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British Columbia musician who found fame through viral YouTube video playing St. John's tonight
If you’re familiar with Donnie Dumphy’s song “Cry Tunes,” there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll love “Cold Beer” – British Columbia’s Jesse Stewart’s approach to the gib-rapper’s song. All over Canada, many people are familiar with only Jesse Stewart’s cover, heard in a three-minute and 39-second cellphone video that went viral in 2014.
That clip, recorded during a drunken backyard jam, was about to create big change in Stewart’s life.
After making waves on the Internet over five years ago, Stewart is finally reaching the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador this month, making his Newfoundland debut at CBTG’s in downtown St. John’s on May 31.
“It was just a busking song originally. That’s all it was,” Stewart said of the song that changed his life. “I figured out the lyrics, picked four chords and went for it. I played it for years.”
The “busking song” was Donnie Dumphy’s (Leon Parsons) “Cry Tunes,” featuring region-specific references alluding to Sobey’s grocery store and a play on words referring to the band The Irish Descendants. “Trying to figure out some of the slang in Donnie Dumphy’s songs was really hard,” Stewart admitted. “I dies at you? I was like, ‘What the hell is that?!’”
Stewart’s musical interpretation is vastly different from the Donnie Dumphy original, but even the Donnie Dumphy creative team are amongst Stewart’s fans – director Nik Sexton and songwriter Ian St. Aubin even flew the musician to Toronto in July of 2014 to record his cover for the end credits of the “How To Be Deadly” film.
“They gave me tickets to the screening in Vancouver, so I got to see it there, which was nice,” Stewart said. It would be interesting to know if the Donnie Dumphy movie has been watched even half as many times as Stewart’s version of “Cry Tunes.”
Through that viral cover song, Stewart has accumulated his own unique audience across the country.
“I’ve got like 5,000 Facebook friends, the most you can have, because I added a ton of fans, I guess,” Stewart said, seemingly questioning his rightful use of the word.
“I’ve made a lot of friends this way, and when I’m passing through cities across the country, I’ve had lots of people help me out, put me up or help me out when my car is messed up. Even if I have friends who need help somewhere, I can put up a post asking for help and people who I’ve never met will help my friends,” he shared, remarking on the incredible generosity of strangers. Stewart said he hopes that one day he’ll be able to show thanks to all of these supporters next time he’s “passing through.”
He’ll have to visit a lot of people – at the current time of writing, “Cold Beer” has an astounding 7.1 million views on YouTube, an increase of almost 200,000 views since interviewing Stewart less than two weeks prior.
Surprisingly, the current view count isn’t exactly accurate – the original “Cold Beer” video, posted by a friend, was removed and re-uploaded to Stewart’s own YouTube account, meaning the actual number of views is higher – at least a million, Stewart said.
“That was probably a bad idea, kind of, but we wanted to make some money off it, by monetizing it,” he explained. “We took it down and put it up on our own account, which broke a lot of links everywhere,” he added with a laugh.
In monetizing his work, Stewart’s videos include links to make a financial donation to the artist, via PayPal, Bitcoin, Nano, and Ethereum – and people actually donated. He received two Bitcoins, later selling them for $3,500 each.
“That was pretty cool. I could have got way more, but I needed the money,” Stewart shared.
“I don’t really understand it anyway,” he added with a laugh.
It’s hard to put any kind of price tag on the experiences that this viral video has afforded Stewart.
“Around when the song was really big, someone messaged me and told me I should enter the Trailer Park Boys contest. I didn’t even know what it was,” Stewart said of SwearNet’s 2014 “I Should Be F*cking Famous” contest. “I sent ‘em an email and just a link to the song. I didn’t really realize what you were supposed to do for the contest. You needed to have an account with them, with SwearNet. You were supposed to make a one minute video of why you should be famous, but I just sent the “Cold Beer” video,” he explained.
“They messaged me and asked if I had an account with them, and I was like, ‘Oh, shoot, I don’t, and I don’t have a credit card to get one.’ Then they told me my entry was accepted,” he said with a laugh.
Stewart flew directly from his recording session in Toronto with the Donnie Dumphy creative team to the TPB set on the east coast.
“I got to go out there and hang out on the set while they filmed, and meet everyone. I went out for dinner with the directors and actors … It was really cool,” he said, adding that he also had the opportunity to play basketball with J-Roc, an aspiring rapper on the Trailer Park Boys show, played by Jonathan Torrens.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, strangely created through the very real existence of the somewhat fictional Donnie Dumphy character.
There definitely aren’t many people out there who can say that Newfoundland gib-rapper Donnie Dumphy dramatically changed their life. When asked about that possibility, Stewart laughed.
“Other than Leon (Parsons), Nick (Sexton) and Ian (St. Aubin), maybe not. It’s crazy. It’s the butterfly effect, man.” Asking Nik Sexton if he could think of anyone outside of the creative team whose lives have been radically altered by Donnie Dumphy, Sexton responded partially in jest – “Maybe our wives/spouses.”
At his Newfoundland debut show, Stewart will be playing selections from “Shed Life,” an album of originals released though Stewart’s own Montreal-based record label, Mile-Ex records.
When asked he would be hanging out with Donnie Dumphy during this trip, Stewart revealed a surprising detail – the pair have never met.
Speaking to Leon Parsons days before the show, he confirmed that Donnie Dumphy will be in attendance at CBTG’s on May 31, popping by “for a few tunes.” Parsons added that he’s happy Stewart is finally making his way to the island.
The next sentence seemed to be a message from Donnie Dumphy: “Don’t know whether to flatten ‘em or hug ‘em… I’ll probably do both.”
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