An interview with Nathan Evans
The past year has served up some rather bizarre stories, both good and bad. But one thing that we definitely didn’t see coming was a postman from Scotland who’d see his rendition of the sea shanty ‘Wellerman’ reach the top of the charts! Nathan Evans has gone viral through the social media platform ‘TikTok’ and the sea shanty in question, has gained traction from the BBC and racked up over 60 million streams on Spotify! Nathan has even been spotted by music legend and rock band Queen guitarist Brian May as well as composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. With the detrimental effects of the pandemic, it’s been harder than ever for new artists to expand their following; but is social media the answer to growing a fanbase? I spoke to Nathan about TikTok, sea shanties and what it’s like succeeding in such unusual circumstances and started by asking him
Where did it all start and what was the idea behind it?
“It all started back in July last year when someone left a comment under one of my videos and requested the sea shanty ‘Leave Her Johnny’. So, I went away and listened to it, learnt it and uploaded it. The reception was amazing and so I got more requests for different sea shanties which I put into a list. I was working my way through this list and then in December along came ‘Wellerman’.”
The origin of sea shanties is that sailors sang them as work songs in order to stay positive. Do you think it’s reminiscent of what’s going on with lockdown and staying positive?
“Definitely, I think it’s played a massive part in the success of it. The way the song was used back then was to keep people happy, smiling and keep the moral high. I think it’s taken that and used it in 2021 which has been amazing.”
You’ve gone from being a postman in Scotland, to being at the top of the charts! Has it all sunk in yet?
‘No! – it’s very surreal and it’s been absolutely crazy. But it’s been some journey so far and I’m just loving every minute of it.
There are now over 1.6 billion videos under #seashanty and you have the likes of Brian May getting involved. What’s it like being such a big influence when you’re only at the start of your own music career?
“It’s crazy. I get people messaging me saying I’m an inspiration, but really, I just sit in my room and make videos; that’s it. Anyone can do it – from your phone sat in your bedroom.”
‘Obviously, the music industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and it’s been harder than ever to break through for new artists! How important do you think the role of social media is for musicians these days in getting themselves heard?’
‘I think it’s been amazing for people. It’s been such a difficult time and with everyone stuck at home. I imagine there’s been a massive surge of artists using social media and ‘TikTok’ in general. It’s been an amazing way for people to be seen.
Top of the UK charts, millions of streams, record deal! What’s the plan from here? Is it strictly sea shanties or is there more to come?
“No – I write my own music. I’m focussed on doing that at the moment. For people watching my content before, it’s been covers, originals and some sea shanties. I think going forward I’ll carry on doing that as I think why fix something if it’s not broken.”
Who are your creative influences when it comes to song writing?
“Ed Sheeran, Lewis Capaldi, Anne Marie – I love the whole singer songwriter and story telling thing. I like the idea of blending pop and folk music, so that’s where I see myself.”
Do you have any advice for other up and coming artists trying to break through in such difficult circumstances?
“Just be consistent. Always upload and stay relevant. It’s so important to keep your name out there with fresh content.”
Can you tell us a bit more about the UK tour?
“So we’ve got the UK tour – Dublin, Manchester, London and Glasgow. We’ve just sold out Glasgow this morning and announced a second show. And then hopefully an album by the end of the year and a couple of singles before then. So, it’s all looking very good!”
That’s amazing! One final random question, following on from the theme of sea shanties – If you were to name a ship what would you name it and why?
‘It’s funny because my father in law has a small boat which can probably fit about one person in it! On the side of it is written ‘I’m Awa’ which in Scottish means I’m away. I think it’d be quite cool if I had a big ship and had that painted on the side.’
It was great catching up with Nathan over zoom. He’s a really nice guy and I wish him every success. If you haven’t heard him yet, give him a listen – I guarantee you’ll be singing along before the end!