"Writing that song has given me a bigger platform than I would’ve had otherwise," Tones and I tells PEOPLE

By Darlene Aderoju
December 30, 2019 03:27 PM
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Tones and I never imagined that her life would turn out this way.

The Australian artist’s hit song “'Dance Monkey,'” has racked up more than 445 million views on YouTube in less than seven months. At just 19 years old, Tones and I says that she wasn’t always confident she had what it takes to become a successful musician.

“I didn’t even think my music was good enough to get on the radio in Australia,” she tells PEOPLE. “I just thought maybe triple j would play my songs maybe once or twice and that was pretty much all I expected. I didn’t actually understand what was going to happen.”

The track’s incredible success came as a surprise to both Tones and I, whose real name is Toni Watson, and her team.

“My manager said, ‘Tones, just so you know, don’t get excited about ‘Dance Monkey’ being a radio song,” she recalls. “It’s probably not gonna be a radio song like ‘Johnny Run Away,’ but we’ll see if people will like it live.'”

Tones and I
| Credit: Don Arnold/WireImage

“So I really wasn’t expecting much when I released ‘Dance Monkey,'” she adds. “But I really liked it.”

The singer says dropping the single has helped launch her career. “Writing that song has given me a platform,” she says. “A huge, way bigger platform than I would’ve had otherwise. There have been shows overseas and people are listening to my EP, and it’s more so than they would’ve, or even known who I am, before the song.”

“I’m truly grateful for the song and what it’s done for me but I’m really excited to move forward,” she continues. “I’ve only released an EP. I just want to take that and be proud and thankful of it and move forward and keep writing music.”

As part of her plan to expand as an artist, Tones and I is aiming to drop two new songs in February followed by her debut album later in the new year.

For the singer, rising beyond her own expectations is a common theme in her career. She tells PEOPLE that her fame was so unexpected that it sometimes feels unreal.

“It’s crazy and it’s the weirdest thing. I can’t put it into words,” she says. “It feels like it’s not happening to me, but it is. It’s the weirdest thing because it feels like it’s someone else’s life, but here I am.”

Part of what has brought her this far is her unique style and sound — and interestingly enough, she never received any formal vocal training.

Tones and I
| Credit: Ryan Pierse/Getty

“I never got singing lessons growing up, so currently I can’t hit notes like normal singers,” she explains. “I have to do something different for a deeper note because my voice is weird.”

The songstress also recently made a new revelation regarding her singing.

“I found out a few months ago that if I try and hit the note like a normal singer, I can’t hit any of them. But if I go up an octave higher, I can hit almost all of them,” she says. “It’s interesting, I don’t know why or how and I never really noticed that my voice was strange until someone pointed it out.”

These days however, Tones and I — who is set to embark on an international six-month long tour next year — is gearing up for her upcoming journey by strengthening her voice.

“My managers want me to go to a vocal coach to make sure I’m okay and try and get me to a point where I can go on long tours,” Tones and I says. “My past tours have been so brief, so it’s a warm up because I’ve never done anything like that.”

During her vocal lessons, Tones and I says she’s learning new techniques by doing things like singing along to the rhythm of the piano. As for her personal creative process, she says songwriting is quite the task.

“I usually start off with chords. I’ll find a chord progression that I really, really like,” she says. “I’ll figure out how I want the words to go and then I’ll get a concept and a first line and everything takes charge from there.”

Further explaining her songwriting technique, Tones and I says: “The pre-chorus always flows and the chorus is always a little bit harder for me because I put pressure on myself. I didn’t know that there was a proper way to do these things, so I just write what sounds good to me in my ears and then I hope to God that someone else likes it too.”

Tones and I is also a fan of one particular artist: Macklemore.

Credit: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

“I love him and no one else,” she tells PEOPLE. “Usually I get inspired by singles and not artists, but I love Macklemore.”

The Australia native has one ultimate goal in her singing career, and it’s one that most superstars dream of as well.

“I want to play the Super Bowl halftime show in America,” she says.

The singer also plans to live in the United States for the majority of next year despite being slightly terrified of Los Angeles earthquakes.

“I’ll actually be living in America and based in America for most of next year, so that’s exciting,” she says. “I was originally gonna be staying in L.A. because it’s very creative but I was there on July 4th and 5th, but there were two earthquakes in two days. My friends are trying to convince me to come, so we’ll see!”