Grafton Street, Dublin, is known for its buskers. According to the section on buskers on the Grafton Street web page, Rodrigo y Gabriela (Mexican acoustic guitar duo), Glen Hansard (The Frames and The Swell Season), Bono (never heard of him, I’m afraid), Keywest (buskers turned major-label band whose 2nd album Joyland made #1 in Ireland in 2015) and Damien Rice (major-label indie-folk artist) are among the successful musicians who cut their teeth on Grafton Street.
Earlier this year, on 21 March 2023, Dublin City Today described Wheelan as “The Best 12-Year-old (busker) since Allie Sherlock”. Since then, Wheelan has had a birthday. His Instagram page now describes him as a 13-year-old musician from Wicklow, Ireland. Without further ado, here is Allie Sherlock and Fionn Whelan with their very recent, and very viral (11 million views in 3 weeks), video of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah:
Busking is so popular on Grafton Street that it is regulated. Besides licences, which are to be expected, there is an innovative approach to fair use of the street. After an hour in one spot, buskers must move on. Thankfully there is a large area open for busking, but still, buskers sometimes have to queue for the best spots. Grafton Street’s accommodation of buskers makes it a vibrant part of the Dublin cityscape. Now there is a new kid on the block. His name is Fionn Whelan, and here he is 12:
Fionn Whelan was introduced as Grafton Street’s Ed Sheeran by Grafton Street regular Allie Sherlock (5.78M YouTube subscribers) when he sang Hallelujah with her in August 2023. That video has a remarkable 11M YouTube views in two weeks. My reason for mentioning this now is that Whelan’s cover of Ed Sheeran’s Perfect shows both similarities and differences to Sheeran. Whelan has the hair colour, the boyish charm and the musicality of Ed Sheeran, no doubt.
If you listen to his phrasing and pitch, Whelan does more than cover Ed Sheeran. He is interpreting him with incredible gravitas and poise for a twelve year old. Wheelan already has his own style and feel. JodokusHV comments: “Oh my word: AMAZING! Only 12 years young! Watch out for this one, massive talent! Grafton Street please embrace him and guide him to greatness! Fionn, you are brilliant!” I’ve promised Hallelujah, but first let’s see Whelan covering his current favourite musician, Hozier:
That’s Take Me to Church by Irish musician Andrew John Hozier-Byrne (Hozier). It was his first single (2013) and reached number 2 on charts around the world from the Billboard Hot 100, to the UK, to Germany. Fionn Whelan’s cover was uploaded on Dublin City Today, a YouTube channel that documents and supports Dublin’s buskers, on 25 August 2023.
Whelan’s voice has a way of growing on you. SpecialgiftsLA comments: “Honestly, this boy is mind blowing. What a voice; maturity, so natural and humble. Pure gift.” This video has legs! Well done Allie Sherlock and Fionn Whelan. We’ll be hearing more from both of you, no doubt. If you would like to see more from Fionn Whelan, you can follow him on Instagram.