Interview By: Colton Beausoleil
It’s been a great and equally busy year for Vernon, BC’s rising star SonReal, who doesn’t seem to stop raising the bar he sets for himself. Coming off working on a project and tour with Rich Kidd to begin the year, SonReal toured across Canada with Rich Kidd, promoting The Closers while opening for Mac Miller, followed by his own headlining tour through every province. Along the way, he’s found a great deal of success, with visuals like “Hometown” charting number one on Much Music, “Everywhere We Go” making top five, and The Closers earning a Juno nomination.
With things rapidly speeding up and a fan base growing more everyday, this year deems to be SonReal’s biggest year yet, although the future is brighter than ever and SonReal is ready to keep moving forward. While on tour we caught up with SonReal and spoke about what’s in store for 2014 (including his project One Long Day), “Believe,” making timeless music, and much more. Read the interview below.
TCUS: This year has been a pretty good year for you with “Hometown” hitting number one on the Much Music Countdown, “Everywhere We Go” charting top five, the Juno nomination, and this is your third tour this year right? How has it been so far?
SonReal: It’s been good, man. It’s crazy because this is our first time going out by myself and doing a Canadian tour, headlining with openers in each city. It’s just been crazy surprising seeing how many people are coming out to these shows; we’ve been reaching capacity at most of the dates, and yeah man it just feel good knowing people are getting behind the music and most of all people are getting behind the movement which is my favorite thing about it all.
TCUS: Lets talk a bit about the song “Hometown.” You have a line in there: “trying to make these moves, sometimes we forget where we started at.” Could you elaborate a bit on that?
SonReal: Sometimes I’ll go back to my hometown Vernon, and it’s like a population of like sixty to seventy thousand people. Lots of the time I’ll go back and see old friends and they’ll be like “yo man don’t ever change, it seems like you’re changing” or whatever. Basically what I’m saying is I’ll never forget where I started at, you know what I mean? No matter how far this goes, I’ve always got love for the people that helped me out from the beginning and even the people I roll with. I mean, my manager is my best friend; my DJ is my best friend. I live with these people, I hang out with these people, and I’m just kind of saying [to] the people that were with me from the jump, I’m not forgetting you ever.
TCUS: And that keeps that realness around you if you know what I mean right?
SonReal: Yeah man, I don’t ever want to have a team of people I’m not close with, because at the end of the day this isn’t about money to me; this isn’t about fame or anything like that. It’s mostly all about just making good music and trying to affect people and trying to be the best artist I can be.
TCUS: What can you tell me about Seaton Secondary School?
SonReal: That’s tight. Seaton Secondary School is where I went to highschool and graduated from. It was a good school, that’s where I started rapping and that’s where I did my very first show. I performed in front of my whole school at an assembly and I was so nervous I almost puked – I drank a bunch of alcohol in the parking lot before.
TCUS: What significance does Dunas Skate Shop have to you?
SonReal: Dunas, it’s basically my first job I ever got; I was fourteen working at the skate shop. Skateboarding has always been a big part of my life. Big shout out to my man A Bomb. My man A Bomb gave me a job there and he basically held me down. That’s where I first started making music; it was a good job for me coming up. The shop showed me so much support.
TCUS: Was that around when you started skating or was it before then?
SonReal: Oh naw, I’ve been skating since I was like ten years old. I got sponsored by Dunas when I was twelve, and started working there at fourteen so I was kinda like that little skate rat that just got a job because I was good at skating.
TCUS: This line comes from your song “Everything I Am”: “I’m trying to tell you what’s right but caught up in something wrong/ I’m killing it where I’m at but not living it where I want”. What did you mean by that?
SonReal: I think I’m just somebody that strives to be way bigger and better and more promising than I was the last year or whatever and I’m basically just saying no matter how big it gets, I’m always going to strive for something higher, you know what I mean? I think the best artists – and some of my favourite artists – have always thought like that anyways. I mean it’s a great way to think, like I could go pack a show in Toronto like last night and I’m not going to go around boasting and saying “yeah I packed that show, I’m the man or whatever blah blah”, I’m going to say “yo I want to try and do a bigger venue now.” I want to try and [build] on that and do something better.
TCUS: I noticed your album Trapped In The Streets makes an appearance in the video. What can you tell me about that album?
SonReal: Trapped In The Streets? Ahh man, it’s like my first album, mixtape or whatever – I don’t even know. I was super young and I used to be a big fan of Mobb Deep and Noreaga and Cormega – hard east coast rap – and I just tried to rap like them for the whole album. I talked about killing people and selling drugs and just crazy ass shit, so I called it Trapped In The Streets. I was really just on some hardcore shit just trying to find my style. It’s my first project and a lot of my fans know that album and how far [the music has come] since then.
TCUS: Jumping ahead, what inspired you to do the “Napoleon Dynamite” theme with “Everywhere We Go”?
SonReal: “Everywhere We Go,” the song is such a trap kind of song that I’m just rapping about rapping really; it doesn’t have a crazy storyline or a crazy insane deep message or something like that. We wanted to juxtapose what you thought we were going to do for the video and do something completely different. We pride ourselves really hard on always trying to do innovative, creative, well-thought-out videos.
We just did something really creative and I think without that video, that song wouldn’t have done as [well]. I [also] feel like the video wouldn’t have spread and done as [well] if the song wasn’t good. We just tried to do something cool, something different. Rappers don’t always do that shit. Out of any genre of music, rap artists always try and look as cool as they can so I think we just killed that whole stereotype and I dressed up like a nerd and I had prosthetic zits all over my face.
TCUS: Now you just dropped a new video, “Believe.” It’s an inspiring song, talking about finding your inner strength. What inspired you to write this one?
SonReal: If you look into lots of my music – especially the loudest stuff – I’m always pushing to be inspirational. I mean, you know I’m just an inspired dude, like I’m from a small town, not a whole lot of people even rap, and even to be out here tonight I’m just so grateful. I base everything in my life off gratitude and being thankful for what’s going on, so I guess it just comes out in my music. I don’t even really try to make inspiring music or anything; it just happens.
We worked on that song for 6 months – it’s not a thrown together song. We had the first part just kind of roughly done and then we switched up the drums, made the beat bigger, re-spit the verses and then we got a children’s choir on it. You know that last part where it goes all black and white? We did that after and stuff like that. I just pride myself on taking my time with my music and trying to do things right.
TCUS: Even the video, the visuals show scenes of different people at their low point and that boosts their motivation to push forward.
SonReal: We just want to make you feel something with that because I feel like “Everywhere We Go” made you laugh [and] smile. It was fun, upbeat and everything like that. We got a lot of attention off that, labels hitting us up and I just basically wanted to show them [that] I’m not just a funny parody rapper or nothing like that; I’ve got substance to my music too, so that’s why we did “Believe.” It was kind of a strategic choice I guess to do that next.
TCUS: You tweeted, “I want to do shit that’s going to live longer than a month or so.” What would you say the recipe for timeless music is?
I wanna do shit thats going to live longer then a month or so
— SonReal (@TheRealSonReal) December 4, 2013
SonReal: I don’t think there is really a formula for doing timeless music; I think it’s more so in your mindset, in your heart, and how hard you work. If you work really hard on something and you take your time on it, that’s something that can become timeless. Not everybody has timeless shit – it’s simple as that. There’s artists who may come out with a single that does so well, then within a month it goes away and they come out with another single that goes really hard for a month then it goes away; that’s just the way it goes. It’s not a bad thing, I just choose to take my time and produce timeless music; it’s just the way I am.
TCUS: I saw Much voted you the Sexiest Man of the Year. How did you feel when they announced that?
SonReal: I was f*cking stoked man! I was super stoked. I mean, I really I don’t know what made me sexy now – I think I’ve been sexy the whole time [laughs], but yeah they just labelled me that.
TCUS: Do you have any New Years resolutions?
SonReal: This is going to sound hella generic but to read more probably, just because I don’t read very much. I’ve been working out a lot and just making sure I’m eating right and stuff like that so that’s something I want to carry on into the new year.
TCUS: You tweeted that your next album, One Long Day, is pretty much done. What can people expect from it?
My new album is pretty much a wrap for those asking.
— SonReal (@TheRealSonReal) December 5, 2013
SonReal: Man, it’s my best work to date, that’s all I really want to say. I’ve got to let it just speak for itself. In my opinion, I spent more time on it, all the songs are more tailored, all the songs have more detail, [and] they’re all more thought provoking. I think I’ve just honed my style on this one and really let people know why they love SonReal and just did the best work I could.
TCUS: You’re approaching a new tour with Down With Webster and D Pryde. Is there anything new we could expect with that?
SonReal: Oh yeah, I’m going to be doing a lot of new songs on that one. My album will be out at that point in time, so I’ll be promoting that – so it’s going to be sick! The project comes out January 21st to be exact.
TCUS: Is there anything else you wanted to say?
SonReal: I just want to say thanks to everybody for their support and thanks to everybody coming out to the shows. Each and every person that comes out to the shows I appreciate and I’m just going to keep making better music for you guys and keep trying to get better at this shit.