Some know Alex Hutton for his lumberjack looks or his legendary appearance on the Rick Mercer Report.
Some have seen him working as a security guard, a sound tech, or even skiing shirtless at Fernie Alpine Resort, however not everyone knows that the giant of a man has a soft side.
Hutton sits in his living room with his favourite instrument; a guitar he made from a soup can, an old guitar stem and a flat bike tube.
Music is a large part of the Fernie local’s life and has been for many years. Hutton will be playing at Fernie Stoke Fest again this year as he has every year since its inception.
Hutton remembers falling in love with music from a young age, listening to old cassettes while cruising in his parents’ car. It’s only in recent years that he has stepped into the role of musician.
“I always admired people who could play the guitar and sing, and I never thought that I would actually be somebody who could do that,” said Hutton.
In 2010, Hutton was new to Fernie, in town for a ski vacation. Travelling with a guitar, he attended a jam night at the Central and met two members of Shred Kelly, who had been together for four years at that time.
“I walked in and I didn’t play guitar well enough to play live, I had never really played live in front of people… So I got up and played drums and fell in love with the jam night vibe,” said Hutton.
Hutton remembers the first time he ever played in front of others, at an open mic night in his hometown of Pickering, Ontario. His song of choice was The Animals’ House of the Rising Sun and by the end of the song his knees were shaking so badly, he called for a stool.
Years went by in Fernie, and Hutton launched his own jam night at the Raging Elk Hostel. Although there were already two jam nights in town, Hutton created this as a more casual venue for those new to playing in front of others.
“It’s a very nerve-wracking thing, the first time you get up (on stage),” he said. “There was a lot of people that showed up and got their confidence from that jam night.”
Months later Hutton would see budding musicians gain confidence, move to other venues and start performing in front of bigger crowds.
“The vibe in this town is great for that,” he said. “If you get up on stage, people show you respect.”
Around town, Hutton is commonly known as Top-o, a name he acquired as a camp councillor that stayed with him through the years.
It is under this name that he will be performing at this year’s Fernie Stoke Fest, taking place April 6-7 at the Fernie Community Centre. Other acts in this year’s lineup include Jenn Frost, The Parsons, Country Smokes, Scenic Route to Alaska and Shred Kelly.
Top-o always looks forward to Stokefest, a music festival that he believes embodies a positive vibe. Hutton has worked security at the festival for several years and couldn’t recall a single physical altercation.
“It’s a very peaceful show and every year it gets better. Every year it’s a little smoother,” he said.
Stoke Fest tickets are now on sale. Visit Ferniestokefest.com.