Remember a time when Wellerman wasn’t stuck in your head? Me neither. And it’s all down to former postman, Nathan Evans...
Anyone with ears and a phone knows about the sea shanty phenomenon that has swept the globe in recent weeks. It all began when Nathan Evans from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire in Scotland, started uploading songs to TikTok after completing his morning duties as a postman. It turns out that just like us, there once was a time when Evans also didn’t know what a sea shanty was:
“I knew about the Drunken Sailor and I knew that was a thing, but it wasn't until July of last year when somebody left a comment on my TikTok saying they think I’d be good at covering Leave Her Johnny that I’d properly heard of sea shanties,” admits a gracious Evans on a Zoom call (I can only imagine the amount of times he’s had to retell his slingshot entrance into the public eye over the last few weeks).
The internet works in mysterious ways, and the rest is (very recent) history. Confirming that he is no longer a postman (which he’s relieved about given the UK’s recent freezing weather; “I’ve got about a foot of snow outside!”), Evans says that his former colleagues have been nothing but supportive of his recent internet stardom.
“It was funny, because I left my job on the Friday, and they didn't know that anything was happening until the Thursday,” he laughs. “When I told them, they were shocked. They were like, ‘what do you mean, you're leaving?’ But they think it’s amazing and they’re very supportive.”
As it turns out, Leave Her Johnny walked so Wellerman could run, and his first sea shanty video racked up eye watering numbers – and fast. Evans knew that he needed to give the people what they wanted: sea shanties. And when did they want them? Late December 2020, specifically.
By the time Evans uploaded a rendition of the New Zealand whaling ballad, Wellerman a few months later, he soon found himself at the centre of a new cultural movement whirling around sea shanties, inspiring many others to record their own sea shanties and to imitate and remix Evans' version. To date, he has amassed over 500,000 TikTok followers and Wellerman has racked up over eight million views – not to mention 1.6 billion videos use the hashtag #seashanty on TikTok.
Evans can remember the exact day he uploaded the song:
“I uploaded the video on December 27, and about three or four days later it passed a million views,” he recalls.
“The comments were still rolling in and the duets were coming in at around one every two seconds. It was crazy! You laugh about things that are viral, but I was like, ‘this is pretty much viral now!’ It's everywhere – everybody's singing it.”