Ten Tonnes: Living the dream
With a smashing new EP, and a slew of festival slots this summer, everything’s coming up Ten Tonnes.
Published: 7:06 am, May 08, 2017
Interrupting a quiet afternoon at his sister’s house in their home village of Hertford, Ethan Barnett - aka Ten Tonnes - has just had his hair cut and is relaxing with a cup of green tea. “I’m trying to pre-emptively sort myself out for the sunny weather because I’m not used to it,” he jokes, just a week away from flying to Austin, Texas to play a succession of shows at one of the biggest taste-making events in the world. “I’m buzzing for it,” the 20-year-old says.
Having started playing the drums aged nine to keep up with his now-hugely-famous brother George Ezra (music runs in the family) who was learning bass, Ethan enjoyed it for a while, but says “playing drums by yourself gets boring after a while.” Then, four years later, he discovered The Beatles and quickly picked up the guitar before starting to write his own “shockingly bad” songs while at school.
When he turned 16, Ethan started gigging around the local area but “dropped it completely” for half a year when he started university. “I didn’t know what I was doing, then I dropped out of uni and thought I should give music a proper stab... I didn’t go in much, and I ended up getting a lot of zero marks because I didn’t hand in much work,” he laughs. Looking back, Ethan’s glad he left uni behind - it just wasn’t for him. “I wasn’t the best student at all; I think I would have had to re-do my first year anyway and I was just not enjoying the course at all. It threw up the idea of making me realise that I wanted to do my music properly.”
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‘Born To Lose’, the lead single from his new EP, has been a while in the making. “As with most of my songs, it takes me a long time to finish them off. I had this one since July or August last year, and I just couldn’t ever finish it. Because it was such a comfortable place to be in, I was like, ‘This will be a good song maybe one day’, so you just leave it there. Over Christmas, I decided to finish all these half-finished songs that I’ve got.”
The second track, ‘Love Me To Death’, is in a completely different vein – more of “a bittersweet love song”, Ethan says, having worked with some massive names in the indie and alternative rock world. “Hugo White from The Maccabees produced most of the new EP, and when I found out I was going to go and write with Dan Auerbach, I rang my friend because we both love The Black Keys; we spent five minutes on the phone just screaming at each other because we were so excited. Stuff like that is mind-blowing. I fucking love it. It’s great.”
Rather than fan-girling for the whole time, the pair put their heads together and made the most of the time. “We ended up writing four songs in two days!” Ethan enthuses. “His work rate is just insane, so we’ve got four really cool tunes which I think will be released later this year. I just try and write good, uplifting pop tunes with decent choruses and a bit of a story to them, and the electric guitar. The fact that Morrissey, Dylan and John Lennon are big on their lyrics has always been a key thing for me, and if people like my music then I’m more than happy…”
Of his top moments of the last year, Ethan says Reading & Leeds was “massive for me. It’s one of those things that when I found out I was playing I went straight to the pub with my mates because that was a festival that we all went to…” How his career has snowballed so quickly, too, is a great feeling to have, he says, having put out his debut ‘Lucy’ EP - a three-tracker full of catchy, earworm melodies and breezy lyrics - in March 2016. “How things picked up from there - every day was just insane and super fun. I’m just loving it - playing live has been great and getting to meet all these incredible people and write and record with them.”
This spring, Ethan is playing pretty much every city festival going; Live At Leeds, Dot to Dot and The Great Escape to name a just a few. “It’s going to be great; I’ve only done a few of these, before I was just booking them myself so it’s great to get a call saying I’m playing at all these places. I’m really excited to just get out there and play to as many people as possible.”
He’s started working on an album, too, which will hopefully come out next year. “I love recording, it’s one of my favourite things. Putting out songs and playing live - seeing how it goes. It’s living the dream.”