It’s been quite the ride so far for Byron Bay local Toni Watson – aka Tones And I.
Originally from the Mornington Peninsula, Watson took a trip to Byron in early 2018 and took a chance on busking. On the first day she had crowds spilling on to the street, so she quit her retail job and decided to make Byron Bay her new home. Since then, Tones And I has won Battle of the Buskers at Buskers By The Creek, and has been selling out local and interstate venues and pulling record crowds with lines around the block. Now finally, she has released her debut single ‘Johnny Run Away’, a melodic slice of Nordic-inspired electro-pop that tells a very important story. We caught up with the enchanting chanteuse just after the song’s release on unearthed, where it’s been burning up the airwaves on triple j to instant acclaim.
How are you feeling after seeing the epic response to ‘Johnny Run Away’?
[It] was crazy, I was so caught off guard, I love the track so much but to see that others feel the same way is mind blowing out-of-this-world shizz. I’m honestly just thankful, thankful to myself, thankful to my team and thankful to everyone and triple j and unearthed for really giving this track every opportunity to thrive.
For someone who is so accustomed to performing live, how did you find the recording process of your debut?
I find the recording process really interesting, I usually know exactly what I want as I have already played around at home with different options and won’t go into a studio without being fully prepared. However, I have always been intrigued about experimenting with producers and I think having another musical mind involved has always proven to work really well.
Did it present any unexpected challenges?
Recording my live demos was interesting, we recorded all the loops one by one and then recorded the vocals fully live in one take. Some songs have over 45 loops so it can really be very time consuming when we record them one by one.
How was it working with Konstantin Kersting of The Belligerents?
Kon’s a legend, he just ‘gets it,’ he sees what I see, we work very well together, he’s such an easy guy to work with and always listens to what the artist wants.
Can you give us a bit of a backstory behind ‘Johnny Run Away’?
Johnny is about my best friend who was telling me the story of how he came out at a young age to a disapproving father. It’s his story, I wanted to relay to people that we spend so much time judging strangers for their own decisions that we forget that they are going through judgement and rejection within their own family, let alone the public.
Why do you think it’s important to tell stories of people who face judgement and prejudice, through art?
It’s a way to stand up for what is right, it’s my way of doing it, turning something horrible into a message that people can really think about. I have never written a song about love, every single one of my songs is about someone I have met in my life that has left a mark in my heart or something I honestly feel. That’s way more important to me.
What does the rest of 2019 hold for you?
Hopefully I get to spend my year playing as much music as possible, writing as much music as possible, playing basketball and just enjoying this crazy experience.
You can listen to ‘Johnny Run Away’ on Spotify now.