Tones And I admits success was a ‘fluke’

'Dance Monkey' is a once-in-a-lifetime song; one of the biggest in recent history. You can never try to match that success.

Thank you! People keep asking me "Are you nervous you won't be able to follow 'Dance Monkey'?" Don't give me that kind of pressure. The biggest artists in the world right now are trying to have a song that successful.

'Dance Monkey' was a fluke. It was weird [and] that's probably why it got so big. I never thought it would get on local radio in Byron Bay, let alone Triple J. I wrote the song for people on the streets and I busked with it for eight months before I released it.

I did it with a fresh mind and I wasn't trying to compare it to anything or compete with anyone. Maybe that's why what happened happened. The next record-breaking song won't be anything like 'Dance Monkey'.

”Dance Monkey” was a fluke. It was weird and that’s probably why it got so big.” (Picture: Supplied)
”Dance Monkey” was a fluke. It was weird and that’s probably why it got so big.” (Picture: Supplied)

At least you wrote it. So many people have a massive hit with a cover of someone else's song.

In Australia we're proud to say we write all our own music. It's just a part of our culture. If you can't write your own music what are you doing in the industry? Overseas people are baffled by that: "You're not given a song?"

Your latest single 'Fly Away' is about what happens when you get what you wish for, which is surely something you know a lot about after the success of 'Dance Monkey'.

We're all chasing happiness. With a dream like mine it was a big risk and I did it. I realised there's so much more to happiness and I could have had it all along if I just recognised that instead of chasing more, more, more to be happy. I could just focus on the moment and the journey of getting there.

Whether it's losing weight or being healthy, you start enjoying the journey. That's the most important thing.

”We’re all chasing happiness. With a dream like mine it was a big risk and I did it.” (Picture: Mark Wilson)
”We’re all chasing happiness. With a dream like mine it was a big risk and I did it.” (Picture: Mark Wilson)

So how do you measure success now?

I've tried to be genuine about that. I didn't want to drive around in fancy cars in a film clip or be in a chopper or on a boat. That's not genuine; I'd be fake. I wouldn't be able to one day show my kids something I was proud of. That's important to me. I want to be honest.

I don't know if it's an Australian thing, but the life I live now and the mentality I have is the same as I've always had - it's about being real. But how many songs can you write from that?

And you're not judging success on the charts?

I never knew what a chart was. 'Dance Monkey' became this huge thing [and] I had to tell myself that wasn't a normal occurrence. I don't look at charts. I don't even know how 'Fly Away' has been going. I stay right away; it can be dangerous for your mental health.

Pressure is the worst. I just want to be proud of the track; I don't want it to be defined by whether people do or don't like it. I've been in the industry for just over a year. I think it takes artists a lot longer to realise that. I won't go back to looking at charts.

“Americans can be way tougher on social media than Australians.” (Picture: Che Chorley)
“Americans can be way tougher on social media than Australians.” (Picture: Che Chorley)

You were meant to release your first album last year. Has lockdown given you more time to work on it?

It's given me so much more time to do everything. I'm even starting an app. It hasn't launched yet, but it's Australian small businesses [that] have been struggling through the pandemic. It's like Uber Eats but all Aussie businesses. I want to give back to small businesses.

But my 2020 was basically touring, then it stopped, then I came home, made music, music, music, had a little bit of a meltdown in August, then made more music, music, music.

Meltdowns were very on-brand in 2020.

It was just that a light at the end of the tunnel was non-existent. We weren't living our best lives; not doing what we love. It drove us all insane. I live with nine of my best friends. To go through that kind of moment with all those people around - and it lasted probably four weeks - it was tough.

Seeing the [COVID] numbers go down [in Victoria] had us dancing around the kitchen every morning.

Tones And I features in this Sunday’s Stellar.
Tones And I features in this Sunday’s Stellar.

There's a bit of a different look for 'Fly Away'. You don't have your trademark cap on in the video.

I will keep the cap here and there, I just don't want it to define my image. There's one person overseas I don't agree with who's taken that cap for his brand. I've had some online trolls take advantage of that and Photoshop me with that cap and I just don't want to be associated with that person.

I've been wearing that cap since I've been playing in pubs. So f*ck Donald Trump, I won't wear a cap out of principle.

People think I'm American. And the Americans can be way tougher on social media than Australians, so that was something I had to deal with. I'm usually good with that stuff, but I was posting pictures of myself in caps every day when a lot of my followers are American and there was an election going on, so I didn't want people to think I was sending any messages.

So you can see my forehead for a bit... I've got nothing to hide.

'Fly Away' is out now.



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