College student by day, dance superstar by night. Meet dance music artist Welshy, real name Ross Walsh from Kilkenny, who turned Come Out Ye Black and Tans into a global hit and is billed as Ireland’s most exciting dance music producer.
Ross Walsh is a normal young man from Kilkenny in many ways. He plays junior hurling for the village of Threecastles and studies in the University of Limerick.
But unlike anyone else on his team or his course, Ross has emerged as one of Ireland’s most exciting young dance music producers, achieving over 41 millions streams and being signed to the renowned Sony label. Using the moniker Welshy, he has also earned recognition from superstar names in the dance world like BTS, Kygo and The Chainsmokers.
It was September last year that Welshy had success with the release of his single Trying to Reach You which led to a tour around Ireland that had to have several more dates added to the high demand.
Welshy told The Irish World: “Ever since I dropped the first single, it’s just completely blown up. I did a tour around Ireland that sold out, played gigs everywhere and now lockdown after happening once I kind of got a taste of everything then, ‘No, you can’t have it anymore’.”
Welshy’s tracks have been recognised by some names in music. He remembers he was doing something as mundane as getting his haircut in Kilkenny when a Norwegian DJ known for collaborating with names as big as Selena Gomez and Ellie Goulding gave him a nod of the head.
“It’s completely surreal. It’s surreal to the point where I don’t even believe it myself.
“They’re proper, proper mental moments in my life. I remember when Kygo recognised my music. I was actually getting my hair cut and I got tagged in a video on Facebook. It was just, ‘Ross, is this your song?’ I didn’t really take notice of it, put it back in my pocket.
“Then once I got back home, I had about a million and one notifications on my phone, ‘This is your song, this is your song’. It only then clicked that it was actually my song in the video, ‘What the hell is going on?'”
Welshy has just released Haiti, the official version of the track that has already gone viral and exceeded a million streams. However, the producer has been pleased to see it going down well on its second release despite his fears.
“It’s such a surreal experience for me because the song was known and I was kind of a small bit afraid that maybe, because it was known, that people mightn’t really react to it being released again. The reaction now has been 20, 50, 100 times more than what I could have ever expected. It’s been huge.
“If you go back through my socials, you’ll see where Haiti originated from. It actually started off as me doing a little project just to maybe inspire people how I make music because you can esssentially make a sound with anything. You can manipulate a sound in any way. Haiti actually originated with me slapping a rugby ball into a microphone which became the beat and then I found the vocal online. I just released that on Soundcloud and TikTok which blew up and then after that blew up, we knew there was a song in it.”
The soulful vocals are a big part of the track’s success whether people know what she is singing about or not. After sampling the track, Welshy had a mission on his hands to find Coralie Hérard, the Haitian singer who sang the distinctive lines.
“We did our best to find the singer. I actually had the sample on my computer. I don’t even know where I found it from. It was unlabelled and we didn’t know what the sample was. We were trying to translate the lyrics and put it into Google. Then we eventually found the vocal in the original song and we found her and then contacted Coralie who was actually in Montreal at the time.
“We organised a studio session for her to record in Montreal. My favourite thing about this record is it seems to have literally travelled around the globe. From Haiti to Ireland to Montreal to the UK and now the world. It’s so immense just to think I have a song with a Haitian girl who recorded the vocals in Montreal that was put together in Threecastles.”
The Haitian Creole lyrics give the track an air of mystique to those who don’t know what it is about. The track is based on a Haitian folk song in which a young boy sent on an errand only for things to all go wrong from there.
“It’s such a beautiful story. If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t aware of the story when I actually made the song. It was only when we were trying to research Coralie and the vocals and where to find her that we found out what the lyrics actually meant. It’s a beautiful story about a young boy that went to market to sell some coffee beans and he got arrested by the cops and he’s more worried that he’s going to return to his mother empty handed than getting arrested. It’s such a beautiful story.”
It was at the height of lockdown that Welshy put out his previous single the upbeat Sunshine Day, his way of telling people that brighter days are ahead.
“I tried to stay as busy as I could keep. I’m still in college as well so I was doing my college work experience so that kept me busy. I just had to keep busy.
“We were hoping that would kind of make people think better days are still to come, just stay positive. It’s such a feelgood tune we were hoping that kind of message would hit home because the times now are very tough but I think there are better times to follow.”
The message was received with Sunshine Day going to number one in a day.
So what is Ross doing in college? “You’re gonna laugh. I’m studying technology management so it’s essentially engineering mixed with business in UL.
“The thing I like about college is it kind of humbles me. I’m not getting a big head or anything. I have a great bunch of friends, they’ll bring me back down to earth.”
Having shown an affinity for music from a young age, Welshy’s career started to take off in his teens with originals, remixes and bootlegs consistently hitting big numbers.
Despite the promise he has been showing in the field, Welshy is reluctant to call it a ‘career’ just yet or perhaps ever.
“Music was always a passion and it just blew up, actually became a career but I will never call it a career because I don’t know, it’s just a word I don’t like. I’d rather call it my passion.”
Welshy knew from an early age that he wanted to make music. He started mixing when he was still in his early teens. His videos would be going viral before he was even out of school.
“Music was always important. I knew from a very young age that I always wanted to do DJing. I don’t know if that stemmed from my father telling me stories. He used to do a small bit of DJing. He always was playing dance music to us. There always would have been Robin S Show Me Love or Livin’ Joy Dreamer, all those kind of songs would always be playing in the house. Maybe that was the seed that stemmed to my love for dance music.
“Avicii would have definitely been the biggest inspiration for me to be a dance music artist.
“It was Avicii’s song Seek Bromance that really made me go, ‘Wow, I really want to make music like that’.
“I knew I wanted to do the DJing but in order to get gigs I knew that you had to make your own music. I saw the likes of Avicii, Calvin Harris, Tiesto, all those DJs were actually music producers and they were the lads getting the gigs.
“I had the DJ equipment at the time but I wasn’t getting gigs so I decided, ‘Right, I’m going to have to sit down and make music’.”
Everyone has to start somewhere and Ross’ first ever gig might not have gone exactly to plan playing to ten people in a country pub.
“I did my first ever gig in Campions bar in Threecastles. I’d say I was 15 or 16 at the time and I didn’t even know how to read a crowd. It would have been all the local farmers and old lads in the pub and I tried playing all dance music. Oh jeez, I was laughed out of the place.”
We ask if he has been back there since? “I have.” But to play? “Oh jeez, no,” he laughs.
It would be a much better hometown gig when he played Langtons, a well known night spot in Kilkenny last year:
“That was a very, very proud moment.
“That was my first ever gig as an artist in my hometown. That was just such a surreal experience playing to the people I went to school with, seeing all my friends and everyone there just to see ya and support ya. It was just a brilliant moment for me and it was Christmas time as well. It was deadly. I think it meant that just because it was local.”
Ross was still in school when he remixed Caitlin Maude’s poem Géibheann which is often studied for the Leaving Cert.
“That was another surreal moment. That was crazy actually at the time. I was an unknown at that time and for a video to go viral and then go into school the next morning where your Irish teacher actually put on the video not knowing I was in the class was crazy.
“I went as red as a cherry. It was a pretty cool moment alright, very embarrassing as well when your profile is blown up on the projector in school.”
It was around the time of the centenary celebrations that Welshy decided to remix Come Out Ye Black and Tans by the Wolfe Tones breathing new life into a classic Irish tune for a new generation.
“I mixed that song not knowing how mental it would have gone. It was around the time of the commemorations. I just said I would love to do something to mark it in some way, maybe remix an old Irish song and turn it into a dance song and I just decided Come Out Ye Black and Tans.
“I didn’t think too much about it, released the song and that just blew up. I didn’t know what happened when that came out. It was crazy. I never would have thought to myself when I made that song that it would have gone outside of Ireland. There’s only four or five million people in Ireland and I think the combined streams on that song is four or five million on the two platforms. It’s just insane.”
As a rugby ball played its part in the origins of the song Haiti, Welshy has no qualms about making a Kilkenny hurling themed track at some point perhaps the next time Brian Cody’s Cats get to an All-Ireland final.
“That would be great craic. Hopefully there will be an All-Ireland because that’s some bit of normality, watching the hurling. When it got cancelled two or three weeks ago, that was just another nail in the coffin for me because hurling is just an escape. For that to be taken away is just horrible.”
What is next for Welshy? Is an album on the cards? “Next for me is going inside to a lecture.
“I’d love to do an album, definitely a lot more singles. Feelgood music that makes you dance is what I want to do. I just really want to produce a lot more music, more remixes, more originals. If that turns into an album, I’ll be a very happy man.”
Haiti by Welshy is out now.
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