Views From The Studio: Tone Stith's Golden Pen Sets His Emerging Career On The Right Path
If one thing is abundantly clear, Tone Stith is just doing his own thing.
A newcomer in the music industry, Stith oozes humility but lacks every reason to be humble — with a co-sign from Drake, Jas Prince and Justin Bieber, Sith’s years of work have accumulated big names under his belt.
The 23-year-old emerged on the scene with his foot in the door and tantalizing pen on the songwriting pad after working with Chris Brown on gems like “Liquor,” “Make Love” and Brown’s recent hit, “Undecided.” Three-for-three, Tone is a hitmaker, but more than that, he is a musician with the capacity to pick up an instrument and create a song worthy of radio play.
“I love listening to other music first and just being like, ‘Okay, what am I going to do today?’” he says of his creative formula. “So every day is different, I'll just take out the guitar and go on the keyboard, whatever. But I like listening to things and just being like, ‘Okay that is what made that song great, that's what made that song cool.’”
But who is he really? Truth be told, his records speak louder than any interview, there is a certain confidence that radiates from his high falsettos and he performs as if the music is his primary form of communication. If his discography is any indication, Tone is a lover of many things — women, Michael Jackson — all elements that came before his time.
It could be heard throughout his take on the “Could’ve Been” remix with H.E.R. The creatives blend their voices eloquently with intense passion as they dip and dive through the parallels of complicated love. Released just after our chat, Tone toured with the Grammy-winner in 2018 and dropped subtle hints about a possible collaboration while reminiscing about their musical trek around the country. “It was great watching H.E.R.’s work ethic because that's a real artist and I took a lot from that,” he said.
Authentic and vigilant, Tone is striving to bridge a gap between older and younger generations. It’s what makes his latest EP, Good Company such a gem. The 25-minute project enlists bars and melodic raps from Swae Lee, Quavo, and Ty Dolla $ign, who pay tribute to Cali Vibes with singles that harness the spirit of good vibes. Leaning on his newfound West Coast swag, the South Jersey native harnesses the eclectic tastes of the ‘99 and 2000s to create this EP worth a quick listen.
Speaking with VIBE for our Views From The Studio series, Tone Stith details his musical journey, legendary co-signs, his next steps and the curious case of his unreleased project, California 70.
VIBE: How would you describe Tone Stith?
Tone Stith: I'll say, "Tone Stith is an old soul." I have an old soul. I love music that comes from the 70s and 80s. And I love love so I enjoy singing about love and things that are good. A lot of the music today is saying a lot of edgy stuff towards women, but I feel like there is a brighter side to that. I want to bring the brighter side to my music and spread peace and love and just bring in that old feel and making it new.
You took part in the popular “10 Year Challenge” recently. What do you think is the biggest difference between who you were then and who you are now?
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Everything, like it's literally everything. The way I dress, the way I conduct myself, just really coming into my own just being Tone Stith and following my vision. I think that is different, the way I have approached my music and just listened to different things.
And how has your music changed?
Well, it has gone from... that's a good question. It has changed and some are still the same. I still follow the same musical path as far as what I listen to and things like that, but I am getting older so the content is changing and what I am talking about is changing. And even though I love talking about love, there are things that I want to bring as far as just the world today, just talking about things like that and the world we are living in.
What are some new elements you want to introduce in your music?
A lot of things, the way our culture, the black community, different things about that. I don't want to get too political with it and start going crazy with it, but yeah definitely things that I feel like need to be brought up and subject to talk about.
I see that you worked with Chris Brown on "Undecided" and "Liquor" and another song.
What was it like working with Chris Brown and producing "Undecided?"
Chris is awesome. From the moment I met him, he just got it. We connected and it's just fun. It's fun working with Chris because he never runs out ideas. He is always going right off the top of his head and we are just bouncing ideas back and forth.
Before “Undecided,” I worked on “Liquor” which was just crazy because that was the first actual placement that I had got with him and I was 20 then. I was telling everybody in high school that one of my goals was to work with Chris Brown. I said, "I am going to work with Chris Brown and make it happen." And then that happened and I was just like, "Yo this is crazy!"
So after “Liquor” came out, we keep it going. With "Undecided," he invited me to his house and we did a lot of other records that I hope get on his new album. He played this song for me and at the time it was not finished yet and he was like, "Look, man, this is one of the songs that I am really loving right now, I need you to go in there and just do your thing," so that's how it happened.
Was this before or after the sample form Shanice " I Love Your Smile?"
No that was already in there. The whole song was pretty much [done] he had the verse, chorus, and then I did the second verse.
Since you’re a lover of classic R&B, who would you say is your queen of the genre?
That's hard, "Queen of R&B." My all-time favorite is Patti LaBelle. I love Patti LaBelle. My mom was a huge Patti LaBelle fan so that's all we listened to. But there are so many Queens of R&B so I can't even begin to talk about it, but today's generation I would say H.E.R. would be the queen.
Would she be somebody you would like to collaborate with?
What's was it like being a part of H.E.R.'s "I Used to Know Her" tour?
It was amazing. It was a pleasure. It was great to watch her interact with her people, her band and just how she controls it. She’s like, "This is what I want, this is when I want it, this is how I want it." It was great watching that because that's a real artist and I took a lot from that.
What was your favorite moment from the tour?
Favorite moment? It has to be coming out on her set and when we do the duet together because we just get in the moment and it's crazy. I feel like everybody feels the energy from us on the stage and we just feel the energy from the crowd and it's amazing.
To me, some of your music sounds like a blend of older and newer generations of R&B, and pop and funk. How would you describe your sound?
It's definitely different from what is going on today. I like being different because I feel like different stands out. I just want to bring to this generation this sound that they really never got to hear and experience like that. That's my journey, that's my goal.
Do you have any signature beats or instruments you like to use?
I started playing drums when I was three in our church and my mom was singing so I grew up watching her sing in the choir. My dad's a drummer but I just started picking up all instruments just by ear so I don't really know music theory like that. I can't tell you what keys is what but I just know because I listen. I think I’m the best on the drums but my favorite instrument is the guitar because there are so many. I love the guitar because you can do anything on it. You can write songs or learn how to sing from it so it’s my favorite.
Do you think big co-signs from artists like Drake ever affect you or distracts you music wise?
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No, it doesn't because I feel like what I and him do are different. He's always just been in my corner supporting me and just gives me advice when I need it. One day I hope we do work, but I am not rushing it. I want everything to happen organic but he is always pushing me to be the best I can be.
What do you think is the best advice you've gotten from him?
Going back to your first questions, he told me last year to make sure I knew who Tone Stith was in 2018. He said, "You have to know who are you each year because you got to follow what's going on for the generation to recognize it. You also have to be yourself." So that was the biggest thing. And it was just those words who is Tone Stith in 2018 and I take that into the New Year. Who is Tone Stith in 2019, who is Tone Stith in 2020? So, those little things like that stick with me.
So tell me about your EP Good Company.
Good Company is good company, so is the title track with Swae Lee and Quavo. That was so cool because the way it happened was just so normal. They just came over to the house one day. Swae Lee came over first and we were playing basketball. I don't know if everybody loves basketball, it was a good ice breaker.
So we were playing basketball then we went to the studio. I made the track originally for Travis Scott and Beyonce because somebody told me they were looking for a song but he heard the track and was like, "Let me do something with this," and he just went in the booth and started with "Baby get comfortable." A few days later, Quavo came over playing basketball, same thing and then he heard the song and was like, "Yeah let me put a verse on it" and that's how "Good Company" happened.
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The song with Ty, "Take It There" is crazy. I made that with PRBLM SLVRS, it was already done for a while before Ty put his thing on it. He heard a lot of my music and was like, "Look I got to do something with you." A few weeks later, he sent the song back with his verse on it and I was like, "Yooo it's Ty, it's Ty Dolla $ign."
That's cool, you're lucky. So now tell me about California 70. When is it coming out?
That's my baby, that is my baby. That's definitely going to come out, I can't tell you when. It is something I have been working on for years but it is definitely coming. My thing is I am an artist so I keep going into things and just revamping things and changing things and making it sound different but there is going to be a time for California 70, I am just trying to prepare everything up to that point.
What details can you give us?
It's definitely the 70s and the 80s. Like I was saying earlier, just getting this new generation to know that type of music because it is a different sound. But it's definitely a feel-good vibe. It's 70 degrees, it's California 70, it's what you want to listen to when you are driving down Sunset Boulevard or Topanga Canyon.
Are there any correlations between the two projects, anything that bleeds over from Good Company to California 70?
Not necessarily, Good Company I mean, I love the project but it's an EP and I am putting out another EP, then I want to put out a self-titled project titled Tone Stith, then I want to put out California 70. So it is stepping stones. It is all like basically getting to California 70 gradually.
What has stopped you from putting it out?
The timing just hasn't been right and it's not necessarily because I don't want to put it out because I do, but I am not going to rush it. I want it to happen organically cause that's when it is going to work.
So my last question is, what is next for you?
A bunch of new music definitely touring, definitely working on going on my own headlining tour and just a lot of music videos. I’m just about ready to get this content rolling.
Stream Good Company below.