Following the release of his self-titled debut album, I caught up with Ten Tonnes at one of the coolest venues in Glasgow, Saint Luke’s.
I met 22-year-old Ethan Barnett, better known as Ten Tonnes, ahead of his headline show at Glasgow’s impressive converted church.
He’s busy pouring a brown syrup into a fruit tea and, when I question what he is concocting, he explains that he is making a throat tea and allows me to smell the syrup – which does indeed smell of frangipane.
After momentarily being distracted by beverages we get to talking about his recently released debut album.
Your album has been out for a week now – how does it feel to have it out for people to listen to?
It feels very good! It’s been a long time coming now I think, so it definitely feels good. I think everyone expected me to be going absolutely ballistic but I’ve had it done since November, and I’ve had the record in my flat since January. It’s just really nice to have people listening to it more than anything, because I was just listening to it by myself for hours and hours! Sometimes I’d listen to it and think it’s really good and other times just think ‘No this is really shit’. There was just constant wigging out about it – so it’s nice to have it out.
Have you noticed a difference in the shows since the album has been out?
Yeah a little bit! It’s so mad because the album has only been out for a week and we haven’t been on tour that long but people already know the lyrics to the songs, which is really cool. That’s the best bit about it really, that people are listening to it. It’s weird because before I put music out, whether it’s a song or the album or whatever, I listen to it myself loads and then as soon as it’s out I don’t listen to it anymore. I haven’t listened to the album since it’s been out.
Is that in case you get cold feet and it’s too late?!
No, I literally just don’t like it anymore. As soon as it’s out I’m like right on to the next thing – write the next song. I’m already writing new stuff. Once it’s out I’m just like ‘Ah it’s a bit boring now, everyone has it’.
Have there been any particularly cool moments during the shows this week that have stood out?
Yeah, as I said just people knowing the lyrics to brand new songs. There’s some that I’ve played live a couple of times so people might know them if they’ve seen me before, but loads of people know loads of the lyrics to all the new stuff, which is really cool. The gigs have been nuts. I’m glad that it worked out that the album came out and then there was a tour straight away because it’s been mental, like proper hectic, but so much fun.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, but why did you want to perform under a moniker?
I have never been asked that in such an eloquent way!
My name is Ethan Barnett and it just seemed a bit boring. I didn’t want to just be a normal singer-songwriter. I was doing loads of open mic nights at the start of my career, when I was like 17 or 18, and there would be 10 people playing and the list would be like ‘John Smith, Sophie Adams’ or whoever and I just wanted something that stood out a little bit. Originally I was going to keep Ethan, because that bit is kinda cool, and then pick another second name, but then I couldn’t think of anything good.
How did you settle on Ten Tonnes?
I was in a pub garden and it just kinda came out of nowhere. I’ve got a memory, but I don’t know whether I’ve made it up from having too many interviews, where I was in a pub that had loads of old posters around and there was one for a circus and I don’t know if I saw that and thought ‘Ooh a circus’ and thought of Ten Tonnes – I might have made that up just because I’ve tried to explain myself so many times.
Is that also why you wanted your debut album to be self-titled?
I didn’t want it to have anything excess on it, I just wanted it to be some hopefully really good songs and just be quite simple. I also couldn’t really think of anything, to tell you the truth.
Let’s talk about the album a bit, Lucy is a strong start, how did you decide that was the first song you wanted people to hear?
Ever since I wrote that song I’ve been thinking that if I ever do an album Lucy will be the first song. As soon as I wrote it and started playing it at open mic nights and other shitty gigs, it was always the song that got the best response because it was obviously the best song I was playing at the time. It just felt like, out of all the songs, it kind of encapsulates everything I do. It’s got the indie side, the poppy side, the guitar and everything else, so it’s a strong opener. I used to actually start my sets with it as well, which is very weird. I don’t know why I used to do that because it’s the best song and you’re supposed to save that ’til last.
It depends where you’re at doesn’t it? Maybe that was a strong choice at the time!
I think that’s what my thinking was – play the best one first and then hopefully they might stay around for a bit!
In the same way, was it conscious decision to end the album on a mellow note with Missing You?
Definitely. But I had a proper moment like a month after we’d confirmed the track listing where I thought ‘Shit it’s wrong Missing You should be second to last and then have Lay it on me as a big ending’. But I’m actually pleased that it’s as it is because you go through the whole thing and then there’s that nice little… [whistles sweetly – a nice vocal interpretation of how the album ends].
I am going to ask you difficult questions now and make you pick your favourites. Which track did you enjoy writing most?
Counting Down I think. I wrote it in 2016 or 2017, so ages and ages ago, and it started off as this really weird surf demo that I did on my computer just on Logic. It was just summery chords and [sings under breath] I’m not gonna sing it, I almost sang it just then, but it was a super slow version. Then in the last month of writing songs for the record, so August or September last year, I remembered I always liked that lyric of “I’m counting down the minutes til I see you next, 54321” and then, when playing around with the guitar, came up with a new rhythm, new melody and new song. We just kept that one lyric and then wrote the rest of the song. That was the most fun, because it was a thing already and I just used my brain – it actually felt like the clogs were turning like this is sick this could actually work!
Is it hard to go back to songs?
Yeah definitely, it was the same with Lucy because I wrote that originally in my first year of uni and it was completely different. The verses were the same, but the chorus wasn’t and it didn’t have a pre-chorus either so I spent time going back to that one too. Sometimes you just write a song in 2 minutes and sometimes it takes like a month.
Which track are you most proud of lyrically?
I like Silver Heat still quite a lot. I like the verses in that – the whole thing I think is still quite cool. Missing You as well, I don’t know if that’s lyrically or whether I just quite like that song, it’s a nice one.
Which track have you enjoyed playing live most this week?
Well, at the first gig my tour manager made a setlist and put Ten Tonnes massive and then the song titles were so small, and I was hot and sweaty so I missed out Too Late and then afterwards everyone was like ‘Is there any reason we didn’t play that song?’ and I had to be like ‘I just didn’t see it, I just completely forgot’. But then we played it for the next couple of nights and it’s been really fun, so I’m kinda gutted we didn’t play it the first night. So, sorry Birmingham!
Which track has got the best reaction from the crowd on this tour?
I mean Silver Heat and Lucy obviously always go down really well, but Nights In, Nights Out is getting a pretty good reception and Too Late as I said.
Okay, this is the hard one. If you could only play one song for the rest of your life what would it be?
I think I have to say Lucy. I just wouldn’t be here without it, it’s kinda the song that started it all off and has got me here.
And finally, what are you most looking forward to in the next few months? Any festivals you’re particularly excited for?
I was gonna say time off but that’s probably a boring answer.
You can’t say that your album has only just come out!
I am excited to go home and see everyone, to be fair. The tour finishes next week and I’ve got a week where I’m not doing anything much, just a bit of writing so I’ll go home for that. I’m playing Reading and Leeds for the fourth year in a row, which is fucking mad. Then Truck Festival and Y Not Festival, which I’ve not played before but they seem really cool. Then there’s some others that I can’t announce yet…
Ten Tonnes will be back for Glasgow’s Summer Sessions on August 25th.
By Luka Kenyon