"It's the madhouse of everything that has gone on in the last couple of years..." - Tones and I talks us through the making of her debut album
Toni Watson, better known as Tones and I, might have come to public attention with her insatiable 2019 hit 'Dance Monkey', but that was far from here her first musical inroad.
Watson has never confirmed her age, suffice to say that reports of her being just 19 when 'Dance Monkey' hit were wide of the mark, but strands of her past endeavours soon came to light. She busked for a while, enjoyed a presence on YouTube singing acapella covers, and, eventually, she won Battle of the Buskers at Buskers by the Creek, a contest on the Gold Coast in her native Australia.
That caught the idea of a local record label and her debut single, 'Johnny Run Away', dropped in February of 2019. Three months later, 'Dance Monkey' was released, and everything changed for Watson.
'Dance Monkey' has enjoyed a ludicrous ride. It's been streamed over two BILLION times and topped the chart in more than 30 countries. We've all heard it, a lot, which is why for her debut LP, Watson has chosen to showcase other songs.
Speaking to hmv.com, she told us all about what went into making the album...
You have, in theory, got your whole life to write your debut album, when were the songs for this album written? Do they date back a long way or are they quite recent?
"I did write some of the songs last year in and out of lockdown, then some that didn't make the cut from that time. I struggled to feel creative during a lot of the lockdown, so I didn't do too much from there. Then earlier this year, after the death of a close friend, I struggled to write music as everything that I was doing was coming out sad."
"After a chat with a friend who suggested I come up to Sydney, I did just that. Had a change of scenery, got into the recording studio and the rest of the album flowed from there."
A lot of the album was made during various lockdowns, how did that affect the writing process? Did you find it difficult to get inspiration?
"Even though I was lucky enough to live with a bunch of my best mates during the lockdown, I did find it difficult to motivate myself or find inspiration, I guess when it's like waking up to groundhog day every day, that creates a bit of a mental block. In saying that, 'Won't Sleep' wasn't written during lockdown, but was inspired by the way my housemates and I lived through the lockdown."
You worked with some great producers on the record, Dann Hume, Randy Belculfine and Capi, can you talk us through the album’s collaborators?
"All of those guys are incredible talents. Dann is someone I could work with forever, Capi worked on 'Westside Lobby' which has become a very special song for me, and I met Randy in America, worked with him and then realised that he is crazy good at what he does, and had to get him work on this album."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme to it?
"Well, I wrote most of the album's songs after 'Dance Monkey' was released, so with what came with the success of that song, the ups and downs of 2020 and then one of my best friends passing away earlier this year, the theme is the title: Welcome to the Mad House. It's the madhouse of everything that has gone on in the last couple of years."
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
"It's 'Fall Apart'. It was such a hard time having my good friend pass away and trying to get the words out without crying."
And which came together most quickly?
"It's 'I'm a mess'. I don't know why but it just kind of happened in an hour. It's also my favourite song."
When did you decide that Welcome to the Madhouse was the right fit for the album’s title?
"The last two years were so crazy and this album is all about that and a chance for me to introduce people to that so it became a really fitting title."
How are your live plans shaping up? How’s the rest of 2021 looking? When might we see you in the UK?
"I have a few shows in Australia planned for later this month, and then some festivals over summer. I actually just announced my Europe tour for February next year. The UK on Valentine's Day, a fitting day to bring love to you guys!"
Tones and I's debut album, Welcome to the Madhouse, is out now in hmv stores and available to purchase here in hmv's online store.