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The Jonas Brothers Recapture The 'Magic Missing' By Putting Family First

Aug 17, 2019
Originally published on August 19, 2019 4:57 am

As early 2000s Disney Channel stars and a platinum-selling pop rock band, the members of the Jonas Brothers — Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas — have grown up a lot in the public eye. But when the band suddenly split up in 2013 in lieu of solo careers and family time, fans were left wanting more.

After a six-year break from the band, the brothers officially reunited in February of 2019 and quickly celebrated by releasing the single "Sucker," a song that would eventually mark the group's first No. 1 single. Now, the brothers have released a new album called Happiness Begins along with a documentary called Chasing Happiness that charts the fame, the split and the reunion.

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Joe admits that he was the hardest to sell on the reunion. "Some were quicker to say 'Let's do it again, like let's do the full band let's let's start it up,'" he says. "I was a little bit hesitant. But after some time of talking through some stuff that I needed clarity on, we decided it was the right time. I think what was best for us is that it wasn't in the spotlight. We didn't announce we're getting back together then the healing took place. We actually did it behind closed doors, which was was wonderful."

While Joe had doubts about getting back into the band itself, Nick had other concerns.

"I think there was a lot of conversations we had last year where, you know, there was doubt around if people would even care," Nick says.

But that worry quickly faded. When the band released Happiness Begins in June 2019, the album not only debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, it moved the largest volume of total units — 357,000 in pure album sales — of any No. 1 album in the United States in 2019 so far.

Looking back on the band's break-up now, Kevin says it was the best thing to do in order to keep the family intact.

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"It's amazing that Nick had the guts at the time to rip off the Band-Aid like he did," Kevin says. "It hurt in the moment. But long-term, it was what everyone needed. Nick needed to go do his solo project. Joe needed to create DNCE. I needed to spend time at home and be with my family and my children be a father ... And because of it, I think we're stronger today than we were even then."

Nick, the same brother who broke up the band, would eventually be the one to bring it back together: "I felt like there was a magic missing in those things that I was doing on my own that I wanted to feel again with the brothers."

Now that the members have worked through the issues that tore the band apart, their advice for families going through conflict — whether its professionally related or not — is fairly simple. "I think speaking honestly about what's going on and not holding it in and letting it just sit there and simmer is the most important thing you can do," Kevin says.

Kevin, Joe and Nick spoke with NPR's Michel Martin about balancing the peaks and pitfalls of fame, deciding to reunite and more. Hear their full conversation at the audio link.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, I'm going to ask our next guests to introduce themselves.

KEVIN JONAS: Hello. I'm Kevin Jonas.

JOE JONAS: Hi. I'm Joe Jonas.

NICK JONAS: Hey. I'm Nick Jonas.

MARTIN: Yep, they're here - the Jonas Brothers. After a six-year break, they've got a new album called "Happiness Begins." There's a new documentary about them called "Chasing Happiness," and they're currently on a tour that's brought them to Washington, D.C.

Kevin, Joe, Nick, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

K JONAS: Thank you for having us.

MARTIN: Thank you for coming in.

N JONAS: Thank you for having us - great.

MARTIN: I was looking at the documentary, and I was thinking, I can't ask you any harder questions than you've already asked yourselves...

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: ...In this documentary.

J JONAS: Yeah, we really went there.

MARTIN: Yeah, was that something you wanted to do or something you felt you had to do - Joe?

J JONAS: It was a conversation early last year. It started with talks about, what would be our thoughts on playing together? There was an opportunity for some one-off performances. Vegas was calling, and we felt like maybe we're still a little bit young for that. So we looked around and said, OK, guys, what do you think, like, if we actually wanted to, say, do a reunion or do, like, a one-show? And everybody had different reactions. It was - some were happy, some were angry, some were sad just kind of thinking about all the years that we were together, whether it was the good years. There were some bad years, and then the breakup itself.

So our manager, Phil, who's just a really close friend to us as well - he said, I think we need to film this. Like, let's just capture this and see what happens. So over, like, the course of a year, we did a documentary. And I think a lot of healing took place during this process. Some were quicker to say, let's do it again. I was a little bit hesitant. But after some time of talking through some stuff that I needed clarity on, we decided it was the right time.

And I think what was best for us is that it wasn't in the spotlight. We didn't announce we were getting back together, then the healing took place. We actually did it behind closed doors, which was wonderful. But also, of course, we did capture it all on camera, like you said.

MARTIN: Well, we're going to talk about that in a minute. But since you - now that you are back - and I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say we're glad that you are - let's listen to a song from the new album. This is - what else would it be? - "Sucker."

J JONAS: Nice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUCKER")

JONAS BROTHERS: (Singing) We go together better than birds of a feather, you and me. We change the weather, yeah. I'm feeling heat in December when you're 'round me. I've been dancing on top of cars, stumbling out of bars. I follow you through the dark, can't get enough. You're the medicine and the pain, the tattoo inside my brain. And, baby, you know it's obvious. I'm a sucker for you.

MARTIN: I had to check this. Is this really your first No. 1 single as a band?

N JONAS: It is, yeah.

J JONAS: Yeah.

MARTIN: I find that - I found that hard to believe. Nick?

N JONAS: We had No. 1 albums back in the old days when we were first working together, but we never really had successful singles. We actually never had a song go top 10 on the radio. You know, so this was a first for us in a lot of ways. And when the song came out, and, you know, we saw the reaction, we were absolutely blown away. And it was really humbling, honestly, because I think there was a lot of conversations we had last year where, you know, there was doubt, a lot of doubt around if people would even care. So to see that support upon releasing "Sucker" and the video and everything else was really special.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUCKER")

JONAS BROTHERS: (Singing) I'm a sucker for all the subliminal things no one knows about you, about you, about you, about you. And you're making the typical me break my typical rules. It's true, I'm a sucker for you.

MARTIN: Let me go way back for a minute, if that's OK. And is it just OK if I go to "Big Brother" for this one? Like, Nick, Joe, you were doing theater. Kevin, you were doing commercials. But when you first kind of got together as a band, what was the goal? Do you remember?

K JONAS: I remember seeing a friend of mine play a show in the East Village that I grew up with. And he was in a band, and I saw him play. And I was just, like, wow, I want to do that. And we were living in Jersey at the time, and it was kind of this environment there that, like, what you did was being a band. You know, if you weren't a jock, you were in a band, right? So we were kind of those kids. But I don't know if there was a goal other than write great music and start putting it out and play shows. I think that was something that we really wanted to do as much as possible, which was beyond that stage.

MARTIN: Anybody else want to jump in on that? I mean, I guess what I was thinking - did you have some vision in your mind, like, of what it would be like to be the Jonas Brothers? Joe?

J JONAS: Sure. I think we had a dream. Once we set foot on our first stage, we definitely imagined, OK, what would it be like to play in front of thousands of people, be a band that got to travel the world? We grew up watching rock bands, even boy bands - so bands like Backstreet Boys. And one of our first shows was opening up for them. And they're playing this massive amphitheater. And we looked at each other, like, OK, we want to do this. We want to do shows this big. So yeah, the dream was, let's be a massive band that has lots of fans and travel the world. But we never, you know, obviously expected it would be what it became.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BURNIN' UP")

JONAS BROTHERS: (Singing) 'Cause I'm burnin' up, burnin' up for you, baby.

MARTIN: It makes me wonder now if taking a break was inevitable. I mean, like, the Olsen twins went to college. Beyonce took a year off. Remember, she had been a child performer. I wonder - maybe, Kevin, you want to take this one - I wonder if it's harder - it was harder for you because you are family to see that you needed a break as opposed to that it was a business, it was just a job. If it was a job you might think, well, I need a sabbatical, but because you're a family - I mean, I just - I guess there's two questions in that. Do you think, in a way, it was inevitable that you needed a break from each other, from the whole experience just to...

K JONAS: I think it became an environment that just we couldn't thrive in in that time. You know, we were all kind of going different directions. We were focusing on different things. And some animosity started to - you know, to brew. And so it just started to feel unhealthy. And for us, being able to take a step back and think about it from the perspective of not the band but as a family and say, what will protect that relationship?

And it's amazing that Nick had the guts at the time to rip off the Band-Aid like he did. But it hurt in the moment, but long-term, it was what everyone needed. You know, Nick needed to go do his solo project. Joe needed to create DNCE. I needed to spend time at home and be with my family and my children, be a father. And that's what we all needed, I think. And because of it, I think we're stronger today than we were even then.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROLLERCOASTER")

JONAS BROTHERS: (Singing) It was fun when we were young, and now we're older. Those days when we were broke in California, we were up and down and barely made it over. But I'd go back and ride that rollercoaster.

MARTIN: So what brought it back? Like, what was the...

K JONAS: The same guy who broke up the band, actually.

N JONAS: True.

MARTIN: He who shall remain nameless.

K JONAS: Yeah. Well, Nick brought it up a few times saying, you know, I really miss playing with you guys. And after we got through the big stuff, that was when I looked at these guys, I was like, I'm with you. Like, let's do this for real - not just one show. Let's let's do it all.

MARTIN: Nick, how's it feel? Forgive me. I keep dragging you through it, and you keep having it hear it over and over again. How is it hearing this?

N JONAS: No, it's good. I mean, I think that Kevin is right in that it was the right thing for all of us. We had just lost our synergy together, and you really can't as a band because everything sort of falls apart from the inside out. And it wasn't until I had reached a point in my solo career, both music and acting, that I felt like I had hit certain benchmarks that I set out to hit, you know, whether it was filling up a 45-minute to an hour long set with familiar enough songs to a couple thousand people and feeling like that was the accomplishment. But then I would look over and they weren't there, you know. And I felt like there was a magic missing in those things that I was doing on my own that I wanted to feel again with the brothers.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T THROW IT AWAY")

JONAS BROTHERS: (Singing) 'Cause I know you think you're better off without me now, saying all you need is space. But, baby, we can work this out. But don't throw it away this time. Just take a little time to think. Don't throw it away. It's fine, just don't forget to think of me.

MARTIN: I'm wondering if you might have some advice for families who aren't in a world-famous group but who've had a breach and need to repair it. Kevin, does - I would love to hear from each of you if that's OK.

K JONAS: Yeah. I think speaking honestly about what's going on and not holding it in and letting it just sit there and simmer is the most important thing you can do. I think that's what is different about our relationship now than, you know, 10 years ago was that we can sit down and say, hey, I don't like this. Can we talk about this? And we really work through everything in the moment and it's over.

J JONAS: I was going to say, start a band, harbor those feelings for many years...

(LAUGHTER)

J JONAS: ...Shoot a documentary and then you'll work it out.

K JONAS: That's great advice.

N JONAS: I like it. I agree with Joe. No, I think - one of the things that really helped us - different context - but we were sitting with Dr. Phil on a few things, talking. And he gives...

MARTIN: Dr. Phil meaning the psychologist or Dr. Phil meaning your manager?

N JONAS: Dr. Phil meaning the psychologist.

MARTIN: Really? No shame in that game. No shame in that.

N JONAS: He was speaking about his marriage. And he said, you know, our rule is we never say the D word.

MARTIN: D?

N JONAS: Divorce - which, he said, if you relate to that your relationship as you guys continue to rebuild, just set a ceiling. So we now have a ceiling which is it's never going to become a breakup again. It's never going to complicate our relationship. So within that safety net, we can say whatever we want to say - obviously not giving ourselves the right to be hurtful unnecessarily. But we're able to be honest in a way that I think is almost surprising to people at times when they're in an environment and we're able to address an issue or an insecurity with ease now because we know that it's never going to go to that level again. Thanks, Dr. Phil.

MARTIN: Joe, I mean, you were joking, but what if people don't have the incentive of a world-famous band?

J JONAS: I think they have that, though. I think they have that - it's family. You know, it doesn't - you don't have to have success materially. It's about the success of your family. It's the success about your love there. And I think working through that is the most important thing that you can do. And I think, for us, we were able to talk about it. When we put it under the rug and said, it's fine, let's just move on, we're family. Family - you can just be mad at somebody for years but you get over it. I'll see you at Christmas. And we just actually pulled that rug up and said, all right, let's talk about it.

So I think sometimes, depending on the situation for certain family members or friends, even, it takes that leap of faith to say, let's just start this conversation. And even though I don't know - I might lose this friend, I might lose this family member, but I cannot live my life without asking these questions.

MARTIN: That is - you know who they are - Kevin Jonas, Joe Jonas, Nick Jonas - the Jonas Brothers. Their latest album is "Happiness Begins." You can see their documentary "Chasing Happiness" on Amazon Prime. And if you want to catch them live, they are currently on tour. Thank you so much for joining us.

J JONAS: Thank you very much for having us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I BELIEVE")

JONAS BROTHERS: (Singing) Every night, every day - how about every lifetime? Yeah, I know what they say. And that's fine 'cause I'm here to stay...

(SOUNDBITE OF , "") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.