Nick Jonas made quite a statement with moody mid-tempo R&B anthem “Chains”, which seemingly dropped out of nowhere in late July. He made it very clear that he’s all grown up and ready to explore a completely different soundscape. As it turns out, the 21-year-old has been working on new music for the best part of year and played a bunch of previously unheard tracks for press last week.
The solo star delivered a killer four-song set that included a soulful groove called “Numb”, which he co-wrote with Mike Posner, and another new track called “Push”. Nick squeezed every ounce of angst he could muster into “Chains” before debuting his next single “Jealous” (due September 7), which sounds like Bruno Mars mixed with classic ’80s soul-pop. It’s fantastic — instantly hummable and very radio-friendly. After the performance, I spoke to Nick about his album and the future of the Jonas Brothers (among other things). Find out what he had to say after the jump.
“Chains” seemed to come out of nowhere. How long were you working on new music before it was released?
I started working on the record about a year ago. I started writing some songs and getting a feel for what I wanted to do. But really in the last 9 months I’ve worked with Island Records, found a sound that worked, found a couple of records that fit that and built an album I’m really proud of. I do agree, it came out of left field for some people — particularly with the sound being so different. But for me it seemed like a really natural next step. It felt like a really good progression.
Were you always interested in exploring R&B even when you were in the Jonas Brothers?
What happened was that I came from a place where my traditional influences were Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, The Bee Gees. The stuff I grew up on kind of sit in that soul-pop world. There was that and there were modern influences that I really made an effort to put into the sound like The Weeknd and Frank Ocean. Things that I love that I wanted to find a way to infuse, bring that soulful element in but have some modern influences. I worked with some people who pushed me and took the sound to that next level.
Is “Chains” reflective of what we can expect from the rest of the album?
I think that “Chains” is a really good set up song. It gives a very clear picture as to where it’s going to go. The next single, which comes out on September 7, which I’m really excited about…
That’s really quick.
The idea was to have “Chains” come out and set everything up.
So it’s a buzz track?
Yeah. I wanted it to have a very creative and dramatic video to show who I am now. I’m a very different looking and feeling person than I was years ago. “Jealous” is a song I’m really excited to get out there and have people hear. I think it will really show where the whole thing is.
Who did you work with on “Jealous”?
I worked with a guy named Nolan Lambroza, a really good producer and songwriter, and a girl named Simon Wilcox. Nolan did some stuff last year with Justin Bieber. He’s really talented. He’s got a really cool ear for ‘80s influences, which is a big part of this record for me and specifically “Jealous”.
How long before we get the album?
I want to give the record a really good set up. “Jealous” comes out in September and then the record will come out in late October, early November in conjunction with the TV show I just finished shooting called Kingdom. It comes out October 8. So there’s a little cross promotion there and a month of me doing some different things. I’m looking forward to that.
I know you ventured out on your own with the Administration album but were you always hoping to go solo?
I definitely wanted to take steps in a more adult direction that some of my influences, I think people will be surprised to hear who I’m influenced by. This was definitely a big effort to take big steps and push the envelope a little bit. What I did with the Administration, which was that side project record, was a blue-eyed soul kind of thing, which was important to me at that time but I think this is where I’m headed and I’m really excited about it.
“Chains” is an angst-ridden song and “Jealous” has a similar vibe. Were you tapping into something you’ve been through?
Yeah. There’s a lot of inner-life, subject matter that leaves you with more questions than answers, which I think is an important thing in art and I really wanted to tell my stories honestly and get my points across the best I could by being real and putting it out with no fear. It’s rewarding when you do that because I feel people can definitely connect with it better.
Is it daunting to make the leap from teen star to adult artist or don’t you think about it?
I definitely think about it. I think it’s about making the right choices and trying to grow – making it feel natural and organic. I look at others and I try to learn from them and try to see what I can do to do my own take on it. People like Justin Timberlake and, on the acting side, Mark Wahlberg, they have made really great transitions and done a great job of starting at one place and building.
How has your family reacted to you change of musical direction?
It’s been great. Naturally coming out of family band situation, transitioning to a solo artist mentality, it’s just different. It takes a minute to adjust. Not only for me but for people. They’ve been really supportive and they love the music they’ve heard and it means a lot to me and I just do my best to continue help the move to the next stages. We’ll all have things that we’ll support each other in, As we’re closing one chapter we’re still able to be close and have a future together as a family.
How have the fans reacted to your new sound?
I think some are coming with me. The main thing you have to be ok with as an artist is when you take bold steps – not everyone will come. It’s about saying, I’m ok to make these choices and these big bold steps. Those that come – thank you – and those that don’t, it’s ok. You continue to grow and different people come. There has been a growth and already a different audience that has connected with what I’ve been doing and that’s great to see because I think it will only continue.
Can we expect another eye-popping video for “Jealous”?
I think it was about presenting big visuals and things that really fit the scale of the music. I think the video for “Jealous” is one of the best videos I’ve ever made. It really thinks outside the box and takes it to another level of creativity. It’s all green screen. I’m thrilled for people to see it. It will show them a totally new side.
I have to ask about that shirtless gym selfie. Looking back, was that the first hint that you were about to take things in a completely different direction?
It was a conscious decision. I do think there’s an education I was hoping would happen. The people who were so familiar with me at a younger age needed to see what I look like now, what the aesthetic is on all fronts. Those visuals will be really important – from that one to the music videos to everything.
Do you ever see yourself reforming the band?
I think you can never predict tomorrow. For me, the band was a really important part of my life and something that I loved doing for a long time but I’m so thrilled to be my own creative person now and to be in a position to create freely. This moment is really exciting for me but you never know the band may get back together one day. We’ll have to wait and see.
You could be like Destiny’s Child and do that one song together every ten years.
Exactly! Who knows?
Are you excited for Nick’s new single and album? Let us know in the comments below.
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