No matter where you are in the world, Dance Monkey was the song of 2019. It propelled Australian singer, songwriter, and record producer Toni Watson, known as Tones and I, to superstardom. Dance Monkey reached number one in more than forty countries.
It broke the record in Australia for the most weeks at number one in the singles chart. Even more impressive, it did so by beating the legendary Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. Toni was born on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne and the town of Mount Martha. It’s unknown when she was born as she has always been cryptic about her age.
Toni first became interested in music when she was on a day out at the park with her parents, aunt and cousins. When the family started singing a song together her aunt pointed out that she could carry a note. “I think that’s the earliest memory of someone actually pointing me out as someone that has an ability to sing”, she explained.
Toni’s interest in music continued throughout her time at school. She had lessons in keyboard and drum pads during high school and soon began busking on the streets of Melbourne. From there, she began performing at gigs and festivals around the city, as well as uploading songs under her own name on YouTube. Those early performances were mostly A-Capella cover songs.
For a short while, Toni performed as a duo. She sang while her partner played guitar. Unfortunately, it’s not known who her bandmate was at the time. Then in around 2015, Toni had some bad luck that ended up kickstarting her career. She was made redundant from her job working in a shop and used her redundancy pay to buy a loop station. She chose to commit herself to figuring out her sound. She hit the road and busked all the way up and down the east coast of Australia.
In 2017, she reached New South Wales and at one of her first shows she met Jackson Walkden-Brown. He soon became her manager and she threw even more effort into her music. She spent time busking and writing her own music before signing with Bad Batch Records in 2019. She also uploaded her first single called Johnny Run Away to a radio station that specialises in unsigned artists. It went viral and soon was played in heavy rotation on the station.
Later that same year she wrote Dance Monkey. Looking back on it she remembered it was, “Written alone in a dark closet in not much more than 30 minutes.”Written alone in a dark closet in not much more than 30 minutes.” It was a hit and soon the whole world was singing it. However, this video shows Toni singing it out on the street in one of her busking performances. It’s incredible to think how quickly her life changed after recording this video. If you want to know more about how Toni becomes Tones and I, check out this video as she explains in her own words.