Tones and I: from Busking to Billions of Streams

2 mins read

Powerhouse Australian singer-songwriter Tones and I has released another winner with her latest single “Bad Child.” It’s surreal video, about, of course, being the “bad child” in a family, was produced by Visible Studios and directed by Liam Kelly and Nick Kozakis.

Tones And I shared:

 “I’ve always wanted to write a song in someone’s else’s shoes; writing from their perspective. ‘Bad Child’ was the first time I got to do that. It’s seeing life growing up through someone else’s eyes.”

Tones and I released “Bad Child” in March alongside “Can’t Be Happy All the Time.” These songs are the first to be released since her debut EP last year, The Kids Are Coming.

“Dance Monkey” was the breakout hit from that album, having garnered over two billion streams, including 963 million views on YouTube. The song quickly became the “most Shazam’ed single of all time,” and it’s been certified Platinum or multiPlatinum in numerous countries all over the world. Triple platinum in the UK, and beating the record for the longest running female artist’s song to hold the #1 spot on the UK’s Official Singles Chart.

Tones and I: from Busking to Billions of Streams

In her home come country of Australia“Dance Monkey” again beat the record for the most weeks spent in the #1 spot, this time on the ARIA singles chart. It has since been certified 10 x Platinum.

In the United States, “Dance Monkey” made it to the #4 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100, which made it the first Top 5 hit on the Hot 100 to be penned by a woman in over eight years. (Many songs hit the charts that are co-written by women—this was one all Tones and I.)

She’s a hit.

So you might be curious…

How did Tones and I get her start?

Tones and I (real name Toni Watson), reportedly started releasing music on YouTube when she was 16, but unlike many artists who get their break via the online world these days, Tones and I did not find her success the music industry until she started performing live.

In 2017 the artist started performing as a street artist for tips in Byron Bay, a practice that is also known as busking. She very quickly starting drawing a crowd—like first day quickly—which allowed her to quit the retail job she had been holding down. The artist lived out of her van in Byron for a year, while she solely worked on songwriting and performing.

It was there, busking at the age of 19, that Tones and I met a lawyer named Jackson Walkden-Brown, who decided to introduce her to a music management company called Lemon Tree Music.

Her breakout hit “Dance Monkey” was actually written about her experience of busking. While the choice to street perform was ultimately the right move for this artist, Tones and I has discussed how difficult it can be dealing with other territorial street performers and the general public.

“I was getting a little bit bullied by guys who thought I was taking their customers, and it got to the point where I was anxious every time I set up my keyboard. Drunk people came past and yelled profanities at me. The negative was outweighing the positive, but I didn’t want to stop just because people were being horrible.”

The hit “Dance Monkey” was only the second single for Tones and I, making her career ascent launch pretty darn quickly.

She has since released her first EP The Kids Are Coming via Bad Batch/Sony Music Australia. The rest of her singles, while not hitting the unbelievable high of “Dance Monkey,” have all been well-received successes as well.

At this year’s ARIA Awards Tones and I took home wins for:  Breakthrough ArtistBest Female ArtistBest Pop Release and Best Independent Release.

I'm Kate Ferguson, an L.A.-based Writer, Filmmaker, Photographer, Social Media Strategist, and Blogger at, right here, That's Random Kate! (Previously Divvy Mag.) I love storytelling in its various forms, growth, shooting 35mm film, learning super random facts, building community, and admiring palm trees. Find me on Instagram: @KateFerg. (Where there will definitely be 35mm photos of palm trees.)