Nick Jonas is one of those rare-breeds of child star who has managed to pull-off a total career 180. The 24-year-old has come a long way from his days as a middle-America tweenster pop star, and is rapidly blossoming into a widely-respected global musician. Just before he went on stage in San Jose for his 28th live show — he’s on tour with Demi Lovato, no less — Wonderland pinned him down to tell us about music, movies, and masculinity. Don’t get jealous.
Hotness Comes In All Shapes And Sizes
Sex symbol, screen star and chart stormer: enter the steamy confines of 2016’s American Idol, Nick Jonas.
W: Your most recent album — Last Year Was Complicated — feels like your most personal work to date. Would you agree?
N: I am way more connected to my music when it comes from a personal place, and so I wanted to find a way to present those stories and lay them out. I really want to see this music resonate with people. The great skill with an artist is to make this music and see it come alive live, too.
W: You put out a Tidal documentary earlier this year surrounding the release of LYWC. Tell me your thoughts about this project.
N: Having the opportunity to do that was just really exciting, and going with the theme of getting more open I spoke with the team about putting out a documentary series to complement the music and everything else. It’s helped me learn a lot about myself — looking back, and being able to watch over the recording and the roll out of the record.
W: Speaking of watching yourself back, you’ve dabbled with acting this year, too. You’re in Goat — your film with James Franco — coming out in September right? How was that whole process?
N: Pretty wild. First time I read the script, I was blown away. Anytime I read a script for the first time I put myself in it and think about how I would portray the character, and with that one I knew right away that I really had to play the role. I read for it, and worked really hard to get it and when they cast me I was just so thrilled. And to see the impact the movie had at Sundance and Berlin Film Festival and the conversation around it was just a really encouraging and exciting thing.
W: At the heart of the film is the taboo topic of fraternity hazing. Why do you think now is the time to be talking about this?
N: I think it’s a conversation that is important in this moment because there’s so many of these stories in recent years of young men pushing each other to a point where it’s all just so dangerous. And at the centre of the film, as far as themes go, is masculinity: and what that looks like at 16, and the pressures forced onto these young men, and the stakes that become so high. So being able to tell that story in a way that feels very grounded and very real, and starting a conversation, was important.
W: Speaking of masculinity, let’s talk about how your image has changed so drastically through the years. You’re an international sex symbol these days…
N: It was an interesting thing to go through. Part of it, I guess, is that it’s just my life now. It will have been 12 years of doing this all professionally. I think I have a balance of it: that I accept and understand that my circumstances and my life have been pretty unusual, to a certain degree. But also embracing it as my normal; I’ve gotta grow, make mistakes, in the way that everybody else does, only with a few more eyeballs on me. I don’t think like it’s been forced, and it feels like I’ve grown naturally.
W: How does it feel about having gone from chaste teen to being gay icon, too?
N: It’s bizarre! But sexuality is important, as an artist, to embrace and use it as ammunition in your creative life, and understanding that part of your life and how it makes you feel. Anytime I approach writing a song I think about that fact that since I started having sex, my creative life changed dramatically and my ability to write a song with more genuine depth, more reality.
W: As a male sex symbol you naturally appeal to the gay community, but there’s been accusations on various internet verticals that you’ve consciously “gay baited”. What do you say to that?
N: I’m totally aware of my intentions in any and all of my attempts to be an ally to the LGBT community: they are pure, and from my heart, and from my passion to be there for a community that’s been there for me from an early age. Starting in theatre and growing into the performer I am today, I’ve made so many great friends belonging to the LGBT community, and some of the most talented men and women in the community I’d like to pay my respects to.The positive impact is 10 times more important than the negative comments.
W: Do you think there could be more men doing what you’re doing, and showcasing the vulnerable?
N: I think vulnerability on any level, and having the confidence to dive into areas of your own life that are tough to speak about at times, is incredible. Specifically heartbreak and romance, and emotion. Look at Drake: a hip-hop artist who has done an excellent job of being human and being vulnerable, and is seeing it pay off.
W: Just before we finish, in your 12 years of show-business what is it you’re proudest of?
N: Recently I was back at the Whitehouse for our president’s birthday celebration, and it was great moment to be there eight years after the inauguration. Stevie Wonder was there, who thanked me for embracing soul into my music. Me and my brothers played with him back at the Grammys in 2009, and he said that he remembered how soulful I was then, and that he was glad I’d stuck with it. That was pretty cool.