Aspiring musician in need of some artistic affirmation? Take your music to the streets. “Busking taught me that I was okay the way I was,” Australian singer-songwriter Toni Watson tells Apple Music. “I don't need to be like anyone to do well in this life.” The confidence initially instilled by Byron Bay’s appreciative passersby has proved well-founded. Powerhouse pop singles “Johnny Run Away” and “Dance Monkey” broke through domestically with fans engaged by her positivity. “There are enough people in the world sharing aggression,” she says. “They teach the young generation to say fuck, titties, ass, and bitch, or get into wars over Twitter. I don’t want to be a part of that. There’s more to stand for.” In this track-by-track guide, Watson embraces coming out and friendship, and passionately details what she and her music stand for.
“The Kids Are Coming” “This is a song I wrote about ‘old-minded’ people thinking young people these days are snowflakes just on their phones. The younger generation work so hard. They're fighting the biggest war of all—they're standing up for equality, trying to stamp out racism, trying to really, really push and promote gay pride. They've got a sense of community. They’re the people trying to protect the Great Barrier Reef, global warming, pollution of the planet. And doing it without guns. We're not going to war and killing people. The kids are coming; that's exactly what it means—that they're a force to be reckoned with.”
“Dance Monkey” “My manager warned me that ‘Dance Monkey’ wouldn’t be a big track like ‘Johnny Run Away.’ Then all of a sudden it became my biggest hit. I had people singing it back to me at Splendour in the Grass [Australian music festival in New South Wales] and it’s been on every single radio station in Australia. I didn't write this track for radio. I wrote this song for the people at the Byron Bay hostel so we could all dance to it. People were trying to write songs to knock Lil Nas X off his perch; I didn't try to do that. I wrote this song before his song was even released. 'Dance Monkey’ showed me that I'm good enough. I have confidence in the songs that I've written and I'm not going to change anything.”
“Colourblind” “I wrote this song about the summertime before I moved to Byron Bay. I lived in a cabin in the middle of the bush. Four days a week I lived in my van and wrote music. Then what I would write, I'd play on the streets over the next few nights, but I got to the point where I was so horribly sad because I didn't have my friends around me. The song starts with ‘Sweet talks on a Sunday afternoon.’ It was the day they told me I had to quit my job and go busk because they knew that's what I wanted to do. And if I couldn't pay rent, they were going to support me. It’s a song to say, ‘No matter how far away I am or you are, you’re always on my mind.’”
“Johnny Run Away” “I wrote this song because my best friend Kurt went through a really hard time. I never knew the story about how he came out to his family. When he told me, he was so upset. I'd never seen him talk like that about a time when he felt shameful or wasn’t good enough. He's super proud of himself now and has a great relationship with his family. I wrote that song when I was 16. That's the kind of song you write when you don't care about the bigger picture, you're writing something special to someone you care about. When I decided that that would be my first single, I asked him if it was okay. He's been by my side through this whole journey. I played a show where I supported AURORA and I got him onstage, and I just wanted him to see the support that people have for his experience.”
“Jimmy” “This track and ‘Johnny Run Away’ are linked together. You hear Jimmy as a passing character. Then in the next track, Jimmy has his own story to tell and his struggles. In life we pass many people by; we say hi at the grocery store, or when we're getting coffee. But whether they're just there for a second or you talk to them for an hour, everyone has their own shit going on.”
“Never Seen the Rain” “Splendour in the Grass was a moment where I was like, ‘Whoa, the support is bigger than I thought.’ It's hard to gauge from Instagram how many people want to rock up and see you play live. Last year I snuck into the festival with a fake ticket I bought on Gumtree. I was sitting there thinking, ‘I'm going to play here one day.’ I didn't imagine it'd be the year after, and especially not with the kind of response I had. I only released this song a few days before, so to have that many people singing back at me was incredible.”
The Kids Are Coming
Johnny Run Away
Never Seen the Rain
6 SONGS, 21 MINUTES
AUGUST 29, 2019
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