As a New Jersey native and former Broadway kid, Nick Jonas is no stranger to Times Square. Even his Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve appearance Sunday night (Dec. 31) wasn’t his first ball drop performance — the 25-year-old performed on the 2009 NYE special with his siblings when they were in the heart of Jonas Brothers mania.
“They can’t get rid of us,” Jonas jokes to Billboard ahead of his performance, referencing that brother Joe performed with DNCE last year. “They’ll actually be here tonight. They’re not performing, but they’re gonna hang out. It’s nice that we get to spend it all together.”
Spending the last night of 2017 with his brothers was the perfect cap-off to another impressive year from Jonas, who stars in the much-hyped sequel to Jumanji and earned his first Golden Globe nomination for his lighthearted Ferdinand track “Home” — which he performed on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve along with hits “Close” and “Jealous.”
With 2018 marking two years since his Last Year Was Complicated record come June, Jonas is ready to unveil what he’s been working on in the studio come the new year. Before he took the freezing Times Square stage, Billboard chatted with Jonas about his memories from the JoBros’ performance and what fans can look forward to from his new material.
The last time you performed in Times Square was 2009 with your brothers. What do you remember from that night?
It was pretty chilly. I remember I was like, 13, and it was past my bedtime [Laughs]. No, it was a great time. It was kind of the cap to a breakthrough year for us, so to celebrate in our hometown zone — we grew up in Jersey, and I spent a lot of time in Times Square doing Broadway shows as a kid — so it was a really special moment to be able to perform and ring in the new year.
Obviously a lot of time has past since then, but how do you feel like you’ve grown as an artist?
I think just life experience and experience performing — everything from the time with the brothers to the last four years solo, I think I’ve just grown into my own as an artist and what I want to say. I think the fact that I’m able to still tell my stories as a solo artist and write my music really helps. It just feels good to take those steps forward, to be affirmed in that way, and to still be here so many years later. I feel really grateful and I’m just trying to enjoy the ride.
So will 2018 be focused more on music? Or will you balance music and acting the way you did this year?
I wish I had the answer to that question, because I don’t really know myself. There’s some real opportunity and momentum on the acting side of things, and I’d love to ride that out and see where that goes. But also, music is a first love and will always be there.
Was there anything you wanted to do differently with your sound with the next set of music?
I was inspired by a lot of different things for this next body of work. There’s a combination of real organic instruments and elements as far as production goes, but then spending some time in Europe earlier this year embracing tempo, songs that are uplifting in that sense, really came into play. And then just different artists — people I’ve listened to for a long time, but for whatever reason, the music resonated with me in a bigger way now. So people like Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, more modern stuff like The Weeknd, even, and just things that really helped me to grow and push me.
Were there any collaborators that you felt had a big impact on you this time around?
I worked with Justin Tranter a bunch on this, I wrote “Home” with him. He’s obviously having an amazing couple of years, and just such a great guy. And then Simon Wilcox, who I wrote “Jealous” with, we got back in and did a lot more for this one and became even closer friends and also wrote some music I’m really proud of.
Skylar Grey, too, is one I’m very excited about people to hear the music we wrote together. She’s always very generous with her time, and I just love the sound of her voice, so sometimes I just try to sneak her in there and keep her vocal tracks for my own use [Laughs]. I don’t think there will officially be a song with her, but you’ll probably hear here in the background if you listen close enough.
What can fans expect from the songs you’ve written this year?
I can tell you that this body of work as a whole has a real sense of optimism about it, in the lyrics. I collaborated with a smaller group of lyricists and people to focus on lyric and melody who really pushed me and helped me to never settle. I tried to say all of what I wanted to say. The last body of work was very much a breakup album and heavy in some ways, and this one feels lighter and I think touches on an excitement I feel about this next chapter of my life and the journey that I’m going on. I listen to music to be uplifted and to enjoy my time so I want to create that for my fans as well.
I think fans can expect a stepping off point from the last body of work, the last bit of music, and just an evolution. Something that will really showcase this moment in my life and hopefully be a party soundtrack for them, something they can also sit and listen to alone and get reflective and kind of think about their own life. When I look at the artists I admire, it’s people that write songs that really become part of the fabric of your life and help tell your own stories because they’re so relatable and so universal. So I hope to do the same thing with my music.