Nick Jonas’ wish to sing and write original film theme song comes true
LOS ANGELES—Nick Jonas, who has always wanted to pen an original song for a film, got his wish with “Home,” which he composed and sang for the new animated movie, “Ferdinand.”
The song, which Nick wrote with Justin Tranter and Nick Monson, marks another milestone for the pop star since he went solo. “Home” touts acceptance, a fitting theme for director Carlos Saldanha’s adaptation of the beloved 1936 book, “The Story of Ferdinand” by author Munro Leaf and illustrator Robert Lawson.
Carlos assembled a talented voice cast to tell the story of a giant bull, Ferdinand, who prefers flowers to fighting. The cast of the 20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios’ family film includes wrestling superstar John Cena (Ferdinand), Kate McKinnon (Lupe), Gina Rodriguez (Una), David Tennant (Angus), Peyton Manning (Guapo) and Bobby Canavale (Valiente).
Nick arrived for our chat at the Fox lot in Los Angeles in casual chic—black jacket and jeans, white T-shirt and sneakers. The third of the Jonas Brothers, who disbanded in 2013, continues to find success as a solo artist with his own music career and as an actor, with credits including “Chaos Walking” (which he’s filming with Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland), “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and the TV series, “Kingdom.”
Excerpts from our talk:
How did you come up with the song? They showed me clips from the movie. Just the sweeping shots gave me a sense that the song needed to have momentum. It needed to have a chorus that felt like it was soaring.
The song has Spanish and Latino influences. Do you dance the macarena? I have tried once or twice. I didn’t do too well. I’m not much of a dancer unless I am at a wedding party and have had a few drinks and I am feeling loose.
What are your earliest memories of watching animated films? My earliest memories are watching “The Lion King.” It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s a story that is so timeless and with such a pure and beautiful message. The music in that movie is amazing, as well. I loved “Beauty and the Beast.” And I loved the new one (live-action version), as well.
The use of music in all of these movies was something that was such an incredible way of telling a story. The real turning point was the Pixar era of “Toy Story” and “Monsters, Inc.,” when everything started to evolve.
As the film suggests, don’t judge a bull by its cover. In your case, what are the misconceptions about you? I hear people say all the time, “Wow, you’re so much shorter in person.” So that is one.
But beyond that, there’s a beautiful message in this story and one that rings true to me for many reasons. The minute that my brothers and I finished our musical journey together, there was a period of self-doubt for me, where I questioned what my next steps would be, if people would take a chance on someone who was part of a boy band and someone who hasn’t seen a lot of success in the last couple of years.
Thankfully, that served as a launching pad for me to get inspired to work harder.
What advice would you give to someone who is bullied? I would encourage people of all ages to remember something that a high-level athlete told me—when you are thriving, you are true to being exactly who you’re meant to be; you serve as a mirror for people to see their shortcomings.
So you have to remember to keep your head up and know that you are actually doing a good job by being exactly who you are, full of light and love.
Did acting, especially in “Kingdom,” open more doors for you, creatively speaking? It certainly did. In every area of my life, acting and finding ways that pushed me into a project like “Kingdom” opened my mind creatively and emotionally.
You and your brothers have gone on to individual successes. But you’re the breakout artist. Do you think of that? I don’t. I was thankful to go on a ride with them and have that experience together. We chose different paths.
You’ve been famous since you were very young. How does it change when you get older? There are two ways to look at it. I’ve already had almost two careers in a very short life—the time with my brothers and my solo efforts. It’s the greatest honor in the world to make music and to still have people care.
Or to do film projects like I’m doing now and have people still hire me. I am shocked by it myself. But those moments when the lack of privacy becomes frustrating, I rely on my family, friends and the people closest to me to feel that support and bring me back to reality and help me stay sane.
What is the best and worst thing about being a pop star? I get to do what I love—to sing in front of people and all of that is amazing. One of the best things is that I get to eat at some great places that I probably couldn’t get to eat at.
The downside is that sometimes you have good intentions and you say something that maybe is out of context or becomes an issue, or some of your shortcomings in general are in front of everyone’s face. Those moments of embarrassment—I have to live out in front of the public eye.
When did you realize that you love to perform? I was in a hair salon with my mother. She was getting her hair done, and I was singing as I always did. I sang Celine Dion or something.
Somebody heard it and said to my mother, “You should take your son to see this manager, because my son is in ‘Les Mis’ on Broadway right now. Your son could do it, too.”
I remember thinking to myself at that early age I could do that and it would be amazing.
So, my parents took me to see the show (“Les Miserables”). But the minute I got on the Broadway stage for the first time and looked out in the crowd and was surrounded by people who loved what I loved—musical theater, performing, singing and dancing—it made sense.
Did you ever suffer from stage fright? Yes, in “A Christmas Carol.” I played Scrooge at 8, who is the main character at 8 years old. I understudied (the actor who played) Tiny Tim.
In the eight years that the show ran, none of the Tiny Tims ever got sick, so they didn’t rehearse the kids (understudies). I came in one day, two hours before the show and they said Tiny Tim is sick and you are on.
I did two hours of rehearsal. At 7 years old, I went on as Tiny Tim that night. The conductor started the music, and I just blanked on the lyrics. It was probably two or three bars of music which, to me, felt like a lifetime. The lyrics came back to me and I expected him (director) to come backstage after the show to reprimand me.
Instead, he said it happens to everybody and it’s going to happen to me again and that it’s alright, “You did a great job.”
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