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Nick Jonas is breaking free with “Chains.”
The former Disney Channel star — musically noted as one-third of the wildly popular Jonas Brothers, which disbanded last October— debuted his first solo single off his upcoming Island Records album this week: a silky, seductive track co-written with Jason Evigan, Ammar Malik and Danny Parker that distinctly steers clear of his bubblegum-pop past and his Administration “side project,” which he established to intentionally combat the creative limits and commercial success of the Jonas Brothers.
“What was really great about this process is that it just fell in to place, there wasn’t a whole lot of intense thinking about it,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter of running with his new sound, which he described as “alternative pop with a soul-based vocals.”
He’s aware that the sharp turn may derail loyal JoBro fans. “There’s been a lot of transition over the last couple years — I’m involving them in this journey I’m about to go on. There are those that want to come on and be understanding, but not everyone will, and that’s okay. I gotta be bold enough to say that I love my fans and appreciate those that want to join me, and for those that don’t, that’s okay, there will be a whole new audience that’s opened up to this approach. … It was just about, I gotta be willing to go there because it’s gonna connect way more.”
Ahead of the album’s release this fall, the soon-to-be-released video for “Chains” casts Jonas opposite Dylan Penn, daughter of Sean Penn and Robin Wright (THR debuts an exclusive behind-the-scenes photo above). And when Jonas stopped by THR’s NYC office earlier this week, he previewed more music he recorded at L.A.’s Henson Studios, “in the old Daft Punk room, so there’s a good vibe in there.” Another album track was co-written with Mike Posner.
What do Kevin and Joe Jonas think of his new material? “As far as my brothers go, they have heard it, I played ‘Chains’ and another song called ‘Numb ‘pretty early for my brother Joe, and his reception was great,” he explained. “But it’s one of those things that I really kept to myself the whole time … I was really selective in who I let in. I didn’t really want any outside opinions.”
Yet a certain influence did creep in, as one particular track, “Jealous,” features more than a few F-bombs. Jonas attributes his dirtied vocabulary to Kingdom, Byron Balasco’s mixed martial arts drama for DirecTV’s Audience Network (premiering Oct. 8), led by Frank Grillo.
“The thing about me, when it comes to acting, is that I really do lose myself, and I have to in theory become this other person for 12 hours a day, so naturally some of that is gonna blend into your real life,” he said of his role as a fighter in the family saga, set in Venice, Calif. “Any chance I had when I wasn’t filming, I was recording. “So I think a lot of the elements — maybe some of the darkness of some of the tracks, or the approach to the writing — I was definitely influenced by what I was doing on the show. I think it’s just another continuation of me growing and evolving. … People are gonna see me in that new light, so I’m very interested to see what kind of roles come up after the show airs.”
Still, not everything about Jonas’ new direction is completely fresh, as THR reminded him that the title of his new single resembles that of his 2007 rap performance, “Nick J Is Off the Chain,” in which he waxes semi-poetic about how he’s “hot just like a tamale” and “destructive just like a tsunami. Is the nostalgia intentional?
“It is not!” he laughed. “I actually hadn’t thought about that until the title was released, and people on Twitter asked if it was a reference to that, but it’s not.”
Listen to “Chains” below:
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