How Australia brought the Jonas Brothers back together
DESPITE the fact they packed out arenas the world over during their brief but red-hot reign as the most successful boy band of the mid-2000s, the Jonas Brothers have never actually performed for an audience in Australia.
Ironically enough, it was on our shores that Kevin, Nick and Joe Jonas (pictured from left) mended the years-long rift that led to their dissolution - and kicked off a comeback they never quite expected to see.
This time last year, Joe was living by the beach in Sydney while he fulfilled his duties as a coach on The Voice Australia.
Little did he know his brothers, in particular Nick, were hatching a plan to ensure he would be a one-season wonder. Because they wanted to get the band back together again.
The first order of business? Working through painful, long-buried issues they hadn't discussed in at least six years, the kind that got brushed over whenever they were together as a family.
"We got together and had some conversations that needed to be had," Kevin, 31, tells Stellar. The father of two young girls, he "hadn't been travelling as much. It was one of my first real trips with the guys, where we'd spent any time together for a long time."
His brothers were touched he'd come all the way to Australia for a sibling heart-to-heart.
"That really spoke to us," says Nick, 26. "We were thrilled to get to just hang. But once we got into the nitty gritty of it all, we were able to unpack a lot."
What they unpacked set the stage for the next iteration of the Jonas Brothers - a wiser, older version of the once squeaky-clean, Disney-certified minister's sons from New Jersey who loved music, formed a band and went on to tour with the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Backstreet Boys, and even our own The Veronicas.
"It's been a long road getting here," says Kevin. "When this opportunity came up and we had the conversation, as brothers, to start doing this again, it was a no-brainer. I was ready to go."
AT FIRST, THE Jonas Brothers seemed to come out of nowhere.
They'd been trying to get traction for nearly two years - their first label dropped them - when they were signed by Disney-owned Hollywood Records in 2007, joining the likes of Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.
In some parts, they were more known for their morals than their music - they famously wore purity rings to indicate they planned to remain virgins until marriage.
But with the right demographic, songs like 'Burnin' Up', 'Year 3000' and 'When You Look Me In The Eyes' became the soundtrack to an entire generation.
And their dating lives became fodder for gossip bloggers and teen publications - Nick went out with Gomez and Cyrus; Joe went out with Taylor Swift, who he would end up dumping over the phone - which she addressed in her song 'Forever & Always' - and was later linked to Gigi Hadid.
They made on-brand appearances in Cyrus's TV series Hannah Montana and the Disney film Camp Rock, and would sell more than 17 million albums.
But by October 2013 the band - in fact, the brothers themselves - had grown apart. They were tired of being under a corporation's creative control, tired of being forced to speak like politicians and tired of avoiding potentially controversial subjects in favour of giving beige, diplomatic answers to journalists.
Nick wanted a solo career and told his brothers as much. A planned tour was cancelled and rather than leaning on the usual PR spin, they admitted to "a deep rift within the band" and "a big disagreement over their music direction".
Barely a year after the split, Nick Jonas released his self-titled solo album - the single 'Jealous' became the cool global hit that had eluded the band.
The purity-ring era was over: Nick transformed into a sex symbol who openly wooed female and gay fan bases.
Kevin started a family with wife Danielle and swapped music for real-estate development.
Joe reinvented himself as the frontman of another band, the pop four-piece DNCE, whose first single 'Cake By The Ocean' - its title a sexual reference - became a smash hit. Like Cyrus, they were putting Disney far behind them.
Nick also juggled music with an acting career (in movies like Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle and TV shows Scream Queens and Kingdom).
And Joe headed to Australia for The Voice, working alongside Delta Goodrem, another of brother Nick's ex-girlfriends.
"Delta's a bit of a sister to me, and obviously Nick and her had a close relationship," Joe, 29, tells Stellar with a laugh. "Sitting next to her on the show was very comforting. But she is Delta, she is the pride of Australia. So it was difficult when you know people would immediately want to go on her team."
Adds Nick, "I'm very happily married now, but I've always admired Delta. I'm so happy she and Joe got a chance to work together."
It was during that fateful time in Sydney that the brothers came together again. And when paparazzi snapped the trio drinking in Bondi Beach last June, they had no idea what, exactly, they were photographing.
The guessing game went global, with fans wondering if they were filming a beer advert or reuniting for a special episode of The Voice.
What the cameras had actually captured was the Jonas Brothers secretly reforming the band, all while the cameras rolled, as part of a new Amazon Prime documentary they were making to help heal their wounds.
Chasing Happiness delves deep into the pain of their split, and Joe insists they didn't edit out anything that could make viewers squirm.
"It's pretty brutal," he tells Stellar. He's not lying: as the boys discuss those awkward first steps after their break-up, strong feelings come to the surface.
Joe talks about how bittersweet it was to see Nick succeed on Broadway as his own attempt at a solo career was fizzing out.
Both of them, meanwhile, say they felt played when Kevin talked them into appearing on Married To Jonas, his reality-TV show with wife Danielle.
And Nick reveals to having "full-on" panic attacks and anxiety by the time he decided to walk away from the band, saying "The reality of it all was starting to hit me: we hate each other, basically."
Kevin says Joe was "destroyed" by Nick's decision, and that the three would not be in a room alone together for six years.
And yes, those dreaded purity rings get covered off - for the record, Kevin broke his vow first. And no, they didn't hold on to the rings.
"Thankfully it didn't [end up defining] us," says Joe. "We were able to grow. Eventually it became uninteresting to people."
There was another positive: the documentary would inspire them to make their first studio album in 10 years, Happiness Begins.
The brothers began working with some of pop music's most in-demand producers, who've collaborated with everyone from Beyoncé to Adele, Ariana Grande and Sia.
Before long, a comeback effort had been locked and loaded. "Recording was definitely part of finding our groove together again," says Kevin. "That was forced time together, but it was time we wanted to spend together."
"We'd started playing some of the old tunes together which ignited a fire in all of us to create," adds Nick. "I think it was a combination of where Joe left off with DNCE and where I was at as a solo artist, and how they met in the middle. When you add Kevin in the mix, it really becomes that Jonas Brothers sound."
It worked: lead single 'Sucker' became their first-ever song to hit No. 1 in both Australia and the US.
Once again, the boys - now men - nailed the ability to grab the spotlight and earn notice, seemingly overnight.
And they also learnt a few lessons they are implementing as they continue to reacquaint themselves with fans. "The first is probably not taking ourselves too seriously," says Joe. "DNCE allowed me to be wild, a freer version of myself. I learnt so much with those guys."
The plan moving forward is that while the Jonas Brothers will be the main priority, they will continue pursuing their side projects with no grief, ego or tension.
"We plan on letting it all run at the same time," says Joe. "We look at it as, 'Let's not stop the world for one individual project; let's just keep things moving.' If something comes up, we'll figure it out along the way, or take a bit of time off. But let's not call it off like we did last time.
"The biggest thing is being able to have a healthy relationship and be brutally honest when things need to be said, and not hold grudges or hold something back until six or seven years down the line.
"We want everything to be comfortable for ourselves and our significant others and our children, and make this one big, happy family on the road, so we can all look back and say we're happy we did this again, and not that it was a headache."
Adds Kevin, "We have a lot more riding on the band, being brothers. We had to take time apart to figure out who we wanted to be as individuals. That's why we're in a great and stable place right now. We're able to enjoy being ourselves in the midst of still being the Jonas Brothers. Which I think is really awesome."
The Jonas Brothers have also returned at a time when boy bands are earning critical reappraisal - and reaping the benefits of having fans mature enough to appreciate they're more than just imaginary boyfriends on a bedroom-wall poster.
Back in the day, they put their girlfriends in the occasional pop video. When time came to film the clip for 'Sucker', all three of their partners - now wives - came onboard as proper co-stars.
"We were trying to figure out how to best approach the comeback," says Joe. "And it only felt right to have our ladies with us in the video."
"We keep things private - that's important to all of us," adds Nick. "As much as our lives are on display, we wanted to have them a part of something like this. Just as much as we needed to grow as brothers, we also needed to grow as one big family."
Joe married Game Of Thrones star Sophie Turner on May 1 in a surprise Vegas wedding after the brothers performed at the Billboard Awards.
"It was private, apart from [DJ] Diplo live streaming it," jokes Joe. "It was a blast. We really enjoyed ourselves. And what better way than doing it in Vegas?"
It was a major contrast to Nick and actress Priyanka Chopra's epic wedding in December last year, which incorporated
Hindu and Western ceremonies, the latter officiated by the brothers' father Paul. The pair hadn't known each other long and were engaged by July; a song Nick wrote for the new album, 'I Believe', contains the lyric "people saying that we move too fast".
"We've heard that sentence more than anyone could imagine," explains Nick. "But we dove right in and we're happy we did. Our music becomes our love letters to our other halves, so it's fitting."
Their fans still show up in droves to their public appearances - and the screams are still there, but the sound has dropped a few decibels.
"It's a different pitch," says Kevin. "It's still kind of ear piercing, but it's good to see familiar faces again. We're thankful they stuck around."
And they are impressed by how respectful and funny they remain, all these years later.
After the Jonas wives were caught on camera holding court in the audience at the Billboard Awards, dancing and screaming to their husbands onstage, one fan tweeted that while 10 years ago she had wanted to marry a Jonas Brother, now she just wanted to party with their wives.
"That person has the right idea," Joe tells Stellar. "All we want to do is party with our wives! And our wives can definitely party harder than any of us can."
The album Happiness Begins (Republic Records) and the documentary Chasing Happiness (Amazon Prime) are out now.