The Vancouver based hip-hop artist SonReal took some time to chat with us before his soundcheck at his Montreal show in February. Hardworking, dedicated and persistent are all qualities that SonReal demonstrates in his work. We chatted about never giving up on the dream and everything music!
You’ve been touring and making music for a while now, how is it different this time?
Everything’s different. I don’t know what it is about this tour, I think obviously within the time from last tour and this tour I got heavier radio play and what not, but I think just as you progress as an artist and being the type of person I am, my fans they are relating to what i’m doing more, they get to know me more and I think when you get to know somebody more-like some of my favourite artists I didn’t like first listen or third listen and I think on my last tour people were getting their first and third listens and were brand new to me. I feel like people are falling in love with the whole team and what we do and just who we are as people and I think thats what’s making the crowds get much bigger and spread by word of mouth.
You’ve been doing this since 2008 ish? When was your first album?
I’d say my first album I did fresh out of high school in 2006. I did an album called ‘Trapped in the Streets’ where I basically rapped with a New York accent the whole album and I talked about killing people and stuff and I was on the cover *like this* and on the back cover i’m smoking a bunch of weed. Yeah its not good news
Why did you decide to do hip-hop?
I just really loved music and I think hip-hop is the thing I related to the most not because I had a lot in common with the people I was listening to, cause I listen to hard core rap from like New York and stuff like that but what I related to was the story telling, getting to know somebody through the music and how explicit it was. I love, you know as a kid in order to escape I listened to rap music and that’s kinda what drew me to it.
You were on tour, then you did the New Year’s Eve show in Montreal and now you’re on tour again, when do you have time to breathe and work on music?
On Saturday is our last show in New York and after that I fly to L.A. and I’m just going to work on music for about 3 weeks before I go back on tour. I just tour yeah, we’re really trying to build something real and I came to Montreal a lot. Montreal is our hardest market in Canada, I don’t know what it is, we came here 80 times and we just can’t sell out a room and then in places like Edmonton and Toronto and London, Ontario, all these places we can just pack up the rooms. I am not willing to give up on Montreal. Like the fans here are so awesome and so into it, there’s just not a ton of them. And I heard from a lot of artists that this is a market you either hit on right off the bat or you have to work at it and I’m willing to work at it and keep coming back here.
Yeah, I think once Montreal people find an artist they like they really stick with them
Of course yeah, I come out here for the people. My fans out here are really dedicated. Some of my favourite shows were here, like that Fairmont show was so fun to me it was one of my favourite shows on that entire tour.
You’ve been writing many songs with different styles to them, how is your writing process and how choose from those variations of songs?
I just never want to be put in a box, I never wanted to be like ‘oh fuck I’m a rapper’, I want to be able to sing a song. You know I always sang right from the start, I liked music that was melodic, some of my favourite songs-I remember when 50 Cent came with the Get Rich or Die Tryin’ album, I was in school and I’d just be listening to it all the time and I think it’s because it was so melodic and so catchy. Those melodies are something that’s so beautiful in hip-hop music and thats where think things are going and I just love making all sorts of shit. I never want to be just confined in just doing that and I think that’s what makes me hard to understand but once you get it, you love it. You’re like ‘oh wow he does a song like All I Got’ and then I do a song like Soho, very very different. I think if you can do a lot of stuff, do it.
Do you ever have days where you just want to drop everything and do something else?
Oh yeah, but not as much anymore because it’s starting to pick up. I’ve been more underground the last few years until this year with radio and stuff, like we walk down the street and people are coming up to us all over the place. You know we’re making more money so i’m able to pay people more, I haven’t been wanting to give up anymore. 2009 I almost quit, 2010 I almost quit.
How do you overcome that feeling?
A lot of the time it’s as simple as a message from a fan saying how much they love your music or a friend. One of my friends telling like ‘you know man you got this, I believe in you’. Like in ’09 when I was going to quit, I remember my tour manager came up to me said like ‘why don’t you make songs just for us then, don’t give a shit about any of this other stuff. We just want to hear your music’ and I was like okay and that’s pretty much what I did.
How do you come up with all those crazy concepts for your videos?
It’s a collaborative effort between my team and Peter Huang. He’s the director and he’s an insane guy. And then Dane Collison he’s with me right now, he’s an incredible director as well. I only work with like two directors. We come up with the initial concept and it just gets weirder every time.
You’ve had the same team since you started, how has that support and your family support helped?
It’s everything. One thing i’ve always prided myself in and the guys I keep around me is that no one is put on a pedestal. The way I set up my whole thing is that these are my best friends so they’ll me if I’m fucking up. Like every time after a show we sit down in a room and ask how can we make this show better. We built a house for this tour. That’s the house that we all lived in back in Vancouver where we all started this. I think the best thing about it is that our team is just trying to make each other better.
How would you describe your journey as an artist so far?
Long and persistent. And the only thing i’ve ever done right is that I never gave up, I wasn’t the best singer or the best rapper, I just literally was like ‘I’m going to be one of the biggest artists in the world’. Every single year since 2011 I’ve said ‘next year I’m going to be the next biggest artist on the planet’ and I still think that next year or later on this year I’m going to be the biggest artist on the planet. That’s the way I think all the time, that’s whats gotten me to the next thing. My entire career, ever since we started this, we’ve never moved backwards. Our team has grown, things are expanding, it’s moving and it’s because I have that same mentality. If you think like that then you will be that.
Favourite Jon Bellion song?
Hand of God
Artist you would like to tour with?
Favourite song at the moment?
Feel it Coming by The Weeknd
Venue you’d like to play at?
A city you’ve never played at and you’d like to play there?
cover photo by Dane Collison
other photos by Jessica Doyle