By Nicholas Jennings
It’s only been a year since the Jonas Brothers officially called it quits, but already the youngest member of the trio, Nick Jonas, is well on his way to establishing himself as a grown-up solo artist.
The 22-year-old Disney graduate recently released a self-titled album, featuring duets with rapper Angel Haze and former Camp Rock co-star Demi Lovato, that owes nothing to the Jonas Brothers sound and plenty to the sexy throwback-R&B side of Justin Timberlake.
One track getting particular attention is the steamy remix of his current hit-single “Jealous,” with red-hot singing star Tinashe.
To further distance himself from his boy-band past, Nick has been busy working out and starring as prizefighter Nate Kulina in the new TV drama Kingdom (last year, he showed off his new “Jonabs” in an Instagram posting that immediately went viral).
We caught up with the double-threat recently to discuss his new sound, image, love life and family.
Was your album a conscious attempt to reinvent yourself?
To a certain extent. There were some intentional moves to continue to progress and evolve. That meant pushing myself musically and showing people who I am today.
Yeah, I think it was important to solidify myself as an adult performer. I think this album was a step in that direction.
“Teacher” has a retro ’80s synth vibe to it. Do you identify with that style?
For sure. Prince is one of my biggest influences and I think that song is one of the most Prince-inspired tracks on the record, both vocally and musically.
You’ve got some cool female collaborators. Your video for “Chains” features Dylan Penn, daughter of Sean Penn and Robin Wright, and then there’s Angel Haze and Demi Lovato. How was Tinashe to work with?
I think Tinashe is amazing. I was blown away by her professionalism. She’s got a really bright future ahead of her. I was so glad to have her on the remix. She added a whole other element to it.
Who would you most love to collaborate with?
I think Prince would be amazing. That would be a dream scenario. I think my music now lends itself to that.
Have you ever met the man?
I did meet him once in passing, in a hallway at a pre-Grammy party. It wasn’t a long chat. Just a quick hello, nothing too much. I was just like, “Hey, big fan.” And he says, “I know.” And I was like, wow, that’s the perfect Prince response.
Is your Prince worship a new thing?
It goes back pretty far, because John Fields, who produced most of my brothers’ and my music, is from Minneapolis and those circles with Prince and all his people. So that’s the connection, which is nice to have.
You look buff in Kingdom. Did you have any experience with boxing?
The great part about the show is it’s mixed martial arts, so it’s every form: wrestling, jujitsu, judo, boxing, kick-boxing, all that. I really found I was drawn to the wrestling and jujitsu stuff. The boxing side was a little more challenging, but getting in with some of the best trainers in the world really helped to develop that skill set.
But you were already working out, right?
Yeah, but when I was training for the role I put on about 15 pounds of muscle. I really pushed myself physically to the max to become Nate.
How personal are the songs on your album?
They’re very personal. “Push” talks about the idea of drawing someone closer to you so you can be the one to push them away so you don’t feel vulnerable. It’s something a lot of people do but don’t admit to it.
What about “Jealous”? Are you a jealous guy?
Jealousy is a very human emotion and everyone deals with it in his or her own way. That song came out of a real situation. Some guy kept staring at Olivia’s body [girlfriend and former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo] a little too much, which I didn’t appreciate.
Did you write any songs specifically about Olivia?
Yeah, there’s a song called “Nothing Would Be Better,” which is about love and family.
Is that in your future with her?
At some point, maybe down the road. We’re taking it one step at a time. We’re very young and there’s still a lot left to accomplish. But we’re very happy and we continue to grow together, which is the key.
There are rumors of a Jonas Brothers reunion. Do you spend much time with them lately?
Well, I’m doing a lot of travelling right now, but I think over the holidays I’ll have some time with family to just lay low. I’m looking forward to that.