By: George Varga
Stevie Wonder is as friendly and down-to-earth as any pop-music legend around, but performing with him at the 2009 Grammy Awards was intimidating for the Jonas Brothers.
“We were pretty nervous,” acknowledged Joe Jonas, 21, who is now on a world concert tour (sans the iconic Wonder) with his siblings Nick, 17, and Kevin, 22.
“We were definitely scared, but having the audience stand up because we were on stage with Stevie Wonder was pretty cool. We love his music, and we grew up on it. Our parents played his music from the time we were very young.”
Not everyone welcomed this unusual musical pairing on the Grammys, which was designed to draw younger viewers. Or, as Tom DeLonge of blink-182 quipped on the telecast: “Isn’t it great to see the Jonas Brothers and Stevie Wonder back together again?”
That said, as the world’s most popular teen-pop group of the past five years, Joe, Nick and Kevin have had many unlikely doors open for them.
To cite one example, since 2008, the stage attire the three siblings wore on the cover of their third album, “A Little Bit Longer,” has been exhibited at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum. (“We definitely had them dry-cleaned first!” Joe noted.)
Also in 2008 — the same year the JoBros simultaneously had three albums in the national Top 10 — the group was approached about starring in a film version of the children’s book “Walter the Farting Dog.” It was to be directed by the Farrelly Brothers (of “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary” fame), but the project never reached fruition.
“Well, we talked about it,” Joe said with a laugh. “We were talking about working on a movie with those guys because they’re really talented. But there was never a deal. It was a big rumor that we were doing a movie called ‘Walter the Farting Dog.’ That was just one of many ideas — as of now, there’s nothing.
Instead, Joe and his brothers starred in the new Disney Channel movie “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam.” It features fellow Disney star Demi Lovato, who is the opening act on the brothers’ ongoing tour (and was, for a few months this year, Joe’s girlfriend, a position previously held by Taylor Swift).
Does Joe, who — according to Swift, broke up with her via a text message — believe you have to have your heart broken to write a great song? In a word, no.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think with a lot of great songwriters, sometimes they’re not even about themselves. You look at Paul Simon or The Beatles, and they come up with things that are so bizarre that you go: ‘Wow, this is an amazing song.’ So we try to take left-field elements and write about them and tell stories. Like for ‘Love Bug,’ we said: ‘Let’s write a song about love in the 1940s and the music styles that surrounded that. With ‘Don’t Charge Me for the Crime,’ we obviously have never been charged for any crime. So it’s partially story-telling.”
Some hip-hop fans may have been surprised by conscious rap star Common’s vocal cameo on “Don’t Charge Me for the Crime.” But not as surprised as fans of indie-rock favorites Vampire Weekend, whose video for its song “Giving up the Gun” features a tennis-playing Joe Jonas, along with cameos by actor Jake Gyllenhaal and hip-hop upstart Lil Jon and Wu Tang Clan leader RZA.
“That was a really cool experience,” Joe said. “I got a call months prior to the video shooting. Vampire Weekend knew I came to one of their concerts and that I’m a huge fan. I had met them at an awards show and they called, and said: ‘Do you mind being in the video?’ I said: ‘Absolutely!’ I was on vacation and I turned up, and it was a two-hour video shoot. I played tennis (in it), and it was one of my favorite experiences, ever, being with one of my favorite bands. The guys were super cool and asked me if I was down to wear a crazy outfit, so I wore the most ridiculous outfit I could find. Jake And Lil Jon weren’t there when I filmed my scenes.”
Jake and Lil Jon also were not on hand for the Jonas Brothers’ recent gig at Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre in San Diego, a stop on the trio’s extensive world tour. Ticket sales for the tour have been slow and some North American shows have been canceled, with dates added in other cities.
But Joe, who hinted that he may have a solo album in the works — “There will be some news coming out later this year or soon-ish, about music I’ve been working on” — isn’t worried. He’s confident the trio he and his siblings co-lead will endure beyond the usual teen-pop, boy-band shelf life.
“Obviously, we’re brothers and we make music a lot of girls listen to, so I get it,” he said. “But we play our own instruments and write our own songs. It would be cool to know we somehow influenced music and that people thought we were one of their favorite bands growing up.
“Ten years from now, I hope we are doing this. Five years ago, somebody asked us where we would be in five years, and we said the same thing. This is a dream come true for us, so I’d love to keep doing this.”
To find out more about George Varga and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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