Ten Tonnes is the stage name of Ethan Barnett. The 22 years old musician will this year play at the legendary Reading Festival for the fourth time in a row – without having an album out until now. His self-titled debut will be released on the 3rd May 2019. George Ezra’s little brother waited for the perfect moment do drop it. In the beginning of March he played his first ever concert in Switzerland at the RADAR Festival for new music in Zurich. Before that I had the chance to catch up with the musician and talk about the path that led him to where he is today.
Ten Tones aka Ethan Barnett
Indiespect: I already had the pleasure to hear your debut album. There are a lot of earworms on it. «Better Than Me» stuck in my head from the first time I listened to it. Do you sometimes get earworms of your own songs as well?
Ten Tonnes: Yes! For me that decides if it’s a good song. If it stucks in my head I think it’s good. I hear them as well, so they’re stuck in my head all the time.
Indiespect: Do you remember the last song that stuck in your head which wasn’t your own?
Ten Tonnes: There’s a song called Sleeping Volcanoes by a band called Cass McCombs. He’s an American guitar player. That stuck in my head for a while.
Indiespect: You worked on your debut album for quite a long time. Some of the songs are out since 2017. It will be released on the 3rd May. Does it still feel fresh to you or have you already moved on again?
Ten Tonnes: Kind of a yes and no, really. I wanted to make sure that there are songs on the record that people knew already. Because a lot of the people love them and they haven’t been released physically. But I’m always writing and that’s why you like to think about the next thing you’re going to do.
«Better Than Me» is a song that instantly remains in your head.
Indiespect: Why do you think is now the right time to release your record?
Ten Tonnes: Hopefully, enough people will hear it. We could have released it earlier but you want to make sure that it reaches the most amount of people. I’ve done a lot of support tours and now I do my own tours.
Indiespect: Surely, it comes along with a new tour. Do you have plans to return to Switzerland as well?
Ten Tonnes: It won’t be until autumn this year because I’ll do another UK tour before that. It’s not fixed yet, but fingers crossed.
Indiespect: You are still really young, you turn 23 this year. Nevertheless you seem to make music for a long time now. When you first started out you still went to school. How did you manage to play concerts at that time?
Ten Tonnes: I started playing guitar when I was 13 years old but I had my first proper gig when I was about 16 or 17. I didn’t have loads at that time. It was really hard to get gigs as a new musician. So, it was mainly after school or at the weekend.
I went to university for a year and dropped out. I was doing music production but I wasn’t interested in that at allEthan Barnett, Ten Tonnes
Indiespect: When was the point where you decided that you want to focus on music, completely?
Ten Tonnes: I went to university for a year and dropped out. I was doing music production but wasn’t interested in that at all, I realized. Then I was like: if I’m gonna give music a go at any point then it’s the right time now. I was working at a lot of shit jobs and just doing music all the time.
Ten Tonnes at their first ever Swiss gig during the RADAR Festival 2019 in Zurich.
Indiespect: You currently have a contract with Warner Music, a major label. How did that come up?
Ten Tonnes: I self-released a three-track EP. I sent out CDs and just kept e-mailing people. I was really annoying, I just wanted it so badly. I think, you’ve got to have some level of persistence and annoy people so that they actually listen to you. Just on the back of that EP eventually I got some meetings.
Indiespect: There are a lot of different reasons why people don’t respond. So, it’s not always the case that they don’t like it.
Ten Tonnes: Exactly. A lot of the times they just haven’t heard it. I don’t think that they actually listen to a lot of the new music. But then, as soon as one gets in contact, then everybody hears about it. That helps.
Indiespect: Two years ago you played gigs at people’s houses. Would you still do that if you had more time? What was the intention behind that idea?
Ten Tonnes: I didn’t have any gigs by myself and I wanted to play more. It was just a way of doing that and kind of fun as well. We were talking about it the other day. I definitely would do it again.
The wait is over: Ten Tonne’s self-titled debut album will finally be released on the 3rd May 2019 at Warner Music.
Indiespect: I imagine that those gigs were at house parties. Is there something weird that happened to you during that time?
Ten Tonnes: It was always kind of weird. You got there as the party was already going on. They’d have to turn off the music and then you play songs on acoustic guitar. It kills the mood a bit, sometimes. There were a few that turned into big parties and then it was time to leave. Otherwise it’s weird I think.
Indiespect: Your brother George Ezra is also well known. You were supporting him during his last arena tour. I saw videos where you were soundchecking in those big venues. How does it feel to stand in an empty room of that size and think about all the people that will show up later?
Ten Tonnes: I did an arena tour early last year with a band called Stereophonics as well. So, I kind of had a bit of experience with that. It’s really cool. Everything echoes around and sounds epic when you just play guitar in an arena. It’s also very exciting when you step out to see a big crowd.
Indie disco with Ten Tonnes.
Indiespect: Do you talk about music with your brother or do you keep it all separated?
Ten Tonnes: We do a bit. Because we’re both really busy, we don’t see each other all the time. Even if we live like five minutes away from each other in London. When we do meet up we chat more about how we’re doing and just having a good time. But we do talk about music sometimes as well. I love talking about music.
Indiespect: The RADAR Festival offers a lot of different genres. Is there a genre that you don’t like at all?
Ten Tonnes: I think I’m fairly open to most things. I don’t really enjoy to listen to heavy metal. But there’s still stuff in that genre that I like. It just depends on the song, I think. Good songs are good songs.
Indiespect: Now you’re getting bigger and bigger. In the beginning you had to do everything on your own. You were your own manager, your own roadie and so on. What was the thing that you were happy the most when you didn’t have to do it anymore?
Ten Tonnes: That’s a good point, one hundred percent. Literally, I’m happy about everything I haven’t to do on my own, anymore. It’s nice to have people that can do it better than I can. I have a tour manager called Adam that sorts out where we’re having to go. He is amazing. It’s so nice having a team around you that’s full of good people.
Indiespect: So, you can focus on music completely.
Ten Tonnes: Yes, exactly.
Brothers making fun: Ethan Barnett and George Ezra Barnett
I don’t really enjoy to listen to heavy metal. But there’s still stuff in that genre that I likeEthan Barnett, Ten Tonnes
Indiespect: Do you tend to forget more things now than you did before?
Ten Tonnes: Yeah, probably. (laughs) Because somebody else is looking after it for me which is probably a bad thing. I try not to be like that too much and try to remember stuff.
Indiespect: In one of your tour videos you seemed to be a bit drunk. There you said that you used to work as a baggage handler at Heathrow. What did you mean there?
Ten Tonnes: (laughs) Have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody?
Ten Tonnes: Because Freddie Mercury was a baggage handler at Heathrow and I kind of just made that up. We were saying it today when we were at the airport. We say it anytime we’re in an airport now. We’ve had a few drinks by then.
Indiespect: It would be a great song title as well.
Ten Tonnes: Yeah. (laughs hard) It’s my homage to Freddie Mercury.
Who let the dogs out? Ten Tonnes in his video for «G.I.V.E.»
Indiespect: Who inspired you to become a musician?
Ten Tonnes: The Beatles were the big ones for me. There was always music in our house and we had guitars around. My dad plays a bit guitar. When I was about twelve or thirteen I started learning guitar by myself. That was because I’ve listened to The Beatles and was just blown away by it. From there it was Bob Dylan, The Smiths, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and whoever it is. That opened my eyes. Then I started listening to everything available, really.
Indiespect: I’m also a big music fan. But I’ve never had the discipline to keep practicing guitar. Didn’t you have problems with that?
Ten Tonnes: No, I used to love that. I really really enjoyed it and loved singing as well. I never used to sing in public, I just sang by myself. When I started playing guitar I thought: That’s what I’ve been missing. It just felt right to me. I was playing drums before for a couple of years. But with the guitar it was just like: this is it. I used to spend all my time on my own, playing guitar and writing songs. And that’s why I’m here now, I think.
22 years of passion – Ethan Barnett
Indiespect: This year is the fourth time you play Reading and Leeds Festival in a row. Three times you had no debut out when you stood on that stage. How does this feel to you?
Ten Tonnes: It’s insane. Reading Festival was the first festival I went to when I was a kid, when I was fifteen or sixteen. It holds a special place in my heart. I love to be able to go back to these places.
Indiespect: How did you get the chance to play there in the first place?
Ten Tonnes: It was through BBC Introducing. The BBC has this music initiative where unsigned acts can send in their music. Then they play it on local radio shows. If it goes well you get played on the national ones as well. I got a bit of that and it really helped. That’s how I got there. I played on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading in the first year.
Indiespect: Are the shows on the BBC Introducing stage attended by a lot of people?
Ten Tonnes: Yes, they can be. On my first year, I expected nobody to be there and there were a lot of people. It’s important for people to go and check out new music. We weren’t amazing on our first year. But when people are there and see you it helps a lot to give you confidence.
Come away from the window
Haven’t you learned?
That in dreams you can’t get burned
And I will meet you there
Under the furious sky that’s where I’ll be
When they’re finished with meLucy by Ten Tonnes
Indiespect: That must have been your first really big show. How nervous were you back then?
Ten Tonnes: I was very nervous. I don’t think I spoke much between the songs. It went very quickly as well, everything was really fast. I played years before that at open mic nights but that was the first one where I had a backing band. I love looking back on it. But at the time we were very nervous.
Indiespect: How is it nowadays?
Ten Tonnes: I love it now. I feel so comfortable on stage. It’s my favorite place to be, really.
Indiespect: Also the talking in between?
Ten Tonnes: Yeah, I’m not great but I’m better. I felt there was a pressure to talk all the time. But now I don’t think there is.
Indiespect: Thank you for your time and all the best with your debut.
Ten Tonnes: Brilliant, thank you!