It’s been a big year for Donnie Dumphy – his feature-length film How To Be Deadly is touring the country and a wildly successful fundraising campaign means we’ll see Dumphy’s second album, Lord of the B’ys, hit shelves in autumn.
But in a strange twist, Dumphy’s success has helped another musician – 25-year-old Jesse Stewart of Campbell River, B.C. When Stewart strummed out a rockin,’ bluegrass-y cover of Dumphy’s Cry Tunes on mandolin, it gained the hearts of many – and nearly 1.3 million views on YouTube. (His version is named Cold Beer.)
So how did a Donnie Dumphy song end up in the ears of a singer on the other side of the country? From the mouth of a traveller Stewart met in Montreal.
“He just kept singing the chorus and getting mad at me for not knowing it,” Stewart said with a laugh. “I started listening years later and fell in love with the Newfie gib rap style but especially that song.” With help from east coasters, he figured out the song’s lyrics. A group jam and nearly 100 beer later, the cover was born.
In an added twist, Stewart didn’t find out about the low-quality cell video until it had already gone viral. “I got home from partying or work or something and my buddy Dale Mason was at my door, telling me I had 380,000 views on YouTube and I was on the front page of Reddit.”
It wasn’t long before the song’s writer, Ian St. Aubin and How To Be Deadly‘s producer Nik Sexton, contacted Stewart. “Ian sent me a note one morning asking me if I saw this kid on Reddit doing a cover of “Cry Tunes” ( renamed to “Cold Beer”),” Sexton said.
“I’ve seen many covers of our songs, some good and some bad. This was different. It was immediately clear that this version was far better than ours,” he added, echoing Dumphy’s statement that Stewart’s cover was “ten times better.”
“I looked into some other videos Jesse had posted and was very relieved to find out that our song was not the only song he had covered and put to shame,” St. Aubin added with a laugh.
“I was really worried [Ian] was gonna be mad, like I was trying to steal it or something, but if I remember right, I think the words were, ‘Dude, you flattened it!’ and ever since then, we’ve been friends,” Stewart recalled.
Stewart flew to Toronto in July of 2014 to record the cover for the How To Be Deadly film, as well as a tune called Loan Wolf, which will be on Dumphy’s Lord of the B’ys album.
“That was my first time in studio and it was great, but I got a little too excited and drank myself under the table,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t remember leaving the studio and I woke up on a piece of grass in between a fence and a sidewalk. Luckily, the next time I got a chance to go in the studio I was a lot more uh, responsible.”
And thus, the life of Jesse Stewart was changed – all thanks to a Donnie Dumphy song from little old St. John’s. Check out the tune on YouTube and iTunes– or check it out as the credits roll in How To Be Deadly, playing in Grand Falls on the 8th, Cineplex Millbrook in Corner Brook on September 10, and Mount Pearl Square September on the 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th.