Nathan Evans, from Airdrie, Scotland, has been singing sea shanties on the video-sharing social network since July 2020, but it was his rendition of The Wellerman in December that went global.
With more than 7.5 million views and Andrew Lloyd Webber among the celebrities to record themselves singing along with Mr Evans, the 26-year-old has become the face of the modern-day shanty.
Nathan Evans Wellerman Family Tree — shantytok mashup/supercut
As for why the sea shanty has resonated with millions, the Scot said he believes his accent adds to the song, but he also believes singing can act as a tonic during lockdown.
“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,” he told the PA news agency.
“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.
“So I think it’s just kind of brought it into this day and age. It makes it feel like you’re all united. Especially seeing how creative everybody can be with it.”
Mr Evans’ rendition of The Wellerman has since been added to by singers around the world, with basses adding their rich tones in one version, and Lord Lloyd-Webber providing musical accompaniment in another.
Meanwhile, the success of his shanty singing has prompted him to quit his job as a postman to pursue a career in music.
“It all started getting hectic,” he said. “I was getting emails about interviews and radio, and it kept rolling on.
“On the Friday (January 15) I was like ‘Right, I need to make a change here’, because I was too busy on my phone looking at emails and trying to post letters. I was like ‘This is not sustainable’.
“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.”
Mr Evans said his dream would be to make an album, and added that “if somebody like Ed Sheeran joined in” on his TikTok shanties, “I think I’d probably collapse”.
But while singing sea shanties has changed his life forever, he said the life of a sailor is probably not for him.
“I get seasick so I don’t know if it’s for me, and I’ve not been on a boat or a ferry in god knows how long,” he said.
“I get travel sick so I don’t know about that!”