Loved by 222k followers on Instagram and viewed by over 80,00,000 people on YouTube, 17-year-old New York-based Tonee Marino has charged into the music industry, one stellar beat at a time. After churning out pop, R&B, hip-hop, and rap songs, and finding major league success with solo hits like ‘So Sad’ and ‘Juice’, this independent singer, rapper, songwriter, and producer is all set to enthral fans with an upcoming docuseries, Next Big Thing NYC— a reality show which follows eight rising teen stars across industries. We get in touch with Morino to know more about the show, his rise to fame, and more. By Bayar Jain
1. How has life changed for you since Next Big Thing NYC?
I love working and it’s another job that’s added to my career. It was very fun and I’ve made some new friends as well. It’s given me something new to experience in my career. Although I’ve always been in front of cameras, shooting for reality TV was a very different experience.
2. What is the biggest takeaway for you from the show?
My biggest takeaway from the show was building close friendships with some of the cast members. I’m thankful for my relationship with my good friend and producer of the show, Susanna Paliotta, who is now a part of my team as well.
3. How did you step into the world of music and what inspired you to pursue it full-time?
My passion for music and interest in creating music made me turn it into a career. I started by uploading cover videos on YouTube and Instagram and building a small fan base. During the summer of 2016, I released my first two singles. As my numbers started to grow, I began dropping more and more music. Now, I make my own beats, write my own lyrics and co-engineer in the studio.
4. You’re involved in every step of your music production, straight from the lyrics to the engineering of it. What is your process like?
I usually start out with the beat, and once I get a good vibe going, lyrics come to me naturally. I don’t make it a very technical process because I feel if I have fun with it, the listener will have the same experience too. After the beat and lyrics are complete, I record and mix my music with my engineer, Jason Cummings. We have a good workflow, so we can cut two-three records in four or five hours.
5. Being a young artist with a massive following like yours can be daunting, especially mentally. How do you cope with it?
I don’t let negativity get to me, even though there really isn’t much of it. Earlier, I used to get caught up if someone left a negative comment on my music, but it doesn’t affect me anymore. Nobody’s opinion could possibly change the way I think about myself or my music. People have the right to their own opinion, and not all people will like me. That’s just the way it is. I know I have a fan base who loves my music and loves me for who I am, but—most importantly—I know that I am capable of making great music and that’s all that matters to me. Coming into the music industry, I knew that there would be downsides of it, but that doesn’t bother me. Music is everything to me and I can’t live without it.
6. Which has been your most memorable performance yet and why?
My most memorable performance was back in November 2019 when I opened for Jay Critch at York College in Queens, New York. It was a crowd of thousands, and the feeling of them jumping and singing my lyrics was insane! Performing live is my favourite part of the music industry.
7. How has the lockdown affected your work and how have you adapted to it?
The lockdown has been both positive and negative. It’s been positive since I have more time to focus on creating my music, writing lyrics, making beats, doing more Zoom calls, giving interviews and engaging with my fans through social media. However, I can no longer do live shows for now. Having said that, I know once the COVID-19 situation is in control, I will be back on the stage!
8. What changes do you see in the music industry once travel restrictions ease?
I really don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do wish for things to return to normal. If restrictions are eased and I can perform again, that would mean the world to me! I would love to travel out of the state—and even out of the country—to do shows and meet fans. Being in the music industry, travelling is a very big part of it. All our meetings, shows, etc. require travel.
9. As a New Yorker, what do you feel are some of the hidden gems of the city?
I think everything about New York is a gem! Every non-New Yorker I’ve met loves the city and tells me it’s a very different experience for them. My favourite part about it is people’s non-stop energy. The amazing museums and art galleries here such as the secret rooftop gardens of the Rockefeller Center or the Old City Hall subway station are some of the many hidden gems here. In fact, New York has many places to visit and experience. I would definitely recommend stopping by if you haven’t already!