Nick Jonas on Joining ‘The Voice,’ Grammy Highs and Lows, and a New Album With His Brothers

The new judge says the advertised rivalry with Blake Shelton is mostly illusory... but his Grammy telecast "greens" were real.

Nick Jonas The Voice
Courtesy of Mitchell Haddad/NBC

Coming into his new role as one of the principals on “The Voice,” Nick Jonas has recently been spending his time as one of three voices, having successfully reunited with his brothers last year. In between bouts of Season 18 “Voice” work (already taped shows begin airing Feb. 24, and the show turns live in May), he’s scheduled a Jonas Brothers residency in Las Vegas in April, plus work on not just one but two new albums with the bros, who’ll join him as guest coaches on the NBC show.

The ad campaign for “The Voice” has Blake Shelton basically saying he’s going to go after you. Is that part of the judges’ dynamic, that you’re a designated target this season?

I think any time you have a new guy, you can expect to be a little bit of a target. But Blake is very good at doing his Blake thing. Contrary to his public comments about bullying me as the new guy, we have a lot of fun together and found a really good dynamic early on. I think the show only works when everyone’s having a good time, and Blake really sets that tone for the rest of us. I probably spent the most time with John (Legend) before we got into this, and getting to hang out was a icebreaker, jumping in. I will say that the first day, they take it easy, and by day two, the gloves came off, and I was sort of thrown at how drastic a change it was. If you leave yourself open, even just a little bit, they will pounce, especially on the blind (auditions), when you’re trying to bring the artists over.

After presumably seeing it on TV for years, has anything about doing it surprised you?

Luckily, my brother Joe did the show in Australia, and I spent time with him over there, which was really helpful, just to have a sense of how the show works from someone that had already done it. … Having my brothers on as mentors has made things pretty easy as far as just not having to build chemistry with new people. I think they genuinely cared, which was the main thing. Someone else that sits there might be promoting something, but when they’re your family, they’re going to go that extra mile to make sure that they really help the artist in whatever way they can.

You pay homage to three classic movies in your video for “What a Man Gotta Do,” the first single from your next album.

We were first circling around just “Grease,” and talking to Joseph Kahn, the director, we just started ideating around what else it could be. Eventually I came back with a thought that we could each pay homage to our favorite iconic music and dance moments in films. I’m a huge fan of Tom Cruise and always dreamed about being able to recreate “Risky Business.” And then Kevin with “Say Anything” was the perfect third act.

How’d you feel about performing on the Grammys?

While it was amazing to be back on that stage and an honor to be nominated once again, it was a tough day for everybody. Being in that building that morning after what happened was really strange, and I think my brothers and I were all really affected by it. So it was a somber atmosphere, while also, I think, a day that was in our minds kind of a second bite of the apple and dreams coming true in a sense. But my heart go out to the families and loved ones of the lives that were lost, and being in the house that Kobe built that the day of his loss was really sad.

On social media, you took it in good humor when fans spotted that you had something in your teeth, tweeting, “At least you know I eat my greens.”

Listen, I can’t say that it wasn’t an embarrassing moment. But it was kind of, I think, also brilliant, in a sense. And after I let my disappointment sit there for a second, I thought, “I better just take this on the chin. … Of course I have spinach on my teeth. Of course.”

Ryan Tedder recently told us he was executive-producing two more albums for you, after your comeback release last year, and they both could come out in 2020. Three albums in close succession would be unusual. Are you making up for lost time?

Tedder is all about wanting us to enjoy this ride. Beyond just “Happiness Begins” and that album cycle, I think we all felt there was even more to say. And as we started the process again with some of the same collaborators and some new ones, we were so inspired that it just made sense to start thinking about this as a non-traditional album cycle. And that’s where the idea came to do possibly two albums this year, or a version of that — it could still be an album this year and another the following. But “making up for lost time” is pretty accurate.

As you said, you’re doing a nontraditional cycle. So you’ve got a Vegas residency coming up, and then with the new album presumably on the way, do you do yet another world tour for that? Or could it be one perpetually on-and-off tour when the cycle of releasing records is changing so much? 

I think you have to accept that it’s a new day and there are no rules. Streaming’s played a big part in opening things up so that it’s a little less structured, which I think is incredible. I love the traditional album model, as a way of creating and as a structure. But I also love the freedom now to be able to kind of do whatever feels right. So I think that extends to touring as well. We’ll do whatever makes sense for us. It might be finish up the Vegas shows this year and whatever other kind of spot dates we do, and then maybe next year it’s a tour, or it’s a combination of the Vegas shows and some other things. It’s really up in the air. The nice part is that the way in which we create doesn’t dictate how we have to tour or perform our music anymore. It’s an exciting time, for sure.

Ten years ago this month, you were touring as “Nick Jonas and the Administration.” Anything you miss about being a solo artist?

One of the new rules we’ve set up in this next chapter is to say we didn’t have to stop doing things individually, both as artists and in our home lives. I’ve got “The Voice” and acting projects and other film and TV projects in development, which I think kind of fulfills what being a solo artist did, while still getting to create with my best friends and tour the world with my family. So no, I’m not missing the solo thing. I’m getting to do both.