps, but I’d been expecting to meet a goofy teenage boy for my one-on-one interview. Boy, was I ever wrong.
What greeted me was a lean, muscular young man wearing a tight white Bench shirt and a warm smile on his face. He’s shorn his trademark shaggy mop in favor of a close-cropped ’do, his jaw shadowed by a bit of stubble. It took me a while to process that the guy in front of me really was one-third of the global pop phenomenon that took the tween demographic by storm. Once it sank in, I realized that every single “Camp Rock”-era Disney baby who’s now a lady probably would’ve killed to be in my place. No doubt about it, this Jonas brother is definitely now a man.
The 22-year-old star was formally introduced as Bench’s newest endorser in a press launch held at the Makati Shangri-La’s Rizal Ballroom last May 23, where he also performed three songs off his solo album “Fastlife.” He joins the ranks of young, accomplished heartthrobs such as David Archuleta, “Pretty Little Liars” actress Lucy Hale, “The Vampire Diaries”’ Michael Trevino, and, more recently, K-pop superstars Siwon and Donghae of Super Junior.
“It’s been really awesome. You know, I’ve always wanted to come here,” he enthused during Super’s short but sweet chat with him right before the press launch. Joe is also currently doing promotional tours for his solo album, “Fastlife,” at the Ayala Malls in Manila and Cebu on top of his busy schedule. “I think, for me, it’s just about experiencing and traveling and discovering and doing whatever people throw at me,” he adds with a smile.
What’s the story behind this endorsement? What made you say yes to Bench?
The partnership with Bench was, I think, just a no-brainer. The fact that I’ve never been here, the clothes are great, and I really like their brand … I think it was just a perfect fit, so when they asked to partner up I just had to say yes.
How would you describe your sense of style?
My sense of style is, I think, fun. I like color. I like to be able to express myself through my clothing, so I like taking risks and having fun with color and style and something that pops.
Is there any particular article of clothing that you love?
Shoes. I love shoes. I’ve got quite a lot of shoes, so I was very happy when I got to the Bench store and saw that they had pairs of shoes that I’ve never seen before.
Will you be wearing those?
Absolutely, yes. They’re in my hotel room right now.
About music. How’s it like, flying solo?
It’s been really good. I think the biggest thing I’ve taken from it is that it’s just a fun experience. It’s more of the same, but by myself. It can be difficult sometimes when you realize that it’s a lot of hard work, and you have to really focus and take time out of every day to just be able to hone in and say, “Okay, I’m gonna do my best.” It makes a lot of sense when you’re with two other people; you kinda have them to lean on ’cause if something’s stressful or you’re tired that day, you can look to your brothers and say, “Why don’t you take this interview?” or “Why don’t you sing this song?” But when it’s all on you, you have to really focus and do your best.
How is “Fastlife” different from the Jonas Brothers repertoire?
I think with my project, being 22, I was going to certain clubs in the States to play my music. That was kind of cool for me, because I’ve never done that before and that’s a whole new audience. The audience reacted really well. And just being able to make a record that I was working [on] with new artists … I worked with Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and musicians I never thought I would, and it was really cool to see that they really support it.
Do you have any other artists you’d like to collaborate with?
I think it’d be cool to work with somebody like Frank Ocean—he’s a musician that’s kind of just starting up. He’s good. Actually, you know who I think would be great to work with? Jessica (Sanchez) from American Idol. I wasn’t really following the season but my brother said, “You gotta check this girl out!” and I was like, “If she doesn’t win, somebody’s messing up.” I think she’s so amazing for her age, so yeah, maybe we’ll do a little duet together.
That’d be cool. You’ve toured with Britney Spears and Jay Sean, right? How was it?
It was really cool. Britney, she’s one of those artists that’s just a legend and to be able to go on tour with her, her dancers and her crew, you know, everybody was really great. And Jay Sean, he and I became really close, and he’s a really cool guy. Really talented and a hard worker. I think there’s always a fun, competitive thing going on between me and him. (Laughs)
Having grown up in the spotlight as a teen idol and Disney heartthrob, have you ever been concerned that people would have a hard time taking you seriously as an adult artist? Like, they’ll always see you as one of the Jonas Brothers?
That’s a good question. That was something I thought about, definitely. You know, it goes through your mind, but I didn’t want to force myself on people. I also knew, going into this, that my fans are growing up and going to college and finishing college. So I kind of realized that I can really make a record that suits my audience without me forcing or saying, “I’m an adult, take me seriously like I’m a real artist.” You don’t have to do that, you just let the music prove itself.
What sets you apart from your brothers, musically and as an individual?
Musically, I think, creating this record I had a lot of R&B-type of inspirations with it. I was able to create stuff that I’ve listened to for a long time that [was] infused in the Jonas Brothers music but now I could do it by myself.
Personally, I think I’m pretty easygoing. Sometimes I think my brothers, like Kevin, can all be stressful in situations … (Laughs) I just have fun with a lot of stuff, and I like to be funny and travel a lot. During my off time, I’m trying to find a place to go to and travel.
Any other projects you’re currently involved in?
Yeah. Part of the business is that you have to keep everything a secret, but there are a couple of TV show opportunities that I’ll hopefully be able to do. I’m flying back to America to be one of the judges [for] Miss USA. I’m gonna be doing a couple of concerts in Europe and probably South America. Working specifically on music with my brothers for another project … We’re just making music right now. I’m not really sure what or where it’s going to go, but I think for us we’re just in the studio creating because we love to create. And then a couple of movie ideas and projects that I’m thinking about.
How do you plan to carve your own path as an artist, with or without your brothers?
I think [being] with them is the key. I think a lot of artists think that because they’ve had success, they can just leave and do it by themselves. And something that I’ve always learned, especially during my solo project, is that you gotta understand where you came from; for me, that’s the Brothers. So I’m always gonna have them as the forefront, in the band, and the solo project will come second. I’ll keep creating when I can, but I think I’m gonna have to focus on the Brothers.
Any message for your Filipino fans?
I love them and they’re awesome. I’m really looking forward to meeting them all and seeing them. And, mabuhay!
Catch Joe Jonas live at the Alabang Town Center Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at Ayala Center Cebu at 3 p.m.