As told to Jennifer Vineyard.
To some extent, I was used to growing up in public. I was a pastor’s kid, so eyes were always on me, even then. I sat in the first pew of the church, and I had to wear a suit every Sunday, because my parents wanted me to be this role model that I didn’t always want to be. I preferred going to punk-rock shows in small venues in New Jersey, where we grew up, wearing my jean jacket and all my band pins. That’s how I fell in love with music, how I became obsessed with it. I’d stand there, watching the singer running around the stage, owning the crowd. I didn’t even notice whatever else was happening onstage. All I could see was the singer.
But I had certain obligations at that age. If I ever didn’t want to go to church on Sunday, or when I was trying to figure out what religion I wanted to be, or trying to understand spirituality, I would always have to deal with knowing that people were looking up to me. We eventually left our church, Assembly of God, when I was 14. A scandal had erupted involving stolen money, and it caused a big rift in the church. After that the concept of church really upset me for a long time. I mean, I believe in God, and that’s a personal relationship that I have, but I’m not religious in any way.
I went to school until about seventh grade, before my parents decided to homeschool us. I sucked at math. Was pretty good with science, and I was great at music class. Big surprise. Music was always in the house. Our dad could play just about anything, and we started picking up instruments ourselves. When Nick was 7, he began singing everywhere—in the house, in the hair salon even, which is where he was discovered.
We never really had an idea of making music together, but years later when Nick was working on his debut album, Nicholas Jonas, Kevin and I genuinely wanted to write with him. So we wrote a song together in the living room called “Please Be Mine,” which we thought would just be for Nick. But when our dad heard us, he said we should play it for David Massey, who was A&R-ing Nick’s project at the time. He had signed a lot of brother bands—Oasis, Good Charlotte—and when we went in and sang the song for him, he told us he wanted to sign us as a group.
We weren’t put together by some Svengali but were definitely thrown into it. Especially Nick, who was only 12 (I was 15 and Kevin was 17), and he had to make all these big decisions about whether he wanted to be in a band or work solo or work with his brothers. Luckily, he was cool with working with us.
It took about two years before we released our first record, It’s About Time, in 2006. We were working on it for so long, and our dad had to drive us to the recording studio in the city every day. I’ll never forget our first concert: We were named J3—and we hated the name. It felt like something a boy band would be called. I remember turning to my brothers before that show and saying, “Do you want our name to be J3 for the rest of our lives?” When we got onstage, I was the one to announce to the crowd, “Hey, we’re the Jonas Brothers.” Nice and simple.
For a few years, my two brothers, our father, our backup band, and I drove around in a van from city to city, playing any venue that would have us—schools, churches, bat mitzvahs—while our mother stayed at home to take care of our youngest brother, Frankie. Those early touring years were rough. We opened up for the Veronicas, who had a club crowd, and we had to prove to those crowds that we could really play. Show them that we’re real musicians. It was always a struggle because every single night we were walking into hate. Sometimes people flipped us off, threw water bottles at us.
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