I didn’t even notice whatever else was happening onstage. We eventually left our church, Assembly of God, when I was 14.
A scandal had erupted involving stolen money, and it caused a big rift in the church.
It just ended up being some weird slapstick humor that only a 10-year-old would laugh at. I had to shave every day because they wanted me to pretend like I was 16 when I was 20 (when the show was done, I cut my hair off and grew as much of a beard as I could).
We went along with it at the time, because we thought Disney was our only real shot, and we were terrified that it could all be taken away from us at any moment.
I’ll never forget our first concert: We were named J3—and we hated the name. I remember turning to my brothers before that show and saying, “Do you want our name to be J3 for the rest of our lives?
” When we got onstage, I was the one to announce to the crowd, “Hey, we’re the Jonas Brothers.” Nice and simple.
For a few years, my two brothers, our father, our backup band, and I drove around in a van from city to city, playing any venue that would have us—schools, churches, bat mitzvahs—while our mother stayed at home to take care of our youngest brother, Frankie. We opened up for the Veronicas, who had a club crowd, and we had to prove to those crowds that we could really play. It was always a struggle because every single night we were walking into hate.
Sometimes people flipped us off, threw water bottles at us.
I mean, I believe in God, and that’s a personal relationship that I have, but I’m not religious in any way. Our dad could play just about anything, and we started picking up instruments ourselves.
That’s how I fell in love with music, how I became obsessed with it.
I’d stand there, watching the singer running around the stage, owning the crowd. If I ever didn’t want to go to church on Sunday, or when I was trying to figure out what religion I wanted to be, or trying to understand spirituality, I would always have to deal with knowing that people were looking up to me.
I sat in the first pew of the church, and I had to wear a suit every Sunday, because my parents wanted me to be this role model that I didn’t always want to be.
I preferred going to punk-rock shows in small venues in New Jersey, where we grew up, wearing my jean jacket and all my band pins.