Photography by Mr Angelo Pennetta | Styling by Mr Dan May
Words by Mr Jeremy Langmead
Some 21-year-old pop stars, adulated by millions since their mid-teens, cocooned by entourages whenever they leave a hotel room, and protected by publicists at every enquiry, do not make the most scintillating company. Many go off the rails, others can barely utter a sentence (they have someone else to do it for them), and few grow into affable young men with admirable manners and a good line in conversation.
Somehow Mr Jonas has broken the mould. After huge success as a member of the Grammy-nominated, purity-ring wearing Jonas Brothers (the third album with his two siblings topped the Billboard chart in 2008), a successful Disney Channel movie or two, a reality TV series, more than 2,250,000 Twitter followers and 942,936 Facebook fans and counting, this American singer seems very grounded indeed. And we should know: in the past three months MR PORTER has had the pleasure of Mr Jonas' company three times in three different cities.
We first made his acquaintance at our dinner held at the Chateau Marmont in LA in honour of the designer Mr Simon Spurr. Mr Jonas is a big fan of fashion (more of which later) and turned out to be delightful company: one of those rare beasts who, despite being in the spotlight and the subject of a thousand press junket questions, manages to engage his dinner companions by asking, as well as answering, questions - a rare attribute in certain demographics today.
A few weeks later, the MR PORTER team drew up outside the Principe hotel in Milan where we were staying for the biannual menswear shows to find the entrance surrounded by gaggles of teenage girls peering eagerly into the tinted windows of each car that pulled up. They appeared very disappointed when they saw it was only us; we were equally disappointed to discover that we were not the reason they'd been camping outside on the pavement for the previous two days.
Away from the mayhem, tucked inside the hotel's resplendent lobby, Mr Jonas was taking tea with his team; he chatted happily to well-wishers who stopped by to say hello; and later that evening was equally comfortable enjoying the hotel's lively bar scene. The only clue there was a pop star in the house was the sizeable bouncers and the fact that one of the hotel's lifts had been cordoned off for sole use by the Jonas entourage.
The singer was in Milan to attend the Calvin Klein fashion show while on a promotional tour of Europe prior to releasing his first solo album. Leaving the comfort and adulation teen band membership must give you, and launching yourself as a "grown-up" artist, must be a daunting task. You just
know you're going to be judged: judged by the teen fans who never want you to stop being a prepubescent Jonas brother; judged by the big boy pop world who'll be very suspicious that you've decided to try to join their club; and judged by your peers who've tried and failed to successfully make the transition from cute to cool.
"It's bizarre to think it's all on me this time," he says, when we meet again in a photographic studio in north London for this shoot. "But the feedback from fans so far has been great. But it also helps that I have my brothers' support. They understood that I wanted to do something on my own, and told me to take my time." Have they heard his album yet? "Yes, I got a lift in my brother's car and he had it playing. I didn't even know he had a copy - he must have got it from the record company. Luckily, they really like it."
Mr Jonas says his solo debut, due out in September, is an upbeat album with a dance/electro sound. "It's fun; something you'd listen to when hanging out with your friends," he says. The lyrics, however, are very honest and raw. The first single, 'See No More', which he co-wrote with Mr Chris Brown, is a mid-tempo ballad about the breakdown of a relationship (he split up with the Twilight actress, Ms Ashley Greene, earlier this year). "It was an emotional, upsetting song to write, but I truly find music the easiest way through which to express my feelings. Releasing a song is a bit like handing your journal over for people to read."
For the moment, his legions of female fans will be delighted to hear he says he's enjoying being single, although there are rumours he's dating the Marc Jacobs model Ms Karlie Kloss. "It's nice to focus on one thing sometimes, and for now that's my music. It's tough when you're far away from someone for long periods of time and so when you're single you don't need to feel bad about that. "But," he adds, "you're always looking for the right person." And who would that perfect person be? "Hmm, that's hard to say. I change my mind all the time; and if you do name someone it's then awkward when you bump into them." When asked to name who he thinks is, or was, the most beautiful woman in the world, he finds it easier. "Elizabeth Taylor. In her heyday, she was amazing," he smiles.
Now that the awkward questions are over, he gets ready to model for the fashion pictures above, something he clearly enjoys. "I love fashion," he explains. "Over the past year I've got heavily into it. Whether I'm going out for the night, or during the day, I love putting on something that pops and makes you feel comfortable." Brands he favours include Simon Spurr, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Burberry and Calvin Klein. "I'm a big shoe guy, too. I have far too many pairs. Whenever there's a new style out, I'll text my stylist: 'Can we get a pair of those?'"
For all the plush hotel suites, limos, assistants and fashion front rows these young prodigies have access to, it's a strange life they lead. Although Mr Jonas gets to travel the world in style, he's been on the road for months with only two days off at home in LA, has a diary that's fully booked with commitments until next spring, and has fans and record company executives closely watching his every move - eager to see if he can do a Timberlake and hop over the Disney fence to mainstream credibility. But, happily, he seems to enjoy the pressure. And if he does find it stressful, he has the good grace to hide it well. Mind you, I suppose there aren't many jobs where you leave work with a new Givenchy jacket and a pair of Margiela trainers. Mr Jonas liked them so much, and asked so politely, we couldn't say no. After all, most pop stars would have just nicked them and not said a word.
'see no more'
Mr Jonas' album, Fast Life, is out on 6 September