The rise of the Jonas Brothers begins, in a twist, with its youngest member, Nick, whose Broadway roles (Les Misérables) earned him a record deal at Columbia. The Jonas family is devoutly Christian dad Kevin Sr., an ordained minister, met mom Denise in a church singing group so the then 11-year-old naturally put together a spiritual album. But Steve Greenberg, who at the time was the president of Columbia Records and had previously scored with Hanson and the Baha Men on his indie S-Curve Records, cooked up the idea for a brotherly three-play. ''I had not heard a young person's voice as tremendous as Nick's since [Taylor] Hanson,'' he remembers. ''I said, 'Do you guys play instruments?''' So Nick kept singing, also picking up piano and rhythm guitar; Joe took lead vocals; and Kevin became their guitar virtuoso. They also dropped the Christian bent, at least musically: ''It's just where the music led us,'' Nick says. ''I think we can make a bigger impact in the Top 40 world.''
But a power struggle at Columbia saw the departure of their champion, Greenberg, so after the group's It's About Time flopped, selling a disappointing 62,000 copies, they asked to be released from their contract. ''I remember thinking, Oh, this really stinks,'' says Joe. ''Is this the end of our beginning career?'' But then, Disney's Hollywood Records (also home to chart-toppers Hilary Duff and the Plain White T's) came calling in December 2006. ''By the time we were on Hollywood, we made the record that we really wanted to make,'' says Nick of their current disc.
And Disney was ready to promote it with its star-making machine. Knowing the anticipation for the TV premiere of High School Musical 2, the network planned the trio's guest spot on Hannah Montana to air immediately following the ratings juggernaut (just two weeks after Jonas Brothers was released). While the brothers had carved out hit singles on Radio Disney before, an astounding 10.7 million viewers tuned in that Friday, effectively hitching them to Cyrus' world-dominating star. ''We don't just find talent,'' explains Disney Channels Worldwide president of entertainment Gary Marsh. ''We groom the talent, and getting them guest spots on existing series is a way to get their feet wet.'' Next, the group landed a featured spot on Cyrus' red-hot fall tour. By November, their album was certified gold; one month later, platinum.
NEXT PAGE: ''Those paparazzi people...they pressure situations. But we're just going to stay true to who we are, so it doesn't really matter.''