Tones And I is best known for the brash and bouncy “Dance Monkey,” a pop record with a massive bass drop and a chorus so addictive that it was recently recognized as the most Shazamed song of all time. But beyond the larger-than-life-exuberance of her biggest hit, the Australian artist born Toni Watson has a penchant for more sober themes — Take her “Dance Monkey” follow-up, “Never Seen the Rain,” as a testament. The track sports a clean finger-snapping beat, delicate piano, and an uplifting chorus for a song about the fear of failure and the importance of taking risks in life — a soft, simple melody for a track with big things to say about the human condition. “I purposely wanted to write a two-chord verse. I thought, ‘Okay, if this was a song I was hearing for the first time, [and] it wasn’t my own song what would I want to hear?’” she says. “I just do what feels satisfying to me. What do I want to write about? What’s on my mind? What’s going to carry me through enough to be able to finish this song?”
Tones, who got her start busking on the streets of Australia, released her latest single this November. “Fly Away” has a similar message of hope and faith, loosely tracing her own journey from life as a young girl working at a surf shop and dreaming of success in music to finally achieving it. “I wanted to tell a story about expectations versus reality. About what makes us happy and what we think is going to make us happy — and then how we feel when we get there,” she says.
Teaming up with Honda Stage and Billboard for a special set, Tones sang these two records with a unique twist, rearranging the tracks into spare and emotional piano ballads. The enormous popularity of “Dance Monkey” aside, these heartfelt renditions showcase what Tones has always been about most of all. “My favorite songs of all time never got to number one — never even got played on mainstream radio,” she says. “I would rather have my pockets of fans in every country play small theaters in every country until I die instead of arenas for four years. I just want to have my fanbase that I can play to. And that’s really the only place my happiness comes from.”