“You just have to be a go-getter, man. You have to just figure it out and get it done.”
Through hands-on music-making, tireless touring, and providing unique, personable experiences to his fans, Vernon, BC rapper SonReal has seemingly “figured it out.”
SonReal has made his name as a live performer. The Juno and MMVA nominated artist has played at premier venues across North America, including Webster Hall, and he has no plans of slowing down. “Live is really who you are… I take a lot of pride in my live show. I love doing it. I’ll always be a touring artist… You can’t hide anything. It’s also the realest depiction of your songs.”
Touring also gives SonReal unmatched opportunities to connect with his fans. But he goes beyond looking into their eyes and singing them a line; throughout his most recent tour, he has invited fans in each city onto his bus and played them his upcoming EP, The Name. Sometimes though, it’s the smallest experiences that bring fans the greatest joy. “After the show [in Portland] last night, I took a fan out and just bought him a bunch of doughnuts, and they were stoked; they lost their mind.” These are the moments SonReal lives for. “Watching the way they feel even just coming on the bus and getting to listen to my music makes everything go away.”
SonReal makes a point of giving fans the kinds of exclusive experiences he never had growing up. “I want to do what music did for me. Music made me feel good. If I can… actually meet the people that are supporting me, I want to make it special.”
Long before SonReal was SonReal – when he was just Aaron Hoffman from Vernon, BC – the music he connected with most was East Coast rap. “I became obsessed with it ‘cause I loved the stories. I loved the lifestyle. I loved the clothes, the fashion. Just the colour of the music was so hard.” Many people relate to music that reflects their circumstances, but SonReal craved something else: “I didn’t wanna hear songs about a kid from Vernon that was skateboarding and had a good family. I wanted hear a story about somebody that came up in a place that was way different than me, that had to deal with different situations, that had to sell crack on the street and do this or do that or whatever.”
Before I ever was doing rap or listening to rap, I was heavy into punk music. I always wanted to be a lead singer in a punk band. That’s what I wanted to do way before rap…. I just loved it, man. I still love it.
SonReal discovered rap through skateboarding, and unsurprisingly, given skateboarding’s stronger association with punk music, he’s a punk fan, too. What’s more surprising is how big of a fan he is. “Before I ever was doing rap or listening to rap, I was heavy into punk music,” he says, citing NOFX and pop-punk in general amongst his favourites. “I always wanted to be a lead singer in a punk band. That’s what I wanted to do way before rap…. I just loved it, man. I still love it.”
One of his earliest career moves was pursuing audio engineering school. There, he learned to produce, which became essential to his increasingly self-reliant “go-getter” attitude. He continues to expand his skillset by taking voice lessons and practicing guitar. But he learned to be hands-on out of necessity rather than interest. “By no means am I a tech nerd,” he admits. “Where I come from, there’s not even a studio.”
SonReal stays focused on pushing himself by not taking criticism to heart. He’s equally unfazed by the idea of competing with others: “One thing I’ve realized more – and I’ve learned this in the last year especially – is the only person I’m competing with is me… My concern isn’t trying to be better than fuckin’ Joe Schmoe… My biggest concern is trying to be a better version of myself ‘cause I’ve already proven to myself that I can make it farther than I even expected to go already. I want to take it to the next level… I want to try and beat where I went last.”
If SonReal maintains his unwavering work ethic and continues staying humble, connecting with his fans, and developing new skills, there’s no telling how far the skateboarding kid from Vernon will go. Maybe he’ll get to front that punk band some day after all.
For full feature and additional photos visit our digital issue (issue 7) here.
Named for the Toronto area they grew up in, The Beaches are a far cry from a placid day on the lake. Led by singer/bassist Jordan Miller—with her sister and guitarist Kylie Miller, guitarist/keyboardist Leandra Earl and drummer Eliza Enman-McDaniel—the Canadian four-piece burst out of Toronto with their 2018 debut, Late Show, and have since built up an aura of dissident swagger. Taking home this year’s Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year, the all-fem rock quartet is bringing grunge, gloss, and 70s glamour to a predominantly male genre. Georgie caught up with Leandra to talk about the band’s latest music video, taking charge of their music, and three simple ways to keep women in the industry. G—Did you grow up together in Toronto? LE—Yeah, I met the girls in high school. Jordan and Kylie are sisters, so they’ve known each other a bit longer, but they grew up with Eliza in Toronto’s Beaches area. G—What kind of music were you listening to at that time? LE—We grew up listening to all of the music our parents listened to. That definitely influenced us while writing our debut album since we drew from a lot of the 70’s music that our
Tyler Shaw is going through a renaissance. After exploding onto the scene and the charts in 2012 with his hit single “Kiss Goodnight” and a wildly successful debut album that followed, it’s hard to imagine what the Canadian pop singer could possibly need to reinvent. But after two years of writing and exploring, Shaw has taken the reigns on developing a new album and a new sound that’s better in tune with his growth as an artist. Just before the release of his new single “With You”, Georgie caught up with Shaw over the phone to talk about his upcoming album, mental health, and the feelings he’s harnessed into a musical renewal. G— What were some of the biggest differences for you between making the upcoming album and making Yesterday? TS—Yesterday was more so “I’m a new artist, I don’t really know what I want to do. This sounds cool on my voice, so does this.” With this album on the other hand, I know what I want. I know what melodies I want to go to and what I want to talk about. [Yesterday] came out in 2015, and ever since then, I mean, you go through life experiences
A few years ago, Danielle McTaggart was ready to throw in the towel on her music career. Now she and her husband, Drew, make up the powerhouse duo known as Dear Rouge and have two full-length albums and a Juno to their name. Known for their hook-driven tracks—and being “the nicest couple in Canadian music”—Dear Rouge just dropped their sophomore LP, Phases. The record recounts a season of emotional extremes for the couple, including winning the 2016 Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year, and losing a loved one. We caught up with Danielle over the phone to talk about finding joy in music again, and the personal and public significance of Phases. G—On your website, you describe your style as “sinewy, hook-driven indie rock”. Where did that particular style evolve from? DM—I was always very into hook-y music with beautiful melodies. I grew up listening to The Carpenters and they have beautiful melodic parts, but I also always loved harder music and really rock-driven music. Bands like Metric or Yeah Yeah Yeahs or St. Vincent were hugely motivating for me, and I loved that these frontwomen were powerhouses. They’re very confident and trying to push the boundaries while