Tones and I

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Tones and I
A woman is singing into a hand-held microphone with her eyes partly closed. The back of her right hand has an obscured image or a tattoo. She wears a white cap and rose-coloured glasses. Her hair is strawberry blonde and hangs down past her shoulders. She wears a red and blue jacket.
Tones and I performing at Laneway Festival, Sydney in February 2020
Background information
Birth nameToni Watson
Also known as
  • Tones
  • Tonah
BornMount Martha, Victoria, Australia
OriginFrankston, Victoria, Australia
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Years active2009–present

Toni Watson, known professionally as Tones and I, is an Australian singer and songwriter. Her breakout single, "Dance Monkey", was released in May 2019 and reached number one in over 30 countries.

In 2019, she broke the Australian record for the most weeks at number one on the ARIA Singles Chart by any artist with 16 weeks. By mid-January 2020, "Dance Monkey" had spent its 24th and final week at number one, beating Bing Crosby's all-time Australian record for his version of "White Christmas", which spent 22 weeks (five months, namely June to October) at the top spot in 1943.

"Dance Monkey" was accredited 14× platinum by ARIA for shipments of over 980,000 units, by early 2021. Tones was the most awarded artist at the ARIA Music Awards of 2019, winning four from eight nominations. Tones and I released her debut extended play, The Kids Are Coming, on 30 August 2019, which peaked at number three in Australia, and top 10 in several countries.

Life and career[edit]

Toni Watson grew up in Mount Martha on the Mornington Peninsula to the south of Melbourne, in the Australian state of Victoria.[3][4] Conflicting reports state she was born either in 1993 or in 2000.[5] The artist prefers not to disclose her birth details, "I never denied my age. I never lied about it. I just don't say anything now... Everything is wrong online."[6]

She explained choosing a music career: "One day I was at the park with my family, all my cousins and stuff, in Frankston... We were all just singing a song and my aunty was like 'oh guys, she can actually hold a note.' I think that's the earliest memory of someone actually pointing me out as someone that has an ability to sing. I was probably like 7 years old."[7] The singer-songwriter had learned to play keyboards and drum pads while at secondary school.[7] She started busking in Melbourne, while working in fashion retail at the Universal Store.[3][4][8]

In 2009, as Toni Watson, she created a YouTube page and posted a cappella cover versions of songs.[5] She performed local gigs and festivals, including the Let Go festival.[3] Tones was the vocalist for a duo in 2014,[3] and remembered: "I started out singing in small pubs and bars in Mornington, I was singing along to a guitarist until I ended up branching out on my own."[9] She explained her shift to a solo career: "I actually got made redundant from my retail job and with that money I bought an RC300 (loop station) and just started to try to figure it all out."[7] She busked "up and down the east coast with her synthesisers and loop pedal, she has been building a loyal fanbase and captivating crowds with her genre-diverse style."[3]

In September 2017, the singer-songwriter travelled to Byron Bay in the Australian state of New South Wales to try busking there.[7][10] At an early performance, she met Jackson Walkden-Brown who became her manager about a month later.[7][10][11] Her busking success led to a greater commitment to a music career. The artist spent 2018 living between Walkden-Brown's home in the Gold Coast hinterland and in her van in Byron Bay, writing music and busking full-time.[8][10] Later that year she won the Battle of the Buskers at Buskers by the Creek.[7][12]

In February 2019, Tones and I signed to Bad Batch Records/Sony Music Australia alongside a co-management deal with Artists Only (owned by Walkden-Brown, ex-Aerials) and Lemon Tree Music (co-owned by Regan Lethbridge and David Morgan, both ex-Bonjah).[8][13][14] In that month she uploaded her debut single, "Johnny Run Away", to an Australian website affiliated with Australian national youth radio station Triple J, called Unearthed, which publishes the music of unsigned artists.[15] The track was recorded with Australian producer, Konstantin Kersting.[16] AllMusic's Fred Thomas observed, "[it] became a viral sensation, racking up streams."[17]

"Johnny Run Away" was added to full rotation on Australian youth radio station Triple J the following week and received high ratings from staff: Richard Kingsmill (four-and-a-half out of five stars), Tommy Faith (five stars) and Declan Byrne (four-and-a-half stars).[7][18] Natalie O'Driscoll of Blank Gold Coast described the track, "a melodic slice of Nordic-inspired electro-pop that tells a very important story."[12] Two weeks later, Tones and I officially released "Johnny Run Away".[15] It peaked at number 12 on the ARIA Singles Chart and achieved triple platinum status for shipments of over 210,000 units.[19][20]

On 10 May 2019, Tones and I released her second single, "Dance Monkey".[21] She recalled the track was "Written alone in a dark closet in not much more than 30 minutes."[10] Craig Mathieson of The Age felt, "It's pop writ large – catchy yet familiar, slightly ludicrous yet genuinely affecting."[22] It reached number one on the official music charts of over 30 countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.[23][24][25]

"Dance Monkey"'s music video was directed by Liam Kelly and Nick Kozakis.[26] In Australia, in November of that year, she broke the record for the most weeks atop the ARIA Singles Chart by any artist, with 16 weeks. This was previously held by Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" (15 weeks in 2017).[24] By mid-January 2020, "Dance Monkey" had spent 24 weeks at number one.[27] It was the first Australian song to reach number one on Spotify's global daily top 200 streaming chart.[28] On 8 February 2020, it equalled Post Malone's "Rockstar" for the most days at number one on the same chart.[29] As of 18 February 2020, "Dance Monkey" returned to the Spotify top spot and had spent 120 days at number one.[30]

Tones and I is standing behind a keyboard while also singing into a microphone. She wears red and white cap with the lettering "The Kids Are Coming". She also wears a multi-coloured jacket and is looking down at a sheet on a stand.
Performing on keyboards, February 2020

In May 2019, Tones performed at the Big Pineapple Music Festival, as well as opening Splendour in the Grass 2019 as the Triple J Unearthed Splendour in the Grass competition winner,[31] where she broke the record for the biggest crowd of an opening set.[32][33] In July, she released a third single, "Never Seen the Rain", and announced the release of her debut six-track extended play, The Kids Are Coming (30 August 2019).[34] In September 2019, Tones and I performed "Dance Monkey" and "The Kids Are Coming" at the 2019 AFL Grand Final with 100,000 people in attendance.[35][36] In January 2020, three of the EP's tracks were listed on the Triple J Hottest 100, 2019: "Dance Monkey" (No. 4), "Never Seen the Rain" (No. 15) and "Johnny Run Away" (No. 26).[37]

On 1 February 2020 she started her Kids Are Coming World Tour with five Laneway Festival dates in Australia and seven dates in North America.[38][39] Riff Magazine's Rachel Goodman caught her performance in San Francisco in mid-month, "[she] brought a palpable energy to the stage, which concertgoers enthusiastically reciprocated... [and] spoke about busking every day on the streets of Byron Bay in Australia and how she learned to communicate with audiences—and quickly capture people's attention."[40]

A total of 52 dates (including another eight in North America) were announced for the tour through to July.[38][39] However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic local tour dates were rescheduled from April 2021.[41][42] Likewise, the artist curtailed her European performances, "I must cut short the rest of my first tour over here, as the majority of the remaining shows have already been cancelled due to government policy and I do not want to subject anyone to making a choice between coming to see me and their health."[43]

On 7 May 2020 Triple J premiered a new song, "We Can’t Wait to Go Back to a Festival When This Is Over", as part of a COVID-19 self-isolation musical challenge, Quarantune.[44] On 20 May "Dance Monkey" reached 1 billion views on YouTube.[45] It won the Grand Prize of the 2019 International Songwriting Competition, which was announced in May 2020.[46][47] Also in that month the artist appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone (Australia) and was interviewed by its managing editor, Poppy Reid.[48][49] Reid had seen her at the Laneway Festival in February, "there's a manic energy and excitement surrounding her at all times... [she] offers a new blueprint for future generations... the possibility of a global career built out of regional Australia, sans a major label... and without a stack of co-writers."[6]

During August the singer, and her management, sponsored an Instagram-based competition, That One Song, which featured a different developing artist each day, "to share original content" on her account.[50][51] After 2 September the finalists were voted for by the public, from the 20 artists previously show-cased.[51] Tones and I co-headlined a virtual concert, with Gary Clark Jr., on 5 and 6 September 2020.[52][53] The performances were fund raisers for the Equal Justice Initiative and were streamed live on various media channels.[52][53]

The artist also announced in September that her debut album is expected in 2 or 3 months, "I've taken the time to just really make sure it's what I want. And I want to add more music to the album. It will be my first ever album, so I really want to make sure I'm proud of it."[54] The singer's next single, "Fly Away", appeared in mid-November, and its first live performance occurred on 24 November at the Newcastle Civic Theatre.[55] For the 2020 ARIA Music Awards she received three further nominations and joined an all-female ensemble for a tribute performance of "I Am Woman" in honour of Helen Reddy (1941–2020).[56]


Extended plays[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions Certifications
The Kids Are Coming 3 9 8 19 31 40 3 23 15 30


List of singles, with year released, selected chart positions and certifications, and album name shown
Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album


"Johnny Run Away" 2019 12 83
  • ARIA: 3× Platinum[82]
The Kids Are Coming
"Dance Monkey" 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 4 3
"Never Seen the Rain" 7 3 51 21 36 69 49 99
"The Kids Are Coming" 65 [A]
"Bad Child"[93] 2020 15 13 [B] 79 73 19 TBA
"Can't Be Happy All the Time"[93] [C] [D]
"Ur So F**king Cool" 44 26 37 [E] [F] 93 23
"Fly Away" 4 27 44 69 37 38
30 23
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


  1. ^ "The Kids Are Coming" did not enter the NZ Top 40 Singles Chart, but peaked at number 24 on the NZ Hot Singles Chart.[92]
  2. ^ "Bad Child" did not enter the NZ Top 40 Singles Chart, but peaked at number five on the NZ Hot Singles Chart.[94]
  3. ^ "Can't Be Happy All the Time" did not enter the Australian Top 50 singles but did peak at number 19 on the Australian Digital Tracks chart.
  4. ^ "Can't Be Happy All the Time" did not enter the NZ Top 40 Singles Chart, but peaked at number 27 on the NZ Hot Singles Chart.[94]
  5. ^ "Ur So F**king Cool" did not enter the NZ Top 40 Singles Chart, but peaked at number nine on the NZ Hot Singles Chart.[95]
  6. ^ While "Ur So F**king Cool" did not enter the Swedish Singles Chart, it peaked at number three on the Swedish Heatseeker Chart.[96]

Other charted songs[edit]

Title Year Peak chart positions Album

"Jimmy" 2019 79 29 The Kids Are Coming

Awards and nominations[edit]

AIR Awards[edit]

The Australian Independent Record Awards (commonly known informally as AIR Awards) is an annual awards night to recognise, promote and celebrate the success of Australia's Independent Music sector. The inaugural ceremony occurred in 2006.[99]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2020 "Dance Monkey" Independent Song of the Year Won [100][101]
The Kids Are Coming Best Independent Pop Album or EP Nominated
Herself Breakthrough Independent Artist of the Year Won

APRA Music Awards[edit]

The APRA Music Awards are held in Australia and New Zealand by the Australasian Performing Right Association to recognise songwriting skills, sales and airplay performance by its members annually. The Australian ceremonies began in 1982. Tones and I has won two awards from four nominations.[102][103]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2020 "Dance Monkey" Song of the Year Won [104]
Most Performed Australian Work of the Year Nominated
Most Performed Pop Work of the Year Nominated
Herself Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year Won

ARIA Music Awards[edit]

The ARIA Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony that recognises excellence, innovation, and achievement across all genres of Australian music. The first ceremony occurred in 1987. For the 2019 awards, Tones and I was nominated for eight awards and won four.[105]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Lost to Ref.
2019 "Dance Monkey" Best Female Artist Won N/A [106]
Breakthrough Artist Won N/A
Best Pop Release Won N/A
Song of the Year Nominated Guy Sebastian - "Choir"
Liam Kelly & Nick Kozakis for Tones and I – "Dance Monkey" Best Video Nominated Guy Sebastian - "Choir"
The Kids Are Coming Best Independent Release Won N/A
Konstantin Kersting for Tones and I – "Dance Monkey" Engineer of the Year Nominated The Teskey Brothers - Run Home Slow
Producer of the Year Nominated Matt Corby - Rainbow Valley
2020 "Bad Child" / "Can't Be Happy All the Time" Best Female Artist Nominated Sampa The Great - The Return [107][108]
"Ur So F**kInG cOoL" Best Video Nominated Guy Sebastian - "Standing With You"
"Never Seen the Rain" Song of the Year Nominated 5 Seconds Of Summer - "Teeth"

International Songwriting Competition[edit]

The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) is an annual song contest for both aspiring and established songwriters. The judging panel is made up of musicians, songwriters and industry experts, and songs are judged on creativity, originality, lyrics, melody, arrangement and overall likeability.[109]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2019 Grand Prize "Dance Monkey" Won [47]

J Awards[edit]

The J Awards are an annual series of Australian music awards that were established by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's youth-focused radio station Triple J. They commenced in 2005.[110]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2019 Herself Unearthed Artist of the Year Won [111]

MTV Europe Music Awards[edit]

The MTV Europe Music Awards is an award presented by Viacom International Media Networks to honour artists and music in pop culture.

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2019[112] Herself Best Australian Act Nominated
2020[113] Herself Best Australian Act Pending

National Live Music Awards[edit]

The National Live Music Awards (NLMAs) are a broad recognition of Australia's diverse live industry, celebrating the success of the Australian live scene. The awards commenced in 2016.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
National Live Music Awards of 2019 Herself Best New Act Won [114][115]

Spotify Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2020 Herself Biggest Increase in Fans – Female Artist Nominated [116]
Emerging Artist Won


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