Jamie Duffy: ‘My music is almost like a love child between Lana Del Ray, Tom Odell and Ludovico Einaudi’

He topped the charts with his song Solas but Monaghan musician Jamie Duffy is just getting started

22-year-old pianist Jamie Duffy at Castle Leslie in Monaghan
Pianist Jamie Duffy at Castle Leslie in Glaslough, Co Monaghan (Liam McBurney/PA)

PIANIST Jamie Duffy has become renowned for his unique blend of contemporary and Irish traditional music.

His 2022 single Solas has been streamed on Spotify over 71 million times, making it the most streamed debut song by an Irish artist since Hozier’s Take Me to Church. The tune has even been praised by fellow musician and DJ Mark Ronson, producer of hits from artists including Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga.

“I put the song up on social media and I never thought it would connect with anyone or that people would want to listen to it,” says Jamie.

“Then it just took off straight away and it opened a door in my mind and showed me that music could be something that I could actually do. So, I recorded it very flippantly one day in a studio in Dublin and put it out, and the rest is history.”

Given that Jamie’s career has been such a whirlwind it feels fitting that when we catch up, he is on the move, bussing it back home after performing in the studio of Dublin’s National Concert Hall the previous night whilst also preparing to release a new vocal version of Solas within in a matter of days.

Although his schedule is somewhat hectic his music is at the opposite end of the scale. Solas - light in Irish - is exactly that: a gentle piano track with an emotive melancholic tone, the musical equivalent of being wrapped in a fluffy blanket.

Jamie Duffy at Castle Leslie in Monaghan.
Jamie Duffy at Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan (Liam McBurney/PA)

His collaboration with Co Mayo cellist Patrick Dexter has a similar feel to it. Their song Into The West pays homage to those who ventured abroad from Ireland in pursuit of a better life, all while reflecting on the haunting beauty of the landscape they left behind.

“I think my music is almost like a love child between Lana Del Ray, Tom Odell and Ludovico Einaudi – I hope so anyway, they’re my main inspirations,” Jamie explains.

“I actually met Tom Odell earlier this year and he was the nicest man ever - it was really lovely to get to meet and have a chat with one of my idols.

“They’re three very different musicians but I think those pop elements mixed in with classical music works so well, and then when you add in an Irish traditional sound it hopefully takes you to an even more unique level.”

However, these are not the only musical influences in Jamie’s life as he comes from a family of performers, most notably his grandmother who was a DJ at Castle Leslie in one of rural Ireland’s first ever nightclubs in the late 1960s.

“When I was performing last night, I brought my grandfather on stage, and we sang together. My career is very much a family affair.”

Given his musical roots, the fact that Jamie recently graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a degree in International Relations and Politics may come as a surprise.

“It was like when worlds collide - it was a strange combination, but I think they balance each other out pretty well.”

Jamie proved this earlier this year when he gave a TEDx talk at Stormont about how history and politics can often influence and inspire musicians.

“I wasn’t actually sure if I was going to continue with my degree originally,” he admits.

“I was halfway through the course when everything happened with my music, but I thought ‘just get it done and get the degree’ and I’m really glad I did because Queen’s has been so supportive of my career.”

However, like many students Jamie admits that his work schedule was “eclectic” even when writing music.

“I really like to write in a dark room at nighttime just sitting at the piano.

“I’ll get a few chords together and then form a melody off that, then what usually happens is I’ll get an idea I really like and stick with it and develop it.

“But I have something like 4,000 voice notes on my phone so I’m terrible for not actually finishing ideas,” he laughs.

Despite being prone to procrastination this has not stopped Jamie from producing viral hits. He has even been number one in the classical charts in the Netherlands and Kazakhstan.

“I owe a lot to TikTok.

“The song became a trend very quickly and when that happens to a song it introduces the musician to so many people – it’s a very powerful tool.”

Before he released Solas Jamie used to perform in the Europa’s Piano Lounge every Thursday night. It is safe to say has come a long way since then… metaphorically. In reality his back-to-back shows at the Grand Opera House on April 12 and 13 are mere minutes away from his former haunt.

“Working in the Europa has numbed my nerves slightly because when I was working there, I didn’t know what kind of crowd I was going to get.

“So, getting to play for an audience who actually want to see me almost feels like a breeze.

“I think neo classical music has been pretty boxed off and seen as sort of an elitest thing for so long. What I want is to make it more accessible and relatable for people and hopefully make them more open to listening to the genre.”