September 30, 2022

From the Streets to Global Star: the Inspiring Story of “Tones and I”

On the list of “Most Inspiring Stories,” the unlikely success of singer-songwriter “Tones and I” definitely ranks near the top. This young Australian musician quit her day job working at a clothing retail store in order to pursue music full time. She became a daily busker, playing on the streets for tips and building a local fan base.

Toni Watson [the legal name of “Tones and I”] sometimes walked up to one kilometer away in order to find an ample busking location. She hauled a keyboard, sound system, and other gear. Often times, she would need to enlist the help of a friend because she could not carry all of her gear out to her chosen busking location by herself. She literally lived out of her van.

Watson had no prior performance experience before quitting her day job. In fact, during her first open mic gig, she stopped short due to the immense nerves the arose within her. She had never received any kind of vocal training and did not know if she was “good enough.”

As she began to play on the streets, however [sometimes for up to 6 hours a day], she found her sound. Crowds began to flood around her and soon, she was selling out local shows. She recorded live demo CD’s and they almost always sold out immediately. Festivals began to seek her out for her unique voice and performance.

She was picked up by Bad Botch Records in February of 2019 and released her first single, “Johnny Run Away.” This song instantly skyrocketed to the top of the charts. On May 10, 2019, her second fully-produced single, “Dance Monkey,” was put on the market. No one could envision the amount of success that this song would bring.

“Dance Money” became a #1 song in over 30 countries and the music video has over 1 billion views. Check it out:


@tonesandi on instagram

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