It was on their way to perform at the State Fair of Texas last October that the Jonas brothers—Kevin, 20, Joe, 18, and Nick, 15—fully realized just how much of a phenomenon they'd become. Before the band landed at a local airport, event organizers advised the band that traffic was too heavy for them to drive to the fair if they wanted to start their gig on time. That's when the group decided to take one of their first helicopter rides. Flying over gridlocked highways, they marveled at the vast number of people traveling to see them perform. At 20,000 plus, the turnout for the Jonas Brothers nearly surpassed those for all acts in the history of the fair, nearly tying with Elvis Presley's. "I thought, 'Wow, this is really awesome,'" says Nick. "It was one of those moments where we just sat back in shock."
Many helicopter rides and sold-out crowds later, the Jonas brothers are starting to adjust to life as bonafide superstars. In the past year, they've opened for Miley Cyrus
on her sold-out Hannah Montana tour (they also did a guest spot on her Hannah series), received their first platinum record during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, popped up on Oprah
and jammed out on Dancing with the Stars. "Ellen was the coolest experience, and Oprah
was really cool," says Joe, who was also blown away by a couple of recent visits to Washington, D.C. "A high point was being at the White House with the president," he says. "He was so nice." Kevin, meanwhile, still gets goose bumps thinking about the way they spent New Year's Eve: in Times Square putting the rock in The 2008 New Year's Rockin' Eve. "It was the most unbelievable experience watching the ball drop," he says. As for Dancing, the night of the boys' appearance, "they said it was one of the loudest audiences that they've ever had," says Nick.
Of course not all the repercussions of success are positive. "None of the boys can walk through a mall now," notes their dad, Kevin. Still, having to contend with overzealous fans sure beats having no one notice you at all.
In August 2006, when the band's first album, It's About Time, came out, it had lackluster sales and half-hearted backing from the label. The Jonas Brothers asked to be released from their contract in September. Although they continued to tour, they were struggling to pay the bills. "Our savings were spent, credit cards were maxed out," recalls Kevin Sr. "We were selling T-shirts for gasoline money at every gig."
The following December the band got a second shot at the big time: Hollywood Records (the label whose roster includes Miley Cyrus
and Raven-Symoné) signed them. That led to the Hannah tour, a Disney Channel deal and an invite to play at the American Music Awards. "That," Kevin Sr. says of the AMAs, "was huge." Just weeks later their album sales doubled.
And while the boys' hectic schedule—their weeks are booked with radio and TV interviews and magazine photo shoots amid the usual slate of tour dates and personal appearances—can be grueling, "the minute we get onstage and feel the fans' energy," says the younger Kevin, "we know we can get through anything."
Good thing, because the year ahead is packed with all sorts of new ventures: There's a High School Musical-style Disney Channel movie, Camp Rock, coming in June. The band's The Burning Up tour kicks off July 4, and on Aug. 12 they'll release their third album, titled A Little Bit Longer. And their day-to-day lives will be chronicled on a new Disney Channel reality show. Oh, and all three are set to star in a TV series, J.O.N.A.S.: Junior Operatives Networking as Spies, scheduled to go into production in September.
Just to remind themselves how grateful they are for all their success, before every performance the boys and their crew huddle backstage for a special ritual. "We say, 'Living the dream, living the dream,'" says Joe. "And then we clap all the way to the stage."