Nick Jonas says his “guitar solo debacle” with Kelsea Ballerini at the ACM Awards led him to seek therapy

Nick Jonas and Kelsea Ballerini onstage at the 2016 ACM Awards
(Image credit: Kevin Winter / ACM2016 / Getty)

Nick Jonas has said that he sought therapy following his disastrous guitar solo guest spot with Kelsea Ballerini at 2016’s ACM Awards.

It’s the situation every guitarist fears: you’re readying yourself for a solo, you hear the cue, play the first note and then… nothing. It’s gone from your mind – and nothing is coming to replace it. 

That is exactly what happened to Jonas and now the musician has revealed that he found the experience so traumatic it led him to seek therapy. 

Jonas was speaking on Dax Shepherd’s Armchair Expert podcast and, on prompting from his host, revisited a few mishaps from a long career in showbiz. However, he highlights what he calls the “really tragic guitar solo debacle” at the ACM Awards as particularly bruising.

“That happened on live TV,” says Jonas. “In retrospect, I can kind of laugh about how big I thought it was. But it did travel more than I wish it would have – and it did cause me to go into therapy.”

Jonas’s experience is, as Shepherd eloquently puts it, “the great nightmare we all have” as performers. The musician is asked what happened and he explains that he was more than prepared for the moment. 

“Kelsea and I had a couple of performances together and this was one of them,” recalls Jonas. “I’ve rehearsed it a million times, I’m feeling really confident about it –I’m not even really thinking about it as a thing that’s going to be problematic. 

“I started off fine and as I walked towards her, I just went completely blank. I hit a wrong note and blacked out, basically. I clocked that it was wrong and I couldn’t stop.”

The whole thing only lasted seconds, but – as is often the case – the memory has nonetheless haunted Jonas ever since. 

“Until this day and hours after unpacking it, I can’t really figure out exactly what happened,” he reflects. “But I was rushed right into a car and rushed into a plane right after it – and I looked at my manager and said, ‘I think that was bad.’ I was, like, in shock.”

On the plus side, Jonas notes that despite being a “really traumatic moment”, it made him question the pressure he put on himself “to be perfect and to always be on” and he ultimately credits it for some later “healing”.

The star also reveals it wasn’t the first time it had happened to him, recalling a time he performed a Cole Porter track in front of an audience of the late-singer’s estate, only to forget the words and wind up scatting. He also notes similar experiences from his early Broadway performances.

“[It’s happened] many times and I actually view them as like core memories,” admits Jonas. “It was traumatising. But I know it didn’t matter as much as I thought it did – and that’s always the case.”

Words to live by for all performers. Head to Armchair Expert to listen to the full interview.

Meanwhile, if Jonas’s tale of woe has left you panicking, this lesson on 5 ways to start a guitar solo will give you some extra tips, in case of emergency... 

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar,, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.