Nick Jonas announces himself as a brand-new artist on his upcoming self-titled solo debut. The album is a stellar showcase for the 21-year-old singer and songwriter’s powerhouse voice, which can slide into a soaring falsetto on a dime, and his dark-hued soulful pop songs, many of which he co-wrote. Jonas signals his current musical direction with the album’s sultry first single “Chains” and its surreal video, both of which he feels set the tone for this next phase of his career. “The song is about letting go of the past and things I was fearful of before,” he says. “It’s saying ‘I’m going to take these next steps forward without looking over my shoulder and worrying about who I’m offending or who I’m pleasing. This is who I am now, and I’m proud of that.’”
Who Jonas is now is a multi-talented artist stepping out on his own and re-inventing himself after achieving worldwide fame with The Jonas Brothers. The Grammy-nominated group sold 20 million albums and toured the globe several times over before calling it quits in October 2013. Its youngest member has lived a lot of life in those years and his experiences are reflected on the album. “One of the interesting things about this next step was embracing another thing I love about singing, which is storytelling,” Jonas says. “On every song, I have a responsibility to tell the story and connect it to the listener.”
On “Jealous,” which he co-wrote with Nolan Lambroza and Simon Wilcox, Jonas expresses a vulnerability he says most men feel but are often afraid to express. “Warning” touches on allowing oneself the freedom to step into something without fear. “It’s saying, ‘Even though the warning signs keep telling me to turn around, I can’t,” Jonas explains. “I have to continue to move on and see what is there for me. There will always be warning signs, but I know what I’m doing, so it’s okay.”
Other highlights include the emotionally resonant “Avalanche,” a duet with long-time friend Demi Lovato (Jonas served as Creative and Musical Director on her recent Neon Lights tour), and the hip-hop-tinged “Numb,” which Jonas co-wrote with Mike Posner (Justin Bieber, 2 Chainz) and which features rapper Angel Haze. “You can come to a place in any relationship where there’s built-up hurt and frustration and you just can’t feel anymore,” Jonas says of the song’s lyrics. “I was interested in exploring the idea of longing for someone and knowing it’s not going to happen; when they sweep you off your feet and leave you with nothing to feel, because they took it all.” One of Jonas’ favorite songs on the album is “Nothing Will Be Better,” which is about “how sometimes the people we know will always be there are the ones we treat the worst and that having nothing would almost be better than what I’m getting right now.”
Jonas attributes the album’s darker overtones partially to the fact that while he was recording, he was also shooting the gritty television show Kingdom — a mixed martial arts family drama that premieres on DirecTV’s Audience Network in October. Jonas plays an MMA prize fighter who holds his cards close to his chest. “He’s reserved, but an animal in the cage, where he comes alive in a way he doesn’t anywhere else,” Jonas says. “Tapping in to a character who carries a lot under the surface definitely influenced what I was doing in the studio.”
Jonas began writing songs last summer as a way to see what he could come up with on his own. “I recorded three songs and immediately saw a template for where I was creatively and what I wanted to do,” he says. Jonas kept the songs to himself until his friend David Massey, the current president of Island Records, called to check in after the Jonas Brothers announced their split. (It was Massey who signed an 11-year-old Nick to Sony Music Group in 2003 and built the sibling group around him.) “Dave wanted to check in as a friend first, then it progressed to me signing with Island,” Jonas says. “It rolled out very organically. I took the holidays to collect my thoughts and get ready for what I knew was going to be a pretty crazy year.”
Reuniting with Massey at Island is a nice bit of symmetry for the Dallas-born, New Jersey-bred Jonas, whose first memories of music are of spending time in the soundproof drum room at the college where his father taught music. “I would go in there and play even though I probably sounded terrible,” he says. Singing followed and Jonas says that, at times, it came more naturally to him than speaking.
Jonas’ life-long passion for music has driven him to approach every stage of his career with “open eyes and an open heart,” as he puts it. “I’m always looking to see how I can learn and do better,” he says. “I had a pretty amazing run with my brothers and experienced some truly incredible things that I will always be proud of. At the same time, I view this next step as a chance to do that over again, but really enjoy it and not be worried that it’s going to go away, or that if I close my eyes, I’ll miss something. It’s about knowing that every phase of a career has really high moments combined with low ones. Staying in the middle and surrounding yourself with people who make you happy and who you can enjoy it with is the most important thing.”