He has sung in front of millions of people on YouTube. He died on the streets of Edmonton
It was just another day at a campfire in the backyard on Vancouver Island. As usual, Jesse Stewart pulled out his mandolin and performed a song called Cold beer.
A neighbor recorded a shaky video of the performance with friends in the background stirring bottles and laughing. That evening it was uploaded to Facebook.
By morning it had over a million views.
“Jesse was in shock,” said his friend Loryn Reinelt. “Who knows what to do in a situation like this.”
That was in 2014. Things started to move quickly and a month later Jesse appeared on an episode of Boys in the trailer park.
âWe were really happy for him,â said Michelle Stewart, mom. “We knew he was talented.”
Last month Jesse, 31, died on the streets of Edmonton. It was probably a drug overdose, Michelle said.
At the time of his death, Cold beer has recorded nearly 14 million views on YouTube.
The life of Jesse Stewart
Michelle said that in elementary school teachers noticed Jesse was smart for his age. In 5th year, he was already taking a computer course in high school.
Jesse was drawn to music early on and his grandfather paid for private guitar lessons.
He later became obsessed with the Sex Pistols, Michelle said. Inspired by band singer Sid Vicious, Jesse wore a padlock around his neck, throwing away the key. For years the bolt stuck, until eventually it disintegrated.
After Jesse left the house, he traveled extensively with his dog Arlo. The two hitchhiked across Canada – twice – sometimes even jumping on passing freight trains.
âHe didn’t want to live a boring life, like going to work nine to five,â Michelle said.
Arlo was a regular on stage at shows and Jesse even wrote a song about him.
âNot only did Arlo keep him physically warm when he was on the streets, but it kept his heart from freezing,â Reinelt said.
While Cold beer is a blanket, Jesse made it his own. The original, called Cry airs by Donnie Dumphy, is a comedy about someone who prefers beer to his girlfriend. Jesse’s talks about a fight against alcoholism.
“He completely turned it into his own,” Reinelt said.
Judging by the thousands of comments below his videos, his music has touched a lot. Some have written that Jesse inspired them to drive across the country, follow a dream, or even stop suicide attempts.
As his fan base grew, Jesse was able to survive on YouTube ad revenue. However, fame comes at a price.
âHe rose to fame for playing a song about drinking beer and I think that’s part of his identity,â Reinelt said.
Jesse began to struggle with drugs and alcohol and eventually ended up in jail for a few weeks. Before Michelle could complete her plans to bring her son home to Vancouver Island, Jesse was unexpectedly released.
“I lost contact with him. And then a week later, I found out that he was deceased.”
Before going to jail, Jesse left his dog with someone, but after his death, Arlo disappeared.
His family flew to Edmonton and put up 150 missing posters, offering a reward of $ 1,000 and even hired a private investigator to find Jesse’s dog. They drove down alleys and walked street after street, looking for a black and tan Doberman Rottweiler.
âShe’s a connection to Jesse, but it’s more than that,â Michelle told the CBC Edmonton show. Radio active.
“She deserves a good house where she can live her days and be comfortable.”
Weeks passed and there was little news. Michelle started to think Arlo was gone.
After careful internet investigation, Jesse’s family were finally able to locate the beloved dog. The person with the dog, who lives outside of Edmonton, didn’t know Arlo was missing.
Soon Arlo will be returning home and living with Michelle.
âIt doesn’t solve everything,â she said.
“But now we can sort of focus on what we need to focus on and try to start healing.”