Of jeepneys, ‘harana’ and the Jonas Brothers
Something in the way she moves, attracts me like no other lover,” Nick Jonas sang softly, voice ringing clear across the Quezon Ballroom of the Shangri-La Makati Hotel, and a startled hush fell on the audience. On a roll, older brother Joe started singing the chorus of “Lovebug,” Nick and oldest brother Kevin providing the harmony.
In an incredibly rare gesture, the brothers had suddenly broken into song at the press conference when asked what song they’d dedicate to a special girl. Typical of his “old soul” persona, Nick had chosen The Beatles’ “Something,” while Joe had picked one of the brothers’ more recent hit singles. For the stunned, smitten ladies in the room, it seemed like Valentine’s Day had come a little early.
It’s not like we didn’t know they could sing. They were the Jonas Brothers, after all; a little grown-up but still as kilig-inducing, especially after this impromptu harana. After six years of making music and three years in creative hiatus, the erstwhile Disney stars finally held their first-ever concerts in Manila and Cebu last Oct. 19-20. The Philippine tour is part of a series of reunion shows in Asia, Europe and South America.
Joe had recently been in Manila as part of his endorsement for Bench. Apart from remembering how to say “I love you” correctly in Tagalog, which he confidently repeated at the press con, he had regaled his brothers with stories about jeepneys, halo-halo and “awesome” Pinoy fans, who even knew the names of the brothers’ pets. This had only intensified their excitement—and nervousness—about their tour.
“We’re very excited but it’s been so long,” said Joe. “It’s a little nerve-wracking getting onstage and performing songs that we haven’t played in so long, so we don’t wanna forget the lyrics.” Not that it really mattered, as the fans sang-screamed along with the brothers word for word at their two concerts. It’s been a long time coming, after all.
Here, the brothers talk about their solo projects, upcoming album and growing up musically and individually, among other things.
On working together again after their three-year hiatus:
Nick: It’s amazing. We’ve all had the opportunity to go do things on our own, follow some of our own passions and dreams and take that experience into what we’re doing now. Also, to have the time to live life and grow and incorporate that into the creative process and onstage. We had our first show back last week and it was a thrill for all of us just to be in front of our fans again.
On their upcoming album:
N: It’s been an amazing process recording. We started about six months ago; I was in New York City doing “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” so we all met there and began the writing process. When we first started, I think it sounded a lot like our previous work from about three years ago, so we made it a point to take a little more time. It took about a month and a half to visit some places, do some business, so that we could sort of come back with new inspirations.
We tried to listen to as much music as possible, then when we dove back in, we really clicked and found the kind of sound that we wanted to have. We wrote the kind of songs that we wanted to write. The great news is we control our destiny now—how we write, record, and release our music as well. So we’re in a great position to be able to give as much music as we want to our fans.
Joe: I think it’s definitely a different sound. I feel like a lot of the lyrics are going to be different from what a lot of people are used to listening to.
On lessons from their hiatus:
K: Personally, I was able to get married and spend a little time not on the road. We got married while we were still traveling, and it was nice to be able to have a break. I learned a lot about life and new experiences. We’ve been saying that we need to live a little bit of life so we can write about it and talk about it. And that’s definitely true, I think, for all of us.
N: During the three-year hiatus that we took, I think we all made it a priority to do other things that we were passionate about on the career front as individuals. Also, on a personal side, we took the time to experience certain things to live and write. We grew up during that time as well, I think. It set us up perfectly for this next phase.
K: I think having time apart really did help us, but we’re brothers. It’s not like we didn’t see each other or hang out. It was less about the music for a little while, and more of building a better bond together as brothers. For six years straight we spent every day together, so it was a little nice being able to not have to see these two for a while. (Laughter)
On the transition from teen idols to mature artists:
J: There wasn’t anything, musically or even career-wise, that made us feel like we had to force our fans or other people to say we’re adults now. I think taking that break kind of let people understand that we’re just becoming who we are. Our fans grew up with us, which has been always really nice; say, we graduate musically and they graduate by going to university of something like that. So it’s cool to see us playing a show in Radio City (Music Hall, New York—their first reunion gig) a week ago and we see familiar faces, but now a lot older. It was thrilling.
On Kevin’s reality show “Married to Jonas” with wife Danielle:
Kevin: It’s been really great. It’s actually been positive for our marriage, surprisingly; we’ve learned a lot more about each other, and our relationship has become stronger because of it. This kind of puts it all on the table and you kind of have to go through everything together. Luckily, we’ve had a good time, and we’re happy the fans are able to watch it.
On Joe’s mentoring stint in the reality singing tilt “The Next”:
J: We’ve mentored other artists, all three of us, behind the scenes. Now we’re doing something like that on camera, it’s a little bit different because you have to show a lot of honesty with an artist. Sometimes it has to come down to it and you say that “This is not for you” or “You’re a star, you should be on a bigger stage.”
Helping these artists in finding out what makes them sing—why they get on stage, why they picked the song that they wanted to do—was something about the show in particular that I was really attracted to. It’s the fact that we go into these people’s lives rather than just having them get onstage and audition. So, I would definitely do it again and hope to mentor other artists in the future.
On bashers and haters:
N: I love it when people kind of hate or get passionate about that, because it shows you that there are more people that really care. Even if a small portion is negative, there’s a large portion that’s positive. If you’re looking for it, you’ll find it. But if you always focus on the positive things, then you’re always going to be happier.
On working with Fil-Am actress Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, who’s also opened for them in their RP tour:
N: Fantastic! We did “Camp Rock 2” with her a few years back and toured with us in the US last time we were there. And she has an amazing talent, got a fantastic voice. While I was in New York for “How to Succeed …,” I saw her in “Godspell” and she was incredible; I saw her about two or three times. She’s a real talent and I’m excited to see where her career takes her.
Nick on Lea Salonga:
N: I love her. She’s so amazing and so talented. We actually talked about the Philippines a few times while we were doing the 25th anniversary production (of “Les Miserables”) and I know that she had a chance to meet Anna Maria, who was with us on this show. It was great to do that with her. She’s obviously a legend at this point in the theater community. She said very good things about this part of the world, and I’m so happy to be here.
On their biggest lessons in love:
N: You go first, Kev. (Laughter)
J: Yeah, Kev, you’re the pro.
K: When you find it, and you know that it’s right, hold on to it ‘cause it’s hard to find. (Collective “aww” from both band and audience.)
J: My mom gave me a great book once; it said “Everything Men Know About Women” and it was a book with empty pages, so … (Laughter)
N: I think for me, it’s important to prioritize moments. Make sure you hold on to those moments and take them with you as memories, as ways to sort of center yourself and see what you like and don’t like. But never let them become your reality in the moments of your future. And if something’s right, hold on to it. If it’s not, write a good song about it. (Laughter)