Chainsmokers Keyboardist Tony Ann Talks Touring with Fellow Berklee Students
Prior to an evening show at Boston’s TD Garden on Friday, June 2 with Grammy-winning electro-pop duo the Chainsmokers, Tony Ann reconnected with his fellow Berklee students to discuss the wonders of a world tour with the chart-topping pair.
Ann, a Canadian composer and pianist majoring in contemporary writing and production at Berklee, was a big fan of the Chainsmokers, which is composed of Alex Pall and Drew Taggart. For more than a year, Ann has been posting his piano arrangements of several Chainsmokers songs on his YouTube channel, including “Closer (featuring Halsey), “All We Know (featuring Phoebe Ryan),” “Setting Fires (featuring XYLØ),” “Paris,” and a medley of “Don’t Let Me Down (featuring Daya)” and “Roses (featuring ROZES).” In doing so, Ann also made the sheet music of his arrangments available for free.
His YouTube efforts eventually caught the eye of Pall and Taggart, who reached out to Ann via his Berklee email address. The email title line read, simply, "Dope." Upon receiving the email, Ann says, he let out a scream in his Haviland Street apartment, a reaction verified by Matt Underwood, Ann's partner in the electro-pop duo the Swoons.
Pall and Taggart shared Ann’s “Paris” cover on the Chainsmokers’ Instagram and noted that he would be joining their worldwide tour.
“Yo how talented is this guy? Just shows you never know what’s gonna happen!” —The Chainsmokers, via an Instagram post about Ann.
Since then, Ann has performed with the group on Saturday Night Live and at venues across the U.S., U.K., and Canada as part of the Chainsmokers' tour in conjunction with its debut studio album, Memories... Do Not Open. More dates are ahead over the summer, including stops in Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal, and Singapore.
Watch footage from the first leg of The Chainsmokers' current tour:
Prior to the Boston show, Ann participated in a conversation with fellow students in Berklee's Stan Getz Library and Media Center (where Ann previously worked as a student employee) that covered everything from his Logic presets and iMovie technique to writing a solo piano lead-in to the Chainsmokers' hit "Closer" and studying at Berklee.
Below is an edited and abridged presentation of some of Ann’s comments from that conversation.
On getting "discovered" via YouTube:
"I only had 100 or so subscribers when they found me. You don’t have to have the best production when it comes to video, but the content is really important, and that’s what grabbed them."
On his first two gigs with the Chainsmokers:
"[Saturday Night Live] was my first gig outside of Berklee. [The second show, at American Airlines Arena in Miami] was surreal. On the day of the show, I was anxious, because before that the biggest crowd I had played for was at the Red Room for an open mic, so it’s very different. I was pretty nervous for that show because it was so new to me, but I think I did pretty good."
On his studies at Berklee:
"I’ve learned a lot at Berklee. I used to book out classroom 203 from 8 to 12. When it comes to performing, [Berklee Professor] Livingston Taylor has helped a lot. I took stage performance with him, and he told me to look at the audience, so I look at the audience now, and it’s great. I wave to them and they freak out. Touring wasn’t what I was planning on doing. It was more like songwriting. But I’ve been able to incorporate stuff I’ve learned about harmony and, stage presence-wise, to take Livingston’s advice, so thank you, Livingston."
"It’s a lot of fun. I love it. You guys gotta try it. Now it’s actually kind of tough sleeping in hotels because it’s not shaking like the bus."
On lessons learned:
"One thing I’ve learned is that people would rather work with a less talented person who’s easy to work with than a genius who’s hard to work with, so just be a genuine, humble person. Another thing I’ve learned is that, when you’re performing, it’s more important to satisfy what the audience wants than what you want. So, the whole crew forced me to dab onstage, and at first I was like ‘Hell no’ for a good month, but then I came to my senses and I was like, ‘Well, maybe the audience will really like it.’ And they do like it, so I’m going to continue dabbing."
Watch Tony Ann's piano cover of "Roses" and "Don't Let Me Down" by the Chainsmokers: