Being a part of (DIsney) comes with certain expectations. Not overtly, but there was a subtle vibe. We were working with Disney in 2007 when the Vanessa Hudgens nude-photo scandal happened. We heard that she had to be in the Disney offices for a whole day because they were trying to figure out how to keep her on lockdown. We’d hear execs talking about it, and they would tell us that they were so proud of us for not making the same mistakes, which made us feel like we couldn’t ever mess up. We didn’t want to disappoint anyone—our parents, our fans, our employers—so we put incredible pressure on ourselves, the kind of pressure that no teenager should be under.
We were just kids. That’s the reality. We were frightened little kids. So you got all this responsibility that’s foisted upon you and you’re expected to be perfect. I went through media training, and I hated it. They’d teach you how to change the subject, whenever you were asked an uncomfortable question, by saying something like, “Oh, that reminds me of my dog! I have a great story about my dog!” Playing dumb is the best way of getting out of anything.
The topic that dominated news coverage of us for a long time was the whole promise-ring thing. We couldn’t escape it. It started when I was really young—I must have been 10 or 11. There’s a program people do in some churches called True Love Waits, where you wait for marriage to have sex. Kevin and I decided to join—Nick tried it later. Fast-forward a few years, we’ve started playing music and we’re working with Disney and we have these rings.
Because of our age, because of Disney, because of those rings, there were so many things throughout our career that we had to sugarcoat. If a lyric was slightly sexual, someone at the record company would tell us we had to change it. It could be the most innocent reference, like “I’m alone in a room with you,” and it would have to go. It felt like we couldn’t be creative, so we stopped listening to them and just started handing shit in.
We decided to take the rings off a few years ago. I lost my virginity when I was 20. I did other stuff before then, but I was sexually active at 20. I’m glad I waited for the right person, because you look back and you go, “That girl was batshit crazy. I’m glad I didn’t go there.”
But I did date a lot. I used to sneak out and hook up with this one girl in her car, and some rumor came out along the lines of: “Teen pop star seen in the back of a car, in a parking lot, hooking up,” and the write-up was kind of explicit. I kept thinking, Oh my God, there’s going to be video, there’s going to be photos. The girl was also in the business, and we thought we were screwed because we were both working with Disney. It would have been the worst thing we could think of happening to us. But nothing ever came out!
One relationship that meant a lot to fans was the one I had with Demi Lovato, who I’ve known for years. We had been friends forever, we were both Disney kids, and because we played a couple in the Camp Rock Disney Channel specials—and fans liked seeing us together—we eventually dated for a month. I really got to know her and got to see the ins and outs of what she was struggling with, like drug abuse. I felt like I needed to take care of her, but at the same time I was living a lie, because I wasn’t happy but felt like I had to stay in it for her, because she needed help. I couldn’t express any of that, of course, because I had a brand to protect.
The first time I smoked weed was with Demi and Miley. I must have been 17 or 18. They kept saying, “Try it! Try it!” so I gave it a shot, and it was all right. I don’t even smoke weed that often anymore. I was caught drinking when I was 16 or 17, and I thought the world was going to collapse. But I was in another country, and it was legal there. My 21st birthday, I fell down a flight of stairs. I was unconscious that time, and my whole team was scared to death that somebody was going to get a picture. Now I appreciate wine or a vodka-soda at the end of the day every once in a while.
The Jonas Brothers’ breakup was going on for a lot longer than a lot of people thought. We hit a place where we just weren’t jelling on the same things, and we didn’t want to become a band that was worried about the fact that people didn’t understand how cool we were. The whole situation was breaking us up as a family, and we ultimately felt like we were holding each other back. I wanted to go sexier with a video, for example, and Kevin wasn’t comfortable with that, for his reasons. I mean, he’s married, and I get that. Nick also had a louder voice than me and Kevin when it came to music and major decisions—he took a leadership role in the band, which got to us after a while.Things came to a head when we had a meeting where we thought we were going to talk about how to release our new music and it ended up shifting into this huge fight. That was the first time we were really honest with one another about a lot of stuff we weren’t happy with. The fight got loud. I was screaming. When Nick presented the idea of closing a chapter and moving on, I freaked out. I didn’t know whether to pick up and leave or just punch something, because I was furious. I’d spent so long working with my brothers on this band, and in my mind, it felt like we were just giving up. It didn’t make sense to me. But once I started peeling back the layers, I understood. There were a lot of dysfunctional things going on.
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