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Prince alums help Nick Jonas find the funk

His name is Nick and he is funky.

OK, maybe Nick Jonas isn’t completely funky, but he’s working up to it.

You won’t catch the youngest Jonas in head-to-toe purple or getting freaky with his guitar (at least not yet). But the Jo Bro’s first solo tour – which stops at a sold-out Orpheum on Tuesday – has reunited a band of Prince alums.

Billed as the Administration, Jonas’ backing band includes former New Power Generation members Tommy Barbarella on keyboards, Michael Bland on drums and Sonny Thompson on guitar.

“When I met with John Fields, my producer,” Jonas said from a tour stop in Washington, D.C., “and talked with him about the style of music that I wanted on my solo album (“Who I Am,” out Feb. 2), he suggested a couple guys he knew from when he lived in Minneapolis. It’s definitely made this tour a different kind of thing. It’s really an honor to be surrounded with these guys and their talent.”

Playing with Prince-approved musicians can be intimidating, especially if you’re a 17-year-old. But Nick is working on relaxing and just enjoying his first trek without big brothers Joe (20) and Kevin (22) at his side.

“I’m trying to take the approach of absorbing and learning as much as I can from (my band),” he said. “They have seen so much in their careers that I just hope to become a better player as I work with them.”

Known for super-slick, heavily produced, utterly sanitized power pop, the Jonas Brothers have a sound that’s kid-tested and mom-approved. While a solo Nick isn’t going all “Darling Nikki” on his tween fans (no guitar humping for this squeaky-clean minor), he does want to add soul, grit and groove to his sound.

Along with songs from “Who I Am” and a few choice Jo Bro cuts, the set list includes covers of Rare Earth, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson; no Prince yet, maybe it will take him a few years to work up to moaning “Ooh, ooh, Nikki.” Or maybe not.

These artists, including His Purple Majesty, inform where Jonas says he’s headed sonically.

“The writing for this record is different because the inspirations for it were different,” he said. “Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Bill Withers, of course Prince, and others played a big part in helping me create the sound for this record.”

It’s a more adult, more mature sound. And Jonas says it’s attracting a (slightly) older crowd. The singer/songwriter/guitarist is evolving and he’s sees his fans evolving along with him.

“The trick is being yourself,” he said. “If you try to push the boundaries too much, that can be a problem. But this album and tour is about being myself and that’s why it works.”

One thing Nick stands firm on is that his evolution won’t include outgrowing his brothers. Ignoring rock’s history of bitter sibling battles (the Kinks, Oasis, the Black Crowes), he believes there will always be a place for Kevin and Joe beside him.

“You can’t break up brothers,” Nick said. “We are going to continue to make music for a long time together, continue to tour together – 2010 will be another busy year for us individually and together. If I didn’t have their support going into this project, it would be a lot different, but I do. And knowing they support me and are proud of me makes it all worth it. They came to the first two shows in Dallas and supported me there, and it was great.”

If only Noel and Liam Gallagher could share that kind of love.



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