THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF the Jonas Brothers phenomenon? Oversharing. They may wear skinny jeans and narrow ties, but the boys reject the maxim that rock stars should always be cool. The band spends hours cranking out mundane homemade videos about everything from Joe’s new headband to the food in the greenroom at The Oprah Winfrey Show. I watch a video of Joe whacking Nick over the head with a plastic baseball bat that had nearly 8 million viewers. On tour, they even show a jumbotron video of Nick putting on his insulin pump. The clip gets a giant squeal, since there’s also a quick peek at Nick’s flesh. “I think we’re editing that,” Kevin Sr. says, shaking his head. “Not the right place for them to scream.”
Then there are the Jonases’ already famous meet-and-greets. Most bands do these — obligatory schmoozefests with sponsors, contest winners, friends of friends and local VIPs. But the Jonas Brothers take it to endurance extremes. In Dallas I watch them greet more than 400 fans in 99-degree heat.
“They are the new music business — work hard, touch your fans,” Brad Wavra, a tan, hyper Live Nation VP, tells me as we watch the grip-and-grin in Dallas. “We know a band that used to count the number in their meet-and-greets — if it was 50, and there were 51 people there, they wouldn’t meet that 51st kid.”
“You got 300 people in the lobby of your hotel, that’s not a problem,” says Johnny Wright, a longtime boy-band maestro who also advises the JBs. “That’s a blessing. Don’t go through the back door. Go through the front.” So far, the Jonases embrace these rituals. They pay close attention to their meet-and-greets, noting the increasing number of older teenage girls in red dresses and heels (an outfit mentioned in the band’s new single, “Burn in Up”), and amorous moms. “The dads make jokes like, ‘Keep your hands off my daughter,'” Nick says.
If there is one subject the Jonas Brothers are tired of talking about, it’s their purity rings. One afternoon on the band’s tour bus, where the fridge is stuffed with Diet Dr. Pepper, Dibs ice cream treats and Smucker’s Uncrustables PB&J sandwiches, 1 ask them about the silver bands, which are mentioned in nearly every press account of the brothers. “We’ve talked about it enough,” Nick says abruptly. “We’d rather focus on the music and the movie.” I press a little harder. Why not talk about it? After all, their fans (and the parents) like the fact that they wear them. Everywhere I go in the crowds at concerts, girls show off their rings. A spokeswoman for James Avery Craftsman, a large Christian-based jeweler, tells me that sales of the company’s “True Love Waits” purity ring are up 25 percent this year. “We can’t say for sure why, but it’s up,” she says.
After my second attempt, Joe looks at Nick. “Go ahead,” Joe says.
“Well,” Nick says quietly, “to us, the rings are a constant reminder to live a life of values. It’s about being a gentleman, treating people with respect and being the best guys we can be.”
Was it something you guys all decided to wear collaboratively?
“We all did it at one point in our life,” Kevin says. “On our own personal time.”
It’s the only time that the air gets tense with the brothers. Faith and pop culture can be a complicated mix and often a third rail with the media. The Jonases do not hide their spirituality, but they’re not proselytizing, either.
“On a personal level, faith is extremely important,” Kevin Sr. says. “But I kind of cringe every time I read references to them being a Christian band, for the simple reason that they don’t sing Christian music. Probably because of my background, the boys get lumped into the Christian-music genre. But it isn’t their genre.”