"Make sure that if you do go into a management position or you work for a label, you do your best to align with the right people who will work as hard as you will work for them. That’s the standard we set with our team. We know how much effort goes into making this whole thing run.” -Nick Jonas
Those words hit the ears of 44 GRAMMY U members gathered to gain insight on the music industry during a SoundChecks event featuring the Jonas Brothers at legendary New York City venue Madison Square Garden on Thursday, Aug. 29.
If it sounds like oddly sage advice for a 26 year old, consider that Nick Jonas made his Broadway debut nearly 20 years ago, and released his first single at the age of 10.
Students from New York University, Pace, Baruch College, Emerson, Northeastern, Fordham, Rider, Stevens, Five Towns, Hofstra and University of New Haven not only watched as Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas stood together at MSG for the first time since August 2008; they also jumped at the invitation from the band to join them onstage for a group photo.
Rubbing elbows with fans, of course, is part and parcel of being one of the most enduring pop acts to skyrocket out of the previous decade.
“It was something that built our career from very early on,” Joe Jonas explains to the Recording Academy backstage, ahead of the SoundChecks event. “Whether we would do meet-and-greets after every club show, in a gymnasium at somebody’s school–we would meet everybody. And those are the fans still coming to see us here at MSG. We’ve seen familiar faces for the last 11 shows we’ve done. We got to know their stories and hear about how the music helped them.”
It’s a strategy that paid off. During a lengthy hiatus that saw the brothers pursue individual projects, being accessible early in their career kept the band etched deeply in their audience’s collective consciousness. Happiness Begins, the first Jonas Brothers studio album in 10 years, debuted atop the Billboard 200 in June. It was the biggest debut from a group in 2019, with, according to Nielsen, a total consumption of 414K units, including 68 million streams. Likewise, inescapable lead single “Sucker” became their first single to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It landed the trio the MTV VMA for Best Pop Video in August, the same month their sprawling Happiness Begins Tour kicked off.
“It definitely wasn’t up to me. I was just the first to raise my hand and say, ‘I’m ready to do this again’,” Nick said to the Recording Academy of the band’s reunion. “Certain benchmarks I’d set out to accomplish on my own, I did. But there was a magic missing from it that I had with my brothers. After a few shows of throwing in a Jonas Brother song here and there, I realized there was still an appetite for it, as well. We’d done enough work as brothers and family that we could do this again, and it could be the healthy version [of the band], which was the most important thing to all of us. Once we had those conversations and began that journey, we all said we were ready to give this another go.”
Later, during the Q & A with GRAMMY U students, Joe planted his tongue in cheek and quipped, “Really it started with Nick–he broke up the band, and then he got the band back together. He gets to take all the credit, really.”
Family healing (and teasing) aside, Nick, Joe and Kevin knew that in order to succeed again with this project, they’d have to mesh the sounds they’d individually explored during their solo endeavors and evolve as a band to an industry landscape that has rapidly changed over the decade since the release of the brothers' previous album.
“It wasn’t until we worked with Ryan Tedder and Greg Kurstin that I think we cracked that code,” Nick explained during the SoundChecks event. “Probably the first song that really broke the ice in a sense was ‘Sucker,’ which Tedder had started with [co-producer] Frank Dukes prior to showing it to us. What he said to us is that he wanted to record it really bad, but didn’t feel like it was right for OneRepublic.”
Nick admitted that they wouldn’t have been as open to recording outside material in the days when they were riding the charts with their own compositions, like “Burnin’ Up.” But this is just one of the industry shifts they've adapted to, along with the advent of streaming, the dominance of social media platforms such as Instagram and uh, the rise in face tattoos–a trend Kevin joked he and his brothers missed out on.
“Way more face tattoos than there were in 2005,” Joe deadpanned to the GRAMMY U crowd. “There’s still time.”
From a fan perspective, perhaps the most significant way their idols have grown is that all three brothers have gotten married. Kevin, so far the only band member to have children, offered up the same advice to those contemplating a career in the music business that he’d give his own kids.
“This year one of my biggest moments is [my daughters] getting to see me play for the first time, so it’s a huge win,” he told the Recording Academy. “Seeing that joy in their eyes, I can understand how a young person would want to do this for themselves. So I would hope that whoever is going into this world knows that it does take hard work, and not just expect it to happen."
Kevin underscored how the Jonas Brothers' long journey took many twists and turns before landing on the iconic MSG stage.
"We played years of New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut and Boston club shows before we ever stepped on a stage that had a real PA," he said. "We grinded it out, and that’s what it is.”