Nathan Evans: who is the Scottish sea shanty singer on TikTok – and where has Wellerman got to in the Top 40?

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From postman to global musical sensation – how did a 26-year old from Airdrie become 2021’s first social media phenomenon?

Just a few weeks ago, the name Nathan Evans likely didn’t mean all that much to many people, but now he’s landed the number one spot in The Official Big Top 40 music chart, having seemingly come from nowhere.

The 26-year old from Airdrie, Scotland, has quit his job as a postman after kick-starting a new viral craze of sea-shanties on TikTok (dubbed #ShantyTok) and signing a record deal with Polydor Records.

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Sea shanty TikTok: what is a Wellerman - and why shanties are trending during Co...
Nathan Evans was once just an anonymous postie - but thanks to social media, is poised to be the UK's next chart star (Photos: TikTok)Nathan Evans was once just an anonymous postie - but thanks to social media, is poised to be the UK's next chart star (Photos: TikTok)
Nathan Evans was once just an anonymous postie - but thanks to social media, is poised to be the UK's next chart star (Photos: TikTok)

His song ‘Wellerman’ is the new number one in the chart, with a remix of the song by 220 KID and Billen Ted taking number three.

It beat Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Drivers License’, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Afterglow’ and Riton & Nightcrawlers’ ‘Friday’ to take the top spot.

But how did we get here?

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who is Nathan Evans?

Before posting his first sea shanty to TikTok, Evans sung covers of pop and folk hits on the video-sharing social network, taking requests from fans.

In July 2020, a follower suggested Evans take on a sea shanty for the first time.

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"Honestly, I didn't know much about sea shanties,” Evans told NBC News, but he looked into the genre and was instantly enthused; “Now, you can call me a fan.”

He posted his first traditional sea shanty – ‘Leave Her Johnny’ – to TikTok that month, and in the following weeks, viewers continued to request more shanties.

Eventually, it was his rendition of New Zealand 19th-century shanty ‘Wellerman’ that captured the internet’s attention.

First posted to TikTok on 27 December, the clip racked up millions of views – "It went wild, I don't really know what happened," Evans told CNET – and the singer’s follower count increased by nearly 800 per cent.

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Other users virtually ‘dueted’ with Evans – through the app’s split-screen function which allows you to record over the top on an existing clip – adding harmonies, instrumentation, and in once case even reworking the song into a techno club banger.

These included renditions from Andrew Lloyd Webber, US late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon and entrepreneur Elon Musk, and as of 22 January ‘Wellerman’ had eight million views, and Evans had hundreds of thousands of followers.

It’s not entirely clear just why shanties have captured the imagination of TikTok’s relatively youthful audience, but perhaps their original purpose of bringing together a crew has found a renewed relevance in the age of Covid-19, when so many of us want to be together at a time in which we’re forced apart.

“Back in the day when the shanties were sung, it was to bring everybody together, to keep them all in time, to keep the morale high,” said Evans.

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“Especially in this time when everybody’s stuck at home, they’re doing their remote working – they can join in, and it kind of brings everybody together.”

When did he quit his job?

One of the most remarkable aspects of Evans’ story is that the success of his shanties has allowed him to quit his job as a postman in pursuit of a musical career.

Evans quit his position as a postie on 15 January, as he was “too busy” on his phone “looking at emails and trying to post letters.”

“It all started getting hectic,” he said. “I was getting emails about interviews and radio, and it kept rolling on. I was like ‘Right, I need to make a change here’… I was like ‘This is not sustainable’.”

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“The future will be quite bright, I hope. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it’s never going to come around again. Hopefully if nothing comes of it then I can go back and continue being a postman, but I thought at the minute I’ll seize it and see what happens.”

As for what lies ahead, Evans hopes to release a five-song EP of sea shanties. He’s said his dream would be to make an album, and that “if somebody like Ed Sheeran joined in” on his TikTok shanties, “I think I’d probably collapse”.