Born in Stirling, the 24-year-old has become the star of Buchanan street as he puts on every Saturday ‘the best’ busking show in the city where he wants to live ‘for a long time’
“It’s like starting any other business, it is risky but if you do things well, you can definitely make a living from it”. Ross Brown (Stirling, 1997) seems to think that to “achieve your goals in life”, you only need “determination”, something he believes is his best quality. This asset, among his hard work has led him to perform in events such as the pre-game entertainment of Scotland National Football Team international matches in front of thousands of fans. He will also put on a show at the COP26 with the charity Football for Future in an attempt to “make football more eco-friendly”. In Glasgow, where he moved last year, he writes the new chapter of a dream that started three years ago in Granada with just a ball and a pair of shoes.
Brown uses the word “ambitious” to define himself as becoming a freestyler could have been thought as impossible when he was in high school: “When I was younger I did not have an interest in football. It did not play until I was 16, when I joined a 5-a-side league just to spend more times with my mates. Obviously, I was at a very low level, so I decided to start going alone to a local pitch to work on my touch. I improved my level but the main thing I got better at was the control with the ball. I picked up a lot of tricks and people started to notice. It was the first time I was complimented on my football ability, which was quite a big buzz for me. I started to really enjoy those solo sessions in which I would just go with my ball and my music. It’s incredible to look back then thinking that I am now a professional freestyler”.
Freestyle is still a relatively unknown sport worldwide and in Scotland, almost no one knows a thing about it. It was the same thing for Ross until not so long ago: “Freestylers are a very small community. In Scotland, there are maybe only six or seven of us actively doing it. For me, it was not until my second year of university, when I watched a YouTube video of the previous world champions doing a few tricks that I got hooked on the sport”, he explains.
Ross performs a weekend show in the middle of Buchanan Street
In 2017, as part of his degree in Spanish, he went one year to do teaching in the Andalusian city of Seville, where he realised he had a great chance for improving his skills: “I had the perfect opportunity to practice every day. The problem in Scotland is that it is hard to train consistently due to the weather not being good, which is a problem I did not have at all in Spain. I improved a lot that year and I started to put together a good freestyle routine”.
Brown’s Spanish adventure continued a year later in Granada, where he did a semester abroad as well as his first routine in front of a crowd. I had to do it with someone else because I was too nervous. I contacted through social media the closest freestyler, a guy called Juan that lived in Jerez, three and a half hours from Seville. Got a taxi there and we did the show. At the time, it was amazing to make any money from freestyle. Because of the hotel and taxi I made no profit, but I just wanted to break the ice. I was just buzzing and telling the driver all about the show”.
The first time can never be forgotten. Brown looks back with nostalgia at those early performances under the Spanish rays of sunlight. As he looks at the window of his flat in Great Dovehill, he remembers the importance of those days in the city of the Alhambra: “It was not really good enough to be honest but I think doing those shows when not many people were watching me and I wasn’t getting a lot of money were the most important ones because I knew that I would have to make a huge effort to make something out of it. Repeating the same tricks and routines over and over really helped to bring my level up. When I came back from there in June 2019, I did my first busking session in Glasgow and I went from the 20 euros I used to get in Spain to a 100 quid”.
After several years of hard work and practice, the young busker has found in freestyle a way of living, which includes much more than his street shows: “I go through the week to the training sessions of youth football clubs to do freestyle workshops. They consist of a life show of half an hour with music followed by a 45 min to an hour skill tutorial in which I would teach them how to do my tricks. The majority of kids today love football and they are aware of what freestyle is. As there is such a small number of people doing it in Scotland, there is a great opportunity to take advantage of this market and sell yourself”.
Ross performs his busking show prior a Scotland’s game
It is clear that teaching is one of Brown’s passions and not just freestyle, something that was seen when he answered what his plans for the future are: “I have a degree in Spanish and I am planning to do my year of teaching next year and combine teaching with freestyle. I will keep doing my busking shows in the weekends and of course, in the summer holiday. I would also love to travel around different schools doing freestyle workshops”.
Despite of his young age, he seems to have things organised for the upcoming years, including the place he wants to live in, the city that has stolen his heart: “I have performed in cities across Spain, Portugal, England and Scotland. There are great people who enjoy the performances everywhere, but no one can match the generosity of the people in Glasgow and how much they appreciate the shows. I think it’s a very warm and fantastic city. You always hear that people make Glasgow but I do really think that is true. They are very generous, kind people that are always right up for a laugh. I can see myself living in Glasgow for a long time”.