How Canadian Rapper SonReal Went From Working Construction To Selling Out Concert Venues

12/04/2017 09:45 am ET
Dane Collison

Canadian rapper Aaron “SonReal” Hoffman started making music in his basement at 15 with a mic from Radio Shack, and he is now selling out concert venues across Canada and the United States.

His fans span from Vancouver, to Los Angeles, to New York City, and everywhere in between. Hoffman’s catchy track “Everywhere We Go”, with a music video where he plays a cast of quirky characters is what has sparked the majority of his fame, winning him the 2014 MuchMusic Video Award for MuchFact Video of the Year.

His music covers a wide variety, from upbeat party tracks like “Go Play” and “Preach” to more serious tracks like “Problems” and “My Friend” that discuss important issues such as anxiety, depression, and loss.

Growing up in the small town of Vernon, British Columbia, had a huge influence on his career, especially because his team — including his manager, booking agent, photographer, video directors, DJ, merch guy, producers, and engineers — is made up of his best friends.

“I started rapping and one of my friends was like, ‘Hey, I’ll shoot your videos!’ and then my other friend was like, ‘I’ll book your shows!’ and we all just fell into jobs that were all oddly designed for us,” Hoffman said. “No one from my city had ever done music. There wasn’t even a studio to record stuff in. I had to have my mom drive me to Radioshack and get one of those little dynamic microphones and plug it into my computer. If you want to do music where I’m from, you have to really want it.”

Being from a small town pushed Hoffman to work even harder because he didn’t have any local musicians to look up to as mentors.

“No one ever helped us with anything,” Hoffman said. “We got our own funding. We used to work construction and put all of our money together and we’d go drive and do a five-day tour and blow our money on gas and a van and all of that stuff. We built it ourselves.”

“I think coming from a small town and not having anything given to me, or not being able to see anyone from where I’m from do it really gave us a do-it-yourself mentality,” Hoffman added. “I’d rather fall on my face trying to do something that I love than always wondering if I could have done it.”

Hoffman is also very committed to his fanbase. For him, the best part about being a performer and the best part about being on tour is getting to connect with his fans.

“Knowing I’m making an impact on my fans, that’s why I make music,” Hoffman said. “More than anything else. More than feeling loved by people or more than hearing my voice back on a record and thinking ‘That sounds so good’ or learning how to sing better or anything that I’ve done in music or taken away from music or anything that’s made me feel good in music, nothing could ever compare to that feeling.”

His fans have sent him letters saying that his music saved their life.

“I’ve had fans tell me that they were going through depression and that it was my music that helped them,” he said. “I had a fan the other day with a prosthetic arm, his arm had gotten cut off in a car accident. He said that when he was in the hospital my music was the only thing that kept him going. I don’t even know how to take that. I’ve already won — I could quit right now and I’ve already won. For me, that’s all I care about, that’s all I make my music for.”

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Hoffman openly discusses depression, anxiety and loss in his music.

“A lot of people feel alone. A lot of people feel depressed,” Hoffman said. “Even things as crazy as how kids get bullied today. When I was a kid, I got bullied but it ended as soon as I got home. Now with the internet it just blows up and can be unbearable. People need to know that people they look up to, like me, have problems too and that they aren’t alone.”

Hoffman isn’t afraid to address these things because he feels that it’s needed in today’s society.

“A lot of people don’t talk about these things, and there’s so much going on in this world. People need stuff that they can connect to. Honest, real songs that make people feel something are so important. My song ‘My Friend’ is the best song I’ve ever done, in my opinion, and it’s just a guitar and vocals.”

Hoffman’s growth as an artist over the past few years has been incredible, and he’s trying to enjoy every step along the way instead of worrying too much about numbers. His song “Can I Get A Witness” went platinum in Canada, and his EP “For The Townreached #5 on iTunes. He was also a special guest on Jon Bellion’s sold-out Human Condition Tour. With videos reaching nearly 13 million viewers, he’s certainly gaining quite a following.

“I always aspire to be the biggest, and I know we’re going to get there,” Hoffman said. “There’s not a question in my mind,” he said. “But, I’m trying to just enjoy the journey. I think when we start thinking too hard about how much you want to grow, you lose sight of what where you want to go. You need to enjoy where you’re at. It’s just so cool that I’m doing this as a job now.”

SonReal also has some words of wisdom for anyone out there who is trying to achieve their own dreams.

“I’m doing something that wasn’t in my cards,” Hoffman said. “I’ve had all sorts of highs and lows. Just now I’m seeing the fruits of our labor come to life. No amount of money, no location of where you live, no matter what anyone tells you or what you may think, even in your own mind, if you’ve got an idea and you’re passionate about it and you believe in it, just do it,” he said.

“Just undoubtedly go after it. We live in the coolest time,” he added. “Because of how prevalent the internet is, you can just make things happen. You can do anything now. If you’ve got it in your heart, you can make it happen.”

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