As a co-founder of the New Jersey-bred Jonas Brothers, Joe Jonas knows a thing or two about being a teen-pop superstar. But when asked if he’d accept an offer to join One Direction — should the London-bred superstar teen-pop group reunite and need a new singer — Jonas politely but firmly declined.
“I think I’d say: ‘Thank you, but no; I’m really enjoying the new band I’m in’,” he said.
That band, which kicks off its 2017 winter tour Tuesday at San Diego’s House of Blues, is DNCE — as in “dance” minus the “a.”
It’s an appropriate moniker for the Jonas-led pop-funk quartet, whose propulsive musical mantra seems to echo the title of the 1990 Dee-Lite hit, “Groove is in the Heart.”
“It would be a surprise to a lot of people, but I grew up listening to funk,” he said, speaking from a Los Angeles rehearsal studio.
“My parents played albums by Sly & The Family Stone and Earth, Wind & Fire. I also love reggae. There’s a lot of different artists I love. It’s encouraging to find inspiration for music in a lot of different things.”
Those inspirations come together in the upbeat music of DNCE, which teams Jonas with South Korean guitarist JinJoo Lee, 26, acrobatic bassist Cole Whittle, 34, and former Jonas Brothers drummer Jack Lawless, 29, Joe’s former roommate.
Together, they have formed a tight bond that helps Jonas do what he likes best. On tour they are augmented by a four-piece brass section.
Several horn players also accompanied DNCE when the band performed Dec. 31 at the nationally televised “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” show in Time Square, prior to Mariah Carey’s much publicized lip-syncing fiasco.
Carey’s representatives contend her performance was done live-to-track. But visual and audio evidence indicates at least some of her performance was entirely pre-recorded.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Jonas said. “I feel like there’s probably a lot of different fingers being pointed. But, at the end of the day, Mariah is an iconic musician. And her legacy will live on past one bad performance.”
Was any of DNCE’s New Year’s Eve performance pre-recorded, like Carey’s?
“DNCE prides itself on playing live and singing live,” Jonas replied. “We played a birthday party yesterday and me and JinJoo got up and played ‘Cake by the Ocean’ acoustically.
“We still have that core (live) sound. But, at end of the day, there are instruments you can’t play on stage because you only have four people in the band. So, sonically, you have to fatten things up and get some help here and there.
“That’s the way it is. It’s a competitive world we live, musically. It’s not even a big deal in my mind anymore. Of course, some bands would never think about having tracks play (during their concerts).”
Can Jonas recall his worst show? Indeed, he can.
“I’ve fallen plenty of times (on stage) with my brothers, and it’s always interesting to deal with injuries when performing live,” he said. “I’ve had bad stomach problems where you have to run to the bathroom (mid-concert).”
“We played a show with Slipknot. Someone called it ‘the most confusing show ever!’ I love them.”
Having his cake and eating it, too
DNCE has given its famous leader a second lease on life, creatively speaking. He doesn’t take that chance for granted.
Released in 2011, Joe Jonas’ solo debut album, “Fastlife,” came and went with little impact. After the Jonas Brothers split up in 2013, he spent two years experimenting and finding his footing anew.
Make that — with a nod to James Brown — his get on the good footing.
Although Jonas was not yet 2 when C+C Music Factory scored its 1990 hit, “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” those sentiments seem to now be a driving force for him.
When: 7 p.m Tuesday
Where: House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave., downtown
Tickets: $29.50-$55, plus service charges
Phone: (800) 745-3000
In 2015, DNCE released the ridiculously infectious song “Cake by the Ocean,” in which Jonas vows to “go (expletive) crazy!” It was accompanied by an equally infectious — and unabashedly silly — video featuring a bevy of bikini models on, appropriately, a beach.
The video now has more than 233 million online views. The song’s title stems from, of all things, a Scandinavian misunderstanding.
“We were working with some producers from Sweden,” Jonas explained, “and one of them confused ‘sex on the beach’ — like the drink — with ‘cake by the ocean.’ And, somehow, we wrote a song about it.”
Has Jonas, who will be featured in the upcoming Guess underwear “hero” line, ever had cake by the ocean?
“Yes,” he replied, laughing. “I have!”
Growing more serious, he acknowledged he had no idea “Cake by the Ocean” would be even a minor hit.
“We were writing it and thinking it was really fun,” Jonas said. “But I really didn’t think much of it. I thought: ‘This will be great song to roll with and see what our next move is — it’s a very good template of what the (album) will be’.”
Intriguingly, he credits “Cake by the Ocean’s” unconventional musical construction — at least in part — to his abiding passion for jazz in general and trumpet icon Miles Davis in particular.
“I’m a huge fan of Miles,” said Jonas, who cites “Bitches Brew” and “The Man with the Horn” as two of his favorite Davis albums.
“What I love about jazz is there’s no real rule book of how it’s supposed to be structured; I think it’s beautiful when it’s very abstract. And with (jazz influencing my) songwriting, it’s encouraging when you put a song together and don’t have to worry about the conventional verse-chorus-verse (approach).
“Even with ‘Cake by the Ocean,’ it was wacky tune I thought wouldn’t translate to a lot of people. It’s been really encouraging to see it do so well.”
Jonas was barely 15 when the Jonas Brothers released their 2005 debut single, “Please Be Mine.” When he was 12, he was cast in age 12 when he was cast in Baz Luhrmann’s Broadway production of La Bohème.
He chuckled when asked if he worked any part time jobs before music and TV stardom beckoned.
“No, I never had another job.” Jonas said. “It was theater I worked in; I did ‘Oliver’ and La Bohème on Broadway. So I’ve been able to have experiences on stage that weren’t necessarily roles.. For example being able to be on stage and write your own music and perform it and go off script is what I prefer. But it was a good way to get started.
“I think music — specifically for myself — when I was younger, it was just a joy. I didn’t think of it as a career. It was: ‘Wow, this is really exciting! I get to do this all over the world!’
“Now, as I get older, it’s the same joy. I still get to travel the world and see amazing places. It’s much better than anything else I could put my mind to.”
As for the key to success, Jonas is convinced it’s a willingness to fail.
“I think, honestly, it’s just being able to dare to suck, as we learned early on with songwriting,” he said. “Being able to work out all the ideas and be collaborative, enjoy every moment — and practice and practice and practice. Do as many shows as you can, that’s my advice.”