R&B newcomer Tone Stith has an astonishing résumé for someone under 25. Not only did the Jas Prince-discovered star open up for August Alsina’s Don’t Matter Tour, provide songwriting help for Chris Brown and earn co-signs from Drake and Justin Bieber, but he also inked his new deal with RCA earlier this year.
With eardrums enraptured by his tunes, the New Jersey-based wunderkind independently released an impressive debut, Can We Talk. The 2017 LP poetically punctuated his funk tonality over ‘90s R&B melodies, establishing Stith’s craft as something to watch in the coming year. With elaborate production on songs like “Date” and “Miss California,” millions listened and positioned the crooner for his major contract.
Now, Stith boasts collaborations with 2 Chainz and Ty Dolla $ign and is opening H.E.R.’s I Used to Know Her Tour, where he shares the stage with the headliner for lovelorn verses from the singer’s duet with Bryson Tiller, “Could’ve Been.” Beyond vocally holding his own, Stith’s willingness to do the work is clear throughout his new release, Good Company. Quavo and Swae Lee accompanied Stith on the new EP’s buzzing title track.
Craftily paying homage to his idol, Michael Jackson, the soloist references the icon’s hits on the track “Like Mike” to woo his muse lyrically. Even so, his seductive wordplay is further substantiated on bops like “Perfect Timing” and “Secrets.”
Billboard caught up with Stith after his NYC tour stop, to discuss the mysterious California 70, what he considers his greatest accomplishment, and being compared to Michael Jackson, Prince and Quincy Jones. Become acquainted with Tone Stith’s sound now.
What did your cross-country Don’t Matter trek with August Alsina teach you about the music industry?
Basically, that was my first real tour. It was a good experience. That taught me everything about touring, as far as developing and making sure I went to sleep on time. [Laughs] It was cool because I got to spread my music, create, and meet a lot of new fans in different places. That tour taught me that this is no joke. Music is really serious. If you want to perform, you need to be 100% dedicated to this. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes, you know?
You’re from New Jersey. How did it feel to win over your New York audience on the I Used to Know Her Tour?
That felt amazing! We hit New York last year. It was cool. I think they loved it. Still, this year was much different. A lot of people after the show came up to me. I heard, “Oh, my God, I follow you. I know about your music. I have been following you a few years now. You know it was cool because there was a lot of love. It felt good to get that from New York.
Although you’ve earned major co-signs, such as Drake, you are beginning to garner mainstream recognition. What do you want your new fans to know about you?
That everything is 100% organic. I produce and write. I do everything. The biggest message in my music is love and peace. That is all I want to spread to the industry.
Looking back, what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment following the release of the single “Get It Right”?
[My greatest accomplishment] has just been to keep pushing, and somehow ending up on this tour. It has been life-changing! The energy is really different. I can feel the shift happening, as we go to each city. I think this is the start of something big. This is only the beginning.
How did your debut LP Can We Talk best prepare you for the success you’re experiencing at present?
Well, it definitely got my music out there. It put my name out there. It is not even as if this was a crazy major release. That was [what made it] feel sort of like an underground album, but it reached so many people. And, this record has given people a chance to hear my music and get familiar with me. Now that we are out on tour, there are a lot of new fans. Yeah, the word is spreading about my music.
Musically, who are your influences?
My biggest is Michael. Well, there are two [influences]. They are Michael Jackson and Prince. I learned everything from both of those two artists. My mom put me on to Michael Jackson when I was eight [years old]. My dad put me on to Prince when I was eight. So, I got the best of both worlds.
You perform pop, R&B and funk records — which genre do you connect with most?
Oooh! I have to say funk because there is a lot more funk coming on my new project. There was a lot of funk coming out of the church [I attended]. Also, just being around my parents helped me. They would play funk music around the house. That is a big part of my life.
How did you feel when Jas Prince said you remind him of three people: Michael Jackson, Prince and Quincy Jones?
That was the biggest compliment, ever! [Laughs] It is definitely a lot to live up to. Still, I am glad that he sees that in me. Those are the three people that I listen to the most. They are who I study, day-in and day-out. So, yes, that feels really good to know that someone recognized that.
Will California 70 ever be released?
Yes, it will! [Laughs] It is a work in progress, but it will. [Laughs] That is like the mystery question, but it is coming.
Is there a tentative timeframe that your listeners should expect that?
Well, I will just say I am going to put out several projects before I put out an official album.
What should supporters look out for from Tone Stith?
There will be much more music, as well as, me being on the road for the end of 2018 and in 2019. Again, there will be a lot more projects. There will even be EPs. [Fans can look out for] short projects, random projects, but there will be more music on the way this year. Also, there will be videos! The Good Company EP has a few features on there that listeners will recognize. I think it they will appreciate [those], and I am very excited for them!