Welcome to the Madhouse

Tones And I

Welcome to the Madhouse

“You obviously never expect that your music would go as big as it did,” Tones and I tells Apple Music. The Australian singer-songwriter born Toni Watson began her career busking on the streets of Byron Bay. Then, in 2019, everything changed when her single “Dance Monkey” went viral, shooting her into the global spotlight. “When I first wrote some of the tracks, I was working retail, then I was living in my van, and then all of a sudden I was picked up and flung around the world on a tour,” she says. “Then there was a worldwide pandemic and I went into lockdown. I bought my first house, I lived with nine of my best friends, and I had my best friend pass away this year.” Still, though she’s released an EP and several singles since then, Watson has a lot more of her story to share, including songs written about her experience during lockdown and the death of her friend T.
“This is the first time I'm actually just dumping a body of music,” she says of her full-length debut. “And I want to make sure I didn't skip any steps, so when I write my next album I can start fresh and really look to the future.” The album’s title is a reflection on the last two years of Watson’s life. “I wanted to show the up-and-down emotions that I felt, not only through lockdown, but since I first started busking and writing music,” she says. “My way of speaking is through music—I haven't been able to relay any of these feelings otherwise.” Below, Watson talks through each song on her debut album.
“Welcome to the Madhouse” “I wrote it in lockdown and never thought it would be a title track, but it worked so well. The friends who didn't live with us kept saying that our house was known as the Big Brother house, or the crazy house or the cult house. But we’re like a family. I loved the line ‘Welcome to the madhouse.’ I came up with that before any music—I just had it in a note on my phone. But song ended up being really about my whole vibe. It’s really reflective of the craziness of the last two years of my life.”
“Lonely” “It’s about depression and about how people want you to take medication, but you just want love. If I’m going to write a song called ‘Lonely’ that talks in depth about how I feel, I have to be really honest, because I don't just write songs about nothing and I never will. So I decided to finally open up and tell this side of me.”
“Won't Sleep” “You can't spend five months with nine of your best mates, locked up in a house together, partying, having fun, watching sports, barbecues, going through depressed moments, everything, and not write a song about it. One of my best friends passed away and he was involved in that group. So even when I look at the moments when some of us were depressed, or when we didn’t know what was happening because of lockdown, I wouldn’t change it. I was meant to be on a world tour last year. If I didn't come home and spend that time with my friends, I would have always regretted it. I’m just trying to be really positive about that time.”
“Westside Lobby” “I was going through a really hard time. I was copping it so bad online, especially around the ARIAs in 2019, when I got named female artist of the year. I wrote ‘Westside Lobby’ in about May 2020, so I'd had some time to lift myself up and say, ‘Don't let the best thing in your life turn into the worst thing in your life. Stand up for yourself.’ I had to hold my own hand and be my own best friend.”
“Fly Away” “Everyone’s like, ‘Wow, you should be so happy,’ but I feel sad. I feel shaky, I'm on edge, I can't go to the grocery store alone. I have social anxiety now, I'm scared of going online—what’s so good abut this? So I wrote about how maybe I was the happiest when I was busking, and the grass isn't greener on the other side, and how I’m second-guessing everything and letting people into my brain. But I needed to make sure I rounded it off by saying, ‘Yeah, but I fucking did it anyway, and so can you.’ I want it to be motivating.”
“Sad Songs” “It’s about T, and how I can't listen to sad songs because I just start crying. But then if I listen to happy songs, I feel like I'm just locking him out. So it's easier for me to just go into the lounge room, put on some hits, dance around with everyone and watch the NBA or whatever. But we’re really just pushing our emotions to the back. And I wanted to talk about how he never took me for granted.”
“Just a Mess” “It’s my most favorite song I've ever written. It’s pretty much about how I can now say I’m in love, and I never could’ve said that before. I can’t write about anything that isn’t real to me, because then there’s no emotion and I have nothing to write about. So I thought, well, now I'm in love. I can’t write about love too much yet, but I wrote about how I’d feel if we broke up.”
“Child's Play” “I wrote this song about someone who really frustrated me throughout last year with their hand out constantly, not being a good friend, only calling when they wanted something. It’s pretty much saying I'm just going to forget your name, don't come running when you need me.”
“Not Going Home” “It's pretty much the first song I wrote when I got to Byron Bay in my van—before I wrote ‘Dance Monkey.’ I didn't really have a place to live, I couldn't even go back to Melbourne, I didn't have a home. So I wrote it about how I have nowhere to go, I've decided on this life that I've wanted for ages, but have I made the right choice? I was lonely, but I was here for a reason. This is my life now.”
“Dark Waters” “It's about my head, my anxiety, but from a very different time. I wrote it when ‘Dance Monkey’ was just released, before touring and everything. It was about feeling snowed under by my own mind and feeling like I don't listen when people are speaking to me. I don't know why, I just zone out—I feel like I’ve got a dark cloud in my head that won't go away, and I don't want to live like this.”
“Cloudy Day” “‘Cloudy Day' was a transition track for me. When T passed away I couldn't write anything good. I was just crying all the time, and I knew I had to get this album done. I'd been pushing it back for like three years and then this happened. I went to Sydney and I just spoke to a friend who gave me some advice. Their mum used to always say to them, ‘On a cloudy day, look up and find the sun.’ And the whole song just happened. It just came down from the sky.”
“You Don't Know My Name” “It’s about someone who was in my life four or five years ago. They were a really bad influence; they never encouraged me with singing, never wanted me to sing around them. It’s about when I finally left, and how they’d say I’d never make it. I wrote a lot of songs about this person in the past and I was never intending to write another one, but it just came out, and I loved it, so I put it on the album.”
“Fall Apart” “It’s still really hard to talk about T. I tried to write a song that was about him and his personality, but I couldn't, and I still can’t, even now. ‘Fall Apart’ is observing from the outside and watching all my friends, when it happened, and looking at how we’d all fallen apart. I didn’t know how else to say it without using those words. And then watching everyone try and build back up and try to deal with the grief. He was the big brother, that one guy that everyone was just so in love with, and he was just gone. I wrote about how we can't deal with it yet.”
“Bars (RIP T)” “I put this in for the same reason I’m thankful ‘Fall Apart’ isn't the last song. This is how I would have left the conversation. It’s an absolutely fucking stupid rap song that I wrote for T's birthday last year. It would be T's favorite song. It's completely stupid, it's me talking about blue cheese and shaking my ass and how his favorite song was ‘I Got Bitches.’ I get to say ‘RIP’ in there, and a little ‘I love you’ at the end. It was a great way to end the album.”

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