When it comes to making music, rising R&B singer Tone Stith is the type of artist who likes to take his time. He sings, knows how to write a Billboard chart-topping hit, plays multiple instruments, and can be seen in various Instagram clips showing off his vocal ability, including in 2017 when he covered Drake’s “Madiba Riddim” off More Life.
He’s made great progress since then and it’s evident on his new EP FWM. The project is an R&B purists’ dream filled with nine songs and features from the likes of Kiana Lede, Lonr, and frequent collaborator HER for the song “When You Love Someone.” FWM is a sonic display of Stith’s ever-evolving talent from his pen game to the way his voice warmly wraps around each soulful word he sings. If Tone Stith wasn’t on your radar before, there’s a good chance FWM is convincing enough to turn anyone into a believer.
Speaking with Uproxx, Tone dives into the making of FWM, what it’s like working with HER, his relationship with Drake, and what the future looks like.
This is the EP that you’re coming out with, stands for F*ck With Me. Why should people with fuck with Tone Stith?
I’ve been in the industry for a minute. A lot of people know me from being in a group. Some people know me from writing a lot of songs for Chris Brown and then putting out my solo stuff shortly afterwards. But the thing is now, I feel like that I’m 25 and I really got a good taste of life and got to go through a lot of ups and downs. This new music is like, “Hey, y’all know who I am.” Now, I’m going to really make you say y’all got to fuck with me. I’m here and I can do everything that everybody thinks I can do. Now is the time for the world to fuck with me.
What’s the one song on FWM that everybody needs to listen to?
I cannot lie to you, my favorite song is “FWM.” There’s a special place in my heart for that song. I just feel like when we made that, that night, it was just like, something. I feel like it put everything else into perspective as far as the project goes, but that was the one that really kicked it off.
You have a song with HER, “When You Love Someone,” and you also went on tour with HER before the pandemic. What was it like touring with her? She’s such an amazing artist and musician.
It was nothing but amazing. She’s just so humble, so down to earth, so real. On top of that, just being incredibly talented on stage. It was a great experience. I got to learn so much as far as about artistry, about touring, about connecting with the crowd, about putting on a good show.
Was there something specific that you learned while on tour with her that was a learning experience for you?
She would bring me out on her set because we did a remix of “Could’ve Been” and she put me on the remix. She would bring me out every night and just singing with her and going back and forth. It made me realize, more so when performing, to get to that stage where you let go. You’re not really thinking about anything. It’s just you’re up there. You’re living in that moment and you’re just having fun and you’re connecting with people that you’re singing to. It really made me grow in that aspect.
How was the making of “When You Love Someone”?
Me and HER, we were working at the same studio for a month and a half. She was telling Jeff one day she was like, “Look, I got this song for Tone.” She had already written it. She was like, “I just want to play it for you. Tell me if you like it, if you want to cut it or whatever.” She played it for me, and it was a no-brainer. I was like, “Yo, let’s do it.” So the next day we got in session and she was vocal producing me. I just want to let y’all know, you’ve heard the song before, but it was probably the most difficult song I had to record. Everything had to be perfect. I’m a perfectionist myself but she’s a perfectionist on another level. So, but it was fun and it made me a better artist too.
How is HER as a vocal producer?
Oh, she don’t take no mess as a vocal producer. She don’t take no mess, no slacking.
I know you have a relationship with Drake. I saw you went to help celebrate him being awarded Artist of the Decade for Billboard at his party. How was that?
If you know Drake, you got to know Jas Prince. Jas has been in my corner for years, but he’s the one who connected us and it’s awesome because a lot of people wish they had that outlet to go out and reach out and be like, “Hey, what do you think of this?” And get feedback and stuff like that. It’s just been a blessing because every time I’ll hit him for feedback or just advice he’ll hit me back and give me a real response like, “Yo, this is what you got to do. This is who you got to be if you want to get to this point.” He always keeps it real. It’s a good relationship.
Can we expect to hear you on Certified Lover Boy?
I don’t even know. It could be one of those things. Well, here’s a fun fact. The Bryson and Drake song, they actually sample me doing a Snoh Aalegra cover. So that’s actually me in the background. I don’t know, it could happen. Something like that.
I also just want to talk about your creative process. When you’re in the studio, what is the vibe that you’re setting?
So the vibe, I mean, every day is definitely going to be different. What I like to do before I start while heading to the studio if I’m in the car, wherever, I love to play music. I love to just adventure into different genres, different artists and see what really resonates with me that day. Every day could be different. Some days I’ll be bumping Tame Impala the whole way to the studio. I’m like, “Yo, let’s get it. We in that Tame Impala bag.” Or I’ll be bumping off Michael Jackson, Prince, or just throwback Rick James. Then I’ll suggest, “Yo, we need to tap into this sonic.” Where they were at when they made this? Just playing music and appreciating other music that came before me and even music that’s out right now. It’s just what do I want to tap into? Where do we want to go? Where do we want to take it? Then making it relate to my life.
How do you come up with your ideas?
So I can’t even lie to you, it is definitely like life sometimes. There’s times where I would just think, I’ll hear music while making music, I’ll think of one-word concepts. I like one-word concepts a lot, for instance, “Devotion.” Then there’s times where it’s like, I can be looking around the room, I could be reading something on a bottle. I could be in my phone. I’ll be on Twitter just looking like, “Yo, what are people talking about? What is going on?” I’ll just pull from stuff like that. There’s really no limit to how creative you can be.
Where’s the most unique place you’ve drawn inspiration from to create music?
I got the opportunity when I was, I think I was 23, 22. I got the opportunity to go to Drake’s tour in Europe for a few days. I was just living in the moment like, “Oh, this is crazy. I’m in Paris for the first time. I’m in London for the first time.” And now that I’m older, I have a bunch of songs from all the things that have happened in that little small timeframe. I think that’s probably the craziest place that I’ve pulled from, because it was just so different. The experience was just totally different. I wasn’t in a place then to really make it come to life.
Have you released any of those songs?
Nope. Not yet.
Maybe we’ll get the Paris tapes in the future.
FWM is out now via RCA. Get it here.