'Topping the charts has turned my life upside down'

An Irish pianist whose blend of classical and trad has topped charts around the world said his life has been "turned upside down" by the success.

'Topping the charts has turned my life upside down'
'Topping the charts has turned my life upside down'

Jamie Duffy, from County Monaghan, was studying politics in Belfast when he released his first single, Solas.

It was the most successful debut song on streaming services by an Irish artist since Take Me To Church by Hozier, with more than 60 million plays on Spotify.

Solas has been number one in the Dutch classical charts and in Kazakhstan.

And now the 22-year-old has nearly one million monthly listeners on Spotify alone.

When he was 17, Duffy began working as a pianist at Castle Leslie, a stately home and hotel in Glaslough, his home village.

He was carrying on a family musical legacy, as his grandmother was a DJ at the estate in one of rural Ireland’s first ever nightclubs in the late 1960s.

“That was always there in the background and then I started to do piano and do the grades - that was where the more serious elements of it came in,” he said.

He also did music at school, while also learning how to create music himself, he said.

Duffy’s unique sound comes from blending classical and Irish traditional music, utilising the tin whistle in many of his tracks.

"It’s such a traditional instrument, but the songs I would have been playing on [it] really wouldn’t have been too traditional," he said. "It would have been more folk.

"I think that’s how the genre clash that I have now as a musician came to be - it’s like playing these traditional instruments with different genres that might not have always been the case with other musicians.”

TikTok soundtracks

Not only is Duffy flying high at the top of the charts, he has inspired other budding creatives through his social media presence.

As his own videos have racked up millions of views, some 50,000 TikToks have been made with his audio as the soundtrack.

The musician said it was unusual to see his music reach people across the globe.

“The music is so Irish and traditional and neo-classical, it’s a really strange feeling to see that actually correlate to doing well in charts and on Spotify,” he said.

“It’s so weird because going on to Spotify, the biggest listeners, it’s pretty balanced between Turkey and America, and France, which are all three very different countries in the world.

“But I think the good thing about what type of music I’m making is there’s not really any words to this moment, so it sort of speaks to everyone in a way, so it’s really nice to see.”

'Topping the charts has turned my life upside down'
'Topping the charts has turned my life upside down'

Despite his musical career beginning to take off, last year Duffy graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a degree in International Relations and Politics.

“I sort of went to uni thinking I would be a journalist or a something in that field, and then this sort of happens - that was was the plan until, like, overnight,” he said.

“I never really thought that music could be a job or a career for me, and then overnight, this crazy change and that sort of throws your life upside down. What are you supposed to do?

“But I’m pretty confident that I’ve made the right choice of following the music though. Definitely.”

In 2023 Duffy worked with Limerick band Kingfishr on an acoustic rendition of their song Flower-Fire.

His most recent release, Eyrie, was made with the help of Swedish composer Peter Sandberg, who can be heard on the soundtrack to Netflix's hit series Stranger Things.

Duffy said it felt “crazy” that such a renowned composer would want to collaborate with him.

“To have somebody like that support you and to actually make a song with you and feature on it, was really, really lovely," he said.

"It’s been a really, really exciting and humbling but really, really fun process."

The year ahead

Looking ahead to the new year, Duffy is working on his debut album and has hopes to bring live shows to countries where his audience has grown.

Offering advice to other young people who want to pursue their passion, he urged them to "just do it".

“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there," he said, especially given the ease with which social media allows people to reach a worldwide audience.

“It’s just a really powerful tool, for feedback and to actually develop," he said.

"It’s so useful and helpful just to actually get your music in front of people because it’s the easiest way to do it, especially if you’re not playing shows.

“I mean, your phone is like a window into somebody, so really, why not use it and put something into it?”

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