What Is ‘Dance Monkey’ and How Did It Take Over the World? | Diary of a Song

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“Hello.” “Hello.” “Do I call you Tones
or Toni?” “Tones. I can’t even believe that
this is my life sometimes. It’s going number one
in so many countries. “‘Dance Monkey.’” “‘Dance Monkey.’” “‘Dance Monkey.’” “For anyone that thinks that
I’m, like, an overnight success just doesn’t know about,
like, the hard yards I’ve already put in. I used to work at a surf
shop on Bourke Street, which is really the busiest
part of Melbourne. And there was like, you
could busk on Bourke Street. I really, really
wanted to busk. I couldn’t even play an
instrument at this point. One of my friends was like,
you should come to Byron because you can literally
just park up and busk out of the side of your van. And I was like, OK,
I’ll give it a go. So I bought a van,
moved to Byron Bay and started living in my van.” “What was your impression
of Byron Bay when you first got there?” “I said, ‘I don’t think
I’m going to fit in here.’ There’s a lot of buskers in
Byron, but very acoustic guitar. It’s very, like, bohemian. So probably the
first time anyone’s pulled out a keyboard
on the street, let alone, like, the drum pad, the synthesizers, and the loop
pedal and the harmonizers.” [singing] “I stumbled across her
when she was busking in Byron, in September 2017. It was the very first time
she’d tried busking. I heard that, and I said to my wife like,
‘Whoa. That was pretty cool.’” “He gave me his card — said
‘entertainment lawyer’ on it. And I said to him, ‘I don’t
have any legal issues.’” “Tones was my first
management client. She came in, and lived
with me and my family for a while after there,
and worked out of my studio a lot in that first year
while she was busking.” “I’d go up every
Monday, Tuesday and stay there, write music,
go busk for the week. I was busking day, day,
day, day — in the winter, when no one
else would busk. In the rain, when no one
else would be busking, I would be busking. It wasn’t about the money. It was about, no matter what, being able to get more fans. So there might be
20 people that night that would otherwise
never know who I was.” “When did it hit you that your
busking was becoming a thing, that you were an attraction?” “I know that there
was a point where I realized if I posted on
my social media, and said I was busking somewhere
people would come. Other buskers started
getting angry at me. Some started a Facebook group. And were, like, we’re
going to run Tones out of town — like, for no reason. They just hated how big
the crowds were getting.” “People don’t walk past Tones. No one does. By the second song there were
always like 10, 20 people. By the fifth, the crowd was hectic
every single time.” “I love busking. There’s so many good, amazing
people on the street. It’s the reason that I’m here. But there was one night
that was very frustrating. And I wrote a
song about that. People grab my hands and be like, ‘You know you
stopped me dead in my tracks when I was walking by.’ [singing] ‘Just sing one more song,
just one more song.’ ‘I’m just going to
get my husband.’ I’m literally just repeating
what people tell me. That’s why if you replace
‘dance’ with the word ‘sing,’ it’s just about
me busking. [singing] I always wanted to do a song
with a bass drop chorus. I really like that song
that’s like, ‘You just want attention.
You don’t want my heart.’ I loved how it was like — So I played some bass, and I kept that loop. I put the other loop down. I sang what I’d
already written. It just felt so right. I wrote ‘Dance Monkey’
in half an hour, and then it was done.” [singing] “Just watching her busk
with it, early on, people just loved it. And we’re like, this is
going to be a cracker. Like a proper cracker.” “You guys basically specialize
in buskers at this point?” “Essentially —” “We just like working
with buskers, that’s the thing, we like
working with people that want to create art, and tour
and make their life music, and buskers do that.” “Did Tones have original
music when you guys first made contact with her?” Yeah, yeah, absolutely. ‘Johnny Run Away’ was
the most developed demo, and that was the
first release we put out. [singing] That caught a fire real quick in Australia, crossed
over to commercial radio, which was huge.” “In Australian terms, ‘Johnny’ — it doesn’t get any better
than that for a debut.” “Even though, like, my song
was getting high rotation on like, all the mainstream
radios, that does nothing. You have to keep busking, and I didn’t want to
work at Woolworth’s.” “So when did you first hear
the demo for ‘Dance Monkey?’” “I never heard a demo. She came into the studio,
and played me the song how she played it. And then it was sort of our
job in the studio to make it, I guess like, radio friendly. Just about that bass
drop, making sure that it was not too straight, that it really swung.” “We set up ‘Dance Monkey,’ and were going to release it. I was like, ‘Look, maybe
it’s just a live track. Maybe it’s just a banging live. Maybe it doesn’t do as
well as ‘Johnny,’ and I was trying
to just, I don’t know, just keep
expectations in check.” “Dave said to me that,
‘Don’t be upset if this song doesn’t live
up to ‘Johnny Run Away’ because that song is probably
more of a radio hit, which is apparently everything
that matters these days.” “Now she forever tells a
story that, ‘This is the song that my manager Dave said was
probably not a radio song,’ and it’s like the biggest song
in the world right now.” [singing] “In Australia, it’s broken the
the record of any female artist ever. Any Australian artist ever, and any song at number one,
the most consecutive weeks.” “A lot of songs become
big in Australia. Some of them cross
over to the U.K., and other European countries,
but not all of them can make the leap
to America, like, what does it mean for your
song to break in the U.S.? Is that meaningful to you?” “That is like another
whole universe in itself. It’s like, breaking the U.S.
is like re-releasing ‘Dance Monkey’
again to the world.” “Do you ever feel guilty
that the song that helped you make it is
sort of complaining about the very thing
that helped you make it?” “No, I’m writing it
about the girl that knocked over my keyboard,
and the guy that tried to steal my money
and the two guys that were literally yelling out ‘Again!
Again! Again! Again! Again!’ right in my face, and
the guy that walked past me and said, you’re [expletive] —
all in, like, 30 minutes.” “Have you been back to busk
since ‘Dance Monkey’ hit number one?” “It’s very hard to do. I want to dress
up as Old Tones from the ‘Dance Monkey’
film clip and go busk. People ask me
how I feel. I get a little bit
frustrated because I don’t know how I feel,
but like sometimes I have those small moments
when you’re driving in your car on your own, and
you just think to yourself, ‘Holy [expletive], I have the most streamed song
in the world right now.’” [singing]


  1. I’m happy for her and I like the live versions, but the studio version is like the worst “indie singer voice” I’ve ever heard.

  2. I just love you. You're absolutely unique. Please bring it to the states. You will be stepping into your own little world. All right, we will absolutely love you and go bonkers. ! Bring it girl bring it. And if you do bring it to Peoria, Illinois, if you make it here, you'll make it anywhere.

  3. I think I've heard on radio in Sweden, probably just once or twice in the background. Well now I know, and I can impress my nephews 😎

  4. I remember when how proud I was when I discovered this unique song when it was still unknown outside of Australia 😊️

  5. in one hand she is very cool…she is also better than other artist like Billie or justin , becuae she did it with strong will and alot of effort, but still those artist have money to start with(drive with the car and not working), and they live in a rich part of the world,billie or justin are worse, they came from a good background they are also in the best country to succeed. so it's not only based on "talent " and don't listen to anyone telling you it does.

  6. There's some really gross and mean comments here. This song literally caught my attention everytime it played on the radio and honestly I never thought that it'll be an aussie! I've been to Melbourne and bourke street. Wish I could have seen her play!

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