Several hundred fans showed up in between rainstorms to hear an earnest talk with some of the biggest names in music on Thursday night in New York. The Jonas Brothers and OneRepublic frontman and singer/songwriter Ryan Tedder appeared at the New York Times’ TimesTalks event held at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center to discuss their recent collab “Sucker” and the Bros’ new album, Happiness Begins, and accompanying documentary, Chasing Happiness.
The hour-long session, moderated by Times style reporter Lindsey Underwood, touched on many topics, including the trio’s return earlier this year and how they met Tedder when their bands were assigned the same fitting room during an event (either backstage at Jingle Ball or during American Idol filming; there was some debate). One theme recurred throughout the night: The Bros and Tedder repeatedly touched on how they balance their personal and public lives — a fitting topic, considering how much time the Jonas Brothers have spent in the public eye, to the degree that Joe’s recent Las Vegas wedding to Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner was witnessed live worldwide via Diplo’s Instagram.
Throughout the short and intimate event, the four artists discussed not only topics like how they deal with their marriages when touring — Tedder said his rule of thumb is to never go more than two weeks without seeing his family when touring in the U.S., while three weeks is all right when overseas, and that he gets special joy from being able to bring his children around the world because of his career — but also how their backgrounds and upbringings have influenced their artistry and place in the music industry. Tedder and the Jonases spoke a bit about how their religious upbringing is one of many reasons they’re so compatible as collaborators — Tedder even called them his favorite artists to work with — and also reflected on how Christian and gospel music have affected their sonic styles.
The Jonas Brothers spent much of the time addressing how they had changed over the years since their hiatus as a group, during which Nick and Joe embarked on solo careers and Kevin had his two daughters. One major difference, according to Nick — and one of the most insightful moments of the night due to its forthright approach toward public personas in the modern age of media — was that they no longer had to play themselves as they did while they were Disney Channel stars on their television show Jonas.
“We were in a really odd spot back then. In one part of our life and career, we were pretending to be teenagers, unaccompanied in LA, living the dream. The show didn’t really make sense to me; I didn’t know what it was about,” he said, receiving laughs from the audience, much of which was made up of millennial women who would have been part of the show’s target audience a decade ago. “But it was something to do with us being a band and in LA. … There was that aspect of it that felt kind of cheesy.”
“We were also a band called Jonas, but we weren’t brothers,” Joe added, before Nick continued.
“On the flip side to that, we were Grammy-nominated,” said the youngest brother. “I think that that was hard for us to wrap our heads around. In some circles being accepted as real artists, and musicians, and storytellers, and in the other being known for something that didn’t really feel authentic to us but was a major platform. We really never subscribed to the narrative that ‘Disney is bad’ or bad for us. In our minds, Disney was the best years of training, how to be a professional. It was an enormous platform that really set us up in a big way, and we’re thankful for that. The flip side of that too was that it was limiting, at a certain point. When we wanted to grow and evolve as artists, it started to insulate because we felt like people that we wanted to work with, like the Ryan Tedders of the world, maybe they wouldn’t want to work with us because they didn’t take us seriously. But in the same breath at times, we would get recognition in a critical way. We were always kind of battling that, trying to figure where we landed. It wasn’t actually until we grew and aged up, and became men and actually went on a journey [that that changed].”
Another major element was that the trio “stopped kind of operating like robots in interviews” after feeling relieved of the pressures to uphold a certain image suitable for Disney stars. While explicit that he was understanding of the need for the family-friendly approach to young stars associated with the House of Mouse, Nick expressed that it was just a natural part of growing as both artists and people that brought about the change in how they approached the public. “When you get older and you want to talk about sex, you want to talk about drinking and experiences, you need to be able to do that and feel the freedom to do that.”
Along with discussing how they grew up as artists and how their relationship developed as brothers and bandmates over the years, the Jonas Brothers and Tedder also touched on other topics like pre-show routines — Tedder and Kevin bonded over the realization that both had learned from Tim McGraw to run 5 miles before a concert — their upcoming Songland appearance and much more.
Catch up on the whole TimesTalks discussion in the video below.