The idea of the ‘difficult second album’ often revolves around building on the foundations of your debut record, and slowly making steps forward. For Ethan Barnett – aka Ten Tonnes – though, it was more a case of taking stock and reflecting on the past chapter of his career.
Barnett released his self-titled debut album as Ten Tonnes in May 2019 via Warner Bros, before embarking on sold-out tours and a summer of festivals on the back of an immaculately-produced pop-rock record which saw him work with The Maccabees’ Hugo White and Dan Grech.
In September of that year, Barnett stopped working with Warner, and an all-encompassing stock check followed. Just days after the news, he headed out on a European tour, which he says was a “really really tough” experience. At the time, I thought, ‘What am I doing? What the fuck is going on?’” he says, before taking time off at the end of 2019 and into 2020 to examine his next moves.
Moving back to his hometown during the first six months of the pandemic, Barnett slowly began writing music again, a process he likens to his early days as a teenager, making music in his bedroom for no one but himself, blocking out the idea of any outside input. “Last year was really important for me personally,” he says, “just to have a break and sort myself out a bit.”
When he did start writing, the revelations poured out, and his next steps became more concrete in front of his eyes. Since then, Barnett has launched his own record label, Silver Heat Records, with a five-track EP due in the summer, and his second full-length album set to follow in early 2022.
“It’s given me the creative freedom to do whatever I want,” Barnett says of his new independent status, with the time he took off allowing him to reflect on the whirlwind period of his debut album, and digest the personal growth that came off the back of it.
Barnett says: “I think regardless of what job I had, if you’re in your early 20’s you’re just working out what you want to do and who you are. I got signed at 19 years old, and it was nice to just have a bit of a break and think, ‘Okay, who am I? What do I like? What don’t I like? What do I actually want to do next?’”
The song that leads the charge for this period of growth is the new EP’s first single ‘Everything You Got’, which sees Barnett making a fierce statement of intent for his future, and throwing everything he has at it. Influenced by the “massive” sounds of ‘80s power-pop and new wave, the track encapsulates the singer’s commitment to full-blooded passion.
Describing writing the song as “a really cathartic experience,” Barnett says: “Looking back on it, it’s about that period of time where I was completely lost, and then reevaluating everything. It’s like, ‘Just go for it and stop thinking so much.”
Thriving with the increased control of being an independent artist – Barnett is commissioning his friends and peers to work on artwork, videos and other material for his upcoming music, and working with a trusted inner circle of collaborators and producers – the last year has seen Ten Tonnes reflect upon the hurricane-like exiting of his teens in the major label ecosystem, the freedom that comes with deciding to do things yourself instead, and the bonuses of slowing down and trying to work yourself out.
“I’m proud of myself for going through all that stuff,” he reflects. “Regardless of music, you still need to work on yourself and grow. I’m in a really creative, fulfilling place.”