Tones and I on his first album: Grief, life after Dance Monkey and disconnecting from the trolls
Tones and I has just released their album Welcome To The Madhouse. Photo / Supplied
An artist’s next move after a big hit is always watched closely, but Tones and I have found a way to release the pressure.
Her new album, Welcome To The Madhouse, is an introspective commentary on what it meant to go viral with Dance Monkey, but it’s also a record that captures the complexity of her as an artist.
Speaking to the Herald on the phone, Toni Watson speaks enthusiastically about her next chapter and how the pandemic and heartache have influenced her album.
Her close friend Ben Tournier – whom she calls T – was killed in a car crash in January and her grief ended up being the common thread of her album.
“Come in March , I still wasn’t able to write in the studio or really do anything. “
“I was going through a tough time because I couldn’t write a song that wasn’t about him,” she explains, and the songs about him weren’t working. But advice from a friend, look up and find the sun on a cloudy day, was the fortuitous line that was the catalyst for the writing of the track Cloudy Day and the end of the album.
“And then all the other songs came out in two weeks,” she said. “And I don’t know what happened with that song, it just kind of changed everything.”
“I didn’t have enough songs to play a whole setlist. So if someone expects something from me, they’re wrong,” she said of one of the tracks on the record, Bars. It’s not a pop song that fans unfamiliar with its busting days might be taken aback.
Although they are confident in what she means, Tones and I were not immune to doubts.
“I was really nervous,” she admits, thinking about what went through her mind while working on the album during the pandemic.
“I haven’t been around for long, and if after that I can’t tour, I can’t sell the same shows,” she says.
But now she’s able to see the past year as a mix of good and bad, a space to spend some quality time with a friend T who died in January of this year.
“I mean, there’s good and bad in everything, but mostly I think there was good because we actually spent the year with T. I wrote Fly Away and a few other songs on the album, ”she said.
“We had no idea this would be our last time together, and we had the trip of a lifetime [while on holiday],” she says.
Tones intended to release the album last August, but realized the timing wasn’t right. For an artist who has grown as big as her with her viral success, this could have been a tough pill to swallow.
But a theme throughout her work and artist form goes with what her gut tells her.
“This will always be my first album. So I had to make sure [it was right]. “
To describe the album, she uses the word erratic – hence the title. For her, it doesn’t fit any genre or theme.
“The only thing that’s constant is my voice, and the rest is just my erratic emotions all the way through the lockdown, all the way down the street, all the way through working in retail itself, everything. throughout the tours. The songs came out of those moments. “
And putting the album together meant taking advantage of different periods in her life and being honest in her songwriting, including tackling the online bullying she faced.
His song Westside Lobby is a song on record that sums up that message.
“So many artists around the world are allowed to talk about money and beaches and all that and I was like ‘no, that’s not what I wanna do. But what I wanna do is that. is giving me the green light.
“You know, I’ve been through hell, like the mill and back with online bullying, like we all do,” and Tones knows a lot of his fans can relate to that.
“I was tired of putting myself down so much,” she said.
So who is Tones and I now in 2021? His favorite song on the album, Just a Mess, gives you some clues as to his evolution. The song “makes her cry” every time she sings it.
“I’ve never written a song about love before. So I wrote this song, and she ended up talking about a breakup. I didn’t want that to be the case, but it just came out. very fluently. “
And she always has her fans in mind; she wants them to have songs to relate to.
“If someone is going through this, they can’t turn to my music because I haven’t written about it,” she says.
For now, she’s also not afraid of fun times. Bars (RIP T), the last track on the record is a tribute to her late friend and would clearly be T’s favorite. She even sent it to rap star Macklemore for his approval.
“I always tell myself, never say no to putting something in there because you think people will think it’s not ‘you’.”
• Tones and I’s Welcome To The Madhouse album is now available on Sony Music. Watch it live in New Zealand at Bay Dreams next year.