Edith Whiskers: How an imaginary gran got millions of Spotify streams

By Will Chalk
Newsbeat reporter

Published
Image source, Alex Brenchley
Image caption,
To be fair to Edith, she's got a lot to celebrate

This is Edith Whiskers. Edith enjoys long hot baths, a spot of beekeeping and the occasional bike ride.

She's also had millions of streams on Spotify and soundtracked hundreds of thousands of TikTok videos.

Not bad, considering she doesn't really exist.

So how does a cartoon grandma end up with streaming stats any A-List pop star would be proud of?

Radio 1 Newsbeat had a chat with Edith's PA, professional musician Tom Rosenthal, to find out.

Image source, Spotify / Edith Whiskers

As it turns out, we're not the first people who've been asking after her.

"People have been getting in touch asking to be her manager," Tom says, when we manage to get him on a Zoom call, "they don't know she's not a real person.

"Every record label you can think of has been messaging me trying to get her on their books.

"They see that she's been in the top hundred most searched-for songs on the app Shazam, above people like Harry Styles, and she becomes sought after property."

Image source, Alex Brenchley
Image caption,
Edith during our interview

So why is Tom fielding calls for a cartoon granny? Well, although she's (technically) only just been born, Edith's story actually goes back five years.

And, if it wasn't obvious by now then, yes, Tom is in fact Edith Whiskers.

It started when Tom - who describes himself as a "fairly successful musician, but no Ed Sheeran" - was asked to cover a song for a YouTube video his friend was making.

The track in question, Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, is a duet with a male and female vocal part.

Not put off by the fact he, apparently, couldn't locate a female vocalist, Tom ploughed on regardless.

"I just did both the female and the male voices," he explains, "I thought nothing of it, gave it to the friend, it went on the video... and nothing happened for five years."

Figure caption,
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Fast forward to September 2020, and an Australian influencer called Hannah West used Tom's cover in a TikTok video.

You might be able to guess what happened next.

"It kind of went a bit wild. Then on about the sixth video in, someone took the song and used it on a nostalgic video about growing up with their sister or something - and then that became this trend.

"I think TikTok really works best on themes and that's what happened here. It's not just the sound. It's the meaning behind it."

To date, it's been used in nearly half a million TikTok videos - but the sudden success has left Tom with a bit of a problem.

Image source, Alex Brenchley

"I was a bit worried that the song would go crazy," Tom explains, "and if I released it under my name it would be my most popular song, and at the top of my feed on sites like Spotify forever.

"So I was having a bit of a drunken evening with friends on Zoom and I decided I needed a pseudonym. I came up with Edith Whiskers off the top of my head.

"So Edith was born and then I got my fans to do illustrations of what she might look like - so then Edith had a face."

After the face, a whole character evolved - there's a back story, an Instagram account and an entire covers album.

All the while Edith's version of Home carried on racking up streams.

Image source, Melissa Nio

"There are people that have messaged direct to her saying: 'I love your voice, I love your music'," Tom says.

"Without a hint of irony whatsoever, they just think it's her."

We ask Tom what's next for Edith and, while he seems unsure about the idea of her actually signing a record deal, he's not sick of her yet.

"I want her to keep making music, but I want it to get more and more wild as it goes along."

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