Extraordinary story of PJ and JJ Monserrat who have 5.5m YouTube views & new debut album

It was only a matter of time until an album evolved out of an internet experiment of quite significant proportions. Gain a very large audience first, then put out an album. Tin Whistler came to us like many albums.  However behind it is the intriguing story of brothers PJ and JJ Monserrat from the Island of Mallorca, Spain.  

In 2006, when they were 18 and 14 years old, they started to upload Irish music videos on YouTube, on whistle and guitar.  This was back in a time when there wasn't the vast library of content that there is today.  They did it by chance, out of boredom, and never imagined that their YouTube channel would get thousands of subscribers. As it stands today they have 12,359 subscribers.  

This is what you call building your audience first and gaining potential fans that will buy into your music. The You Tube channel like the album is called www.youtube.com/TinWhistler and in total there are now over 100 videos. More surprising they have over 5,500,000 views on the channel.  One video of of a couple of jigs played on a Nintendo has 751,000 views and other tunes exceed 500,000 views.

‘When we were kids we learned how to play the recorder in school’ they said when we spoke to them. ‘We also learned the sax and clarinet in our town's brass band, but that's it.  We have no other connection with Ireland or any Celtic music country (although in Mallorca we have our own whistle and bagpipes). We don’t think that's a reason for us not to play and enjoy this kind of music. I (PJ) discovered traditional Irish music and other so-called Celtic music as a teenager through the Internet, while searching information about the Irish tin whistle.  Not long after that I got my first whistle, a Susato, and got my brother to join me on guitar. We taught ourselves how to play both these instruments and we slowly started to improve as more people watched our videos through the years.’

‘At the same time, JJ also got interested in rock and other kinds of music, forming and joining several bands. In 2008 I traveled to Ireland and lived in Galway for half a year, regularly attending the local sessions there, improving my playing and my knowledge of tunes. We have never performed anywhere together. Our home has been our stage through YouTube.’

‘Over the years we noticed more and more people on YouTube were asking us to record an album, leaving comments like "Make an album, I'd totally buy it!" or "Put this on iTunes!". But we never really thought about recording an album because, after all, we still considered ourselves to be amateurs. However, year after year the idea started to seem less impossible to us and in 2014 we finally said "Why not?". We wouldn't even need a record label. TinWhistler exists because of the Internet, so we could record an album and distribute it through the Internet ourselves, and we could record it in a friend's studio.’

‘So we did that, we made our first album, a simple album, nothing overly complicated or fancy, just the type of thing we play on our videos, something that would show the essence of TinWhistler. After recording it we thought we could even make physical CDs of the album using a CD-on-demand company, which is quite cool.’

‘Our inspiration for this album comes from artists like Michael McGoldrick, Lúnasa, Flook, Capercaillie, John McSherry, as well as Cormac Breatnach and Alan Doherty. We do tend to play in a more "modern" or contemporary style, rather than pure trad. JJ's rock and funk influences makes us sound the way we sound. Nevertheless, more traditional artists like the Chieftains, Matt Molloy, Dervish or Altan have also had a great influence on us.’

While it is common to hear of internet sensations in the rock and pop genres, it is quite unusual to hear one at this level in traditional Irish music. The album is available to buy on Bandcamp and on iTunes For now have a listen to the first track off the album.  We will return with a review because their music like their audience is very well developed and will have broad appeal.

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Comment by Seamus Corry on September 7, 2018 at 17:45
Awesome beautiful inspirational music
Comment by kw on December 5, 2014 at 21:50

     fair  play  to the lads ...they've soaked up some good influences

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