A life less complicated
Last year was challenging for US singer Nick Jonas but he's moving forward with a new album
My former boss commands the room.
In front of a horde of European media and record label bigwigs, Nick Jonas is introducing his new album, Last Year Was Complicated, at the Corinthia Hotel in London.
Back in 2008 when I performed with Jonas, he was only 16.
Now, the 23-year-old US singer-actor writes songs about boozing and destroying furniture as coping mechanisms, believed to be inspired by a break-up last year with Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo.
Jonas has transformed his image from that of a squeaky clean Disney kid with boy band Jonas Brothers to an edgy solo artist who counts hip-hop veteran Jay Z as a mentor.
Somehow, that doesn't surprise me.
Eight years ago, I spent months as lead violinist touring with Jonas and his older brothers Joe and Kevin and their backing band for the group's Burnin' Up Tour. This included performing in their 2009 movie Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.
At the time, it seemed that despite being the youngest of the three, Jonas was the driving force.
The material in Last Year Was Complicated, the follow-up to his 2014 self-titled debut solo album, is a departure from the music I played while on the road with him.
Making up for lost time during our interview, I am curious about the highs and lows of that period.
Jonas admits: "It was such a meteoric rise and a crazy journey. Looking back now, I probably would have told myself then to just calm down and enjoy it more because the level of stress was pretty high.
"On top of that, some of the challenging things were to do with the group ending and the toll that took on us as a family.
"To relearn how to just be a family, not working together. We've all grown from that and actually become closer, which is good."
In 2013, while gearing up for another tour as Jonas Brothers, he felt that they were not progressing in any way.
"It was no longer authentic to us and I was the first to raise my hand and say that. But in the end, we all realised it was time to close that chapter.
"And you see now with, thankfully, my success and Joe's success with his (pop rock) band (DNCE), and Kevin working with an app development company and doing very well there, that it truly was the right thing for everybody."
Jonas has received praise for his solo work, as well as for lead roles in projects like US TV drama Kingdom and the soon-to-be-released feature film Goat.
He says: "Acting and music have really complemented each other... on an emotional level, pouring deep into the acting side of things and letting the physical toll play itself out there, and then the layered angle on the music front."
Acting also inspired the music video for new single Close. In the video, Jonas and Swedish singer Tove Lo sing about the fears of opening up in a relationship as their clothing unravels.
"The concept of the video did come from me...I felt that all of the visuals for this next chapter needed to really push the envelope, as I became more comfortable with myself while still playing a character on some of these shows," he says.
"You step outside your comfort zone, which makes you more bold. I think I was willing to take that into the music side of things, too."
ON HIS OWN
Besides his relationship woes, what else happened last year that might have inspired him to name his album Last Year Was Complicated?
Jonas says: "I think adjusting from being with Jonas Brothers to truly being solo and kind of on my own.
"But I'm thrilled to be in a spot where I can really dive in and get creative and do different things... (But) on press days where it's all on your shoulders, not spread out among three people, it does make it more challenging.
"Last year also was really successful, which in theory is great, but also comes with new challenges. An adulthood career, which is different than it is as a young person when you're riding high. I love the word 'complicated' because it doesn't necessarily mean it was bad."
His next goal is to direct.
When it comes to personal ambitions, Jonas, who has dated fellow singers like Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Delta Goodrem, is keeping it simple and even mentions wanting to be a father one day.
He says: "I want to be happy. Sometimes it's hard to see where the career is going to go, but you know that if you build your world up in the right way with the right people, happiness will follow."
I want to be happy. Sometimes it's hard to see where the career is going to go, but you know that if you build your world up in the right way with the right people, happiness will follow.
- Nick Jonas
5 things to know about M's London stringer Melissa Elena Reiner
1. After picking up the instrument at three years old, the San Francisco-born musician began her career as a violinist in Hollywood in 1998, where she performed for a variety of artists, including Adele and Andrea Bocelli, and in several shows such as the Grammy Awards and American Idol.
2. She has recorded soundtracks for blockbuster movies such as The Hunger Games, The Avengers and The Hobbit.
3. Last year, she was a speaker at a TEDx event - a programme designed to help communities, organisations and individuals spark conversation and connection - hosted by London Business School. Her talk/performance was titled "How to listen like a musician".
4. Since the age of 14, she has travelled the world as a soloist, a chamber musician and with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, from Gabon to Japan to London, where she lives.
5. She has written two novels, The Hedonists of Beachwood Canyon and West On The Happy, about the music industry, and is still looking for a publisher.
OLD FRIENDS: Melissa Elena Reiner with Nick Jonas at this interview earlier this month. PHOTO COURTESY OF MELISSA ELENA REINER