1 / 1

SonReal

Nov 29/2016
WORDS by Leslie Ken Chu PHOTOGRAPHY by Alex Evans

 

“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.

  Three years after the release of his first EP, Augusta, Canadian singer-songwriter Scott Helman has unleashed his debut full-length LP, Hôtel de Ville, a collection of 12 alt-pop coming-of-age tracks. The 22-year-old Toronto native who successfully broke into the music industry in his mid-teens earned himself two Juno Award nominations, certified gold status for his hit, Bungalow, and began quickly fielding comparisons to the likes of Vance Joy and Jeff Buckley. With a new level of acclaim awaiting him, Helman has recently finished his cross-Canada Scott vs. Ria tour with fellow Juno nominee Ria Mae. We thought it would be the right time to ask him about his momentous musical journey. G—You got your first guitar when you were ten. Was this what led you to become a musician? Scott Helman—I used to mess around on my friend’s guitar, and really wanted to learn how to play. So, I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas. I remember coming down the stairs and seeing it, and knowing instantly what it was because of its shape. I never put it down after that. G—What kind of music did you listen to growing up? SH—My parents are British immigrants, so I was

MORE

Swedish electro-pop mainstays Little Dragon have been around the block. The four-piece band first formed over a decade ago and in that time steadily rose to become one of the world’s biggest indie electro-pop acts. Touring in support of their fifth studio album, Season High, we spoke with bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin about evolving band dynamics, love of music and inspiration behind their latest release. Georgie—You released your fifth album, Season High, earlier this year. How do you feel about this record in comparison to your previous one?  Fredrik Källgren Wallin—It is different, but it is hard to pin down how. We worked a little bit with a producer for the mixing parts, and we have never done that before. We have also become better at communicating and making decisions. I think we fight less; it’s more civilized [laughs]. G—You’ve also worked on some interesting collaborations with other artists, but these tracks didn’t make it onto any of your albums. Was this a conscious decision? FKW—It was a conscious decision; it is such collaboration between the four of us. We did have a friend who appears on the first track of the album – he’s an old high school friend,

MORE

Billie Eilish

Los-Angeles pop artist Billie Eilish began writing and recording music at the young age of 14, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to her. Her lyrics are seasoned with insight carried by a voice that softly and soulfully stretches over dreamy soundscapes. The result is a compelling collection of contrasts, both musically and lyrically, which is on full display on Billie’s debut EP, Don’t Smile At Me (Billie’s debut EP, Don’t Smile At Me (Interscope Records/Universal Music Canada)). Co-written and produced by her brother Finneas O’Connell, the Eilish siblings prove they have no shortage of talent. When we spoke to Billie she was on the road and had just begun her North American tour. G—You started singing at the age of 4, what at that time got you interested in music so early on? BE—I started singing before I could talk, and since then I have been singing all the time, every day. Music has always been part of my family, I guess a part of the way that I think, so it has never come as something separate from my brain. Music and my brain are just one and the same.  G—Now, at the age of 15 you have a

MORE