SonReal's official video for his single "Everywhere We Go," released last summer, is at 778,000 hits on YouTube and counting. That's a rise of 23,000 hits in one week.
One reason for the impressive numbers is that the video is hilarious, with the Vancouver rapper playing a geeky guy with Prince Valiant hair called "Steve" who auditions for a talent show in front of three bored judges. It's a send up of the silly seriousness of the rap world.
"We tried to do something different, that rappers don't normally do," SonReal says. "Rappers, more so than any other genre, they want to look cool. That's where people get the stereotype of us loving money and cars and stuff, but when rap started a lot of those people didn't have anything.
"Once I got into costume for that video, I was like 'Oh my God, what am I doing?' But then it turned out making us seem way more cool by looking like nerds. We just tried to bring humour, we're really proud of it. And it was fun to shoot, too."
The video really hit a nerve, with one YouTube fan begging SonReal to "Please come to Canada! PLEASE!!" followed by agreement from others. A better-informed fan pointed out that SonReal is one of our own, a Commercial Drive guy to be exact.
SonReal says it's the States he wants to break into.
"I go to festivals down there every year, to South by Southwest and I recorded my whole last album (The Closers) in Hollywood," he says. "I haven't yet done a solo tour in the States or supported another act. It's one of our biggest goals. Being a Canadian artist, you get almost put in a bubble up here and it's difficult to break out of that bubble, but once you do, I think it's super effective to go down to the States. So that's our next plan of attack."
SonReal records, engineers and mixes most of his work in his Vancouver studio, so going out to Los Angeles and recording The Closers in one week "was super exciting for me," the city being a kind of ground zero for rap artists. Studio visitors would provide outside input that SonReal wouldn't normally get.
"I don't normally record in that kind of environment. It was a small studio, people were coming in and out, helping us with song writing and helping us with producing. I'm used to bringing in a singer to my studio, but it's sporadic, but in L.A. talented people were coming into the studio at random and helping out," he says.
"They say 'hey it's really good, but why don't you change the ending to give it a melody like this,' or they'd say 'I think that one lyric throws it off'... it lets you challenge yourself to make a better product."
SonReal is playing Garfinkel's on Nov. 28.
Whistler is part of a whistle-stop tour 12 major Canadian cities; a much bigger tour will take place in 2014 and include American dates, SonReal says.
The touring comes after a heavy year of output and a few award nominations.
"Last year we put out three records, two mixed tapes and one album and this year I've put out nothing, just a few very effective videos and I've been working on my album all year. We've been slowing things down, and this year we got the (Much Music Video Awards) nod, the Juno nod and things have almost gone better for us since we started slowing things down," he says.
"I've done all sorts of stuff in Whistler. My DJ Rich A is from Whistler... he brought me up to Whistler when I had no buzz and no fans. It was one of the first places I started performing in when I was trying to come up. I have lots of friends who are professional skiers and they'll bring their friends out to the shows. It was great when we didn't necessarily have all the pieces of the puzzle together."
SonReal says the Garfinkel's show will be his chance to try out new material.
"It's stuff that people haven't even heard yet, though I am doing a lot of my older stuff, too. I think this set is more musical and demands that people listen, rather than me jumping all over the place trying to get people's attention and doing party music," he says.
"We have that but this set will have a musical calibre that is a little bit higher. Me and Rich A really challenged ourselves with it."
Twitter and other social media outlets are SonReal's way of connecting with fans outside the gigs. He even wrote into one of his songs that he spends an hour a day at it, and he updates constantly with his thoughts and what he's up to and answering questions.
"I really take pride in talking with fans and interacting. At the end of the day, I'm just me. People put artists up on a pedestal... but I'm just really passionate about music and I've been working really hard at it. I'm just a regular dude on Twitter. There's nothing more that I like than respond to people and talk," he says.
"I'm not that big yet. It's not like I have 50 million followers so I can connect with people."
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