Burnaby hip hop artist Chris Hamilton had to overcome a heap of obstacles to release his debut full length album, Bringin the Hope Back.
Under his Ill Tone moniker, he began writing the release years ago while in the midst of addiction to alcohol and a laundry list of drugs. Despite the struggle, he managed to stay in school at the Pacific Audio Visual Institute where he was studying audio engineering and recording.
"That was one of the toughest times of my life," Hamilton says. "I was in school in 2010 and 2011. I was at my worst point. I'd be out all night and I'd still make it to school in the morning... hung over and strung out beyond measure. I knew by the time I finished school I was going to have to check back into rehab."
He went into treatment about a year ago and has been sober ever since. Throughout, he says, music served as an emotional outlet. "A person going through an addiction has a lot to say that they maybe can't say to other people," Hamilton says. "Just writing those thoughts down can even help sometimes. A pen and pad can be as good as talking to a counsellor. For me it was an outlet to relieve myself of stress and depression. It's always been a positive thing throughout all of that. A lot of creative energy that comes from the stress of trying to remain sober does get channeled into that music."
Hamilton's journey to sobriety was one of the topics that inspired the lyrics on the album. It is also filled with lush instrumentation and packed with guest vocalists including Jasmin Parkin from Vancouver indie-pop band Mother Mother. "Jasmin and I grew up in the same town and we went to the same junior high," Hamilton says. "I hollered at her and offered her a spot on the song and she liked what we had. She was great."
Released Feb. 27, Hamilton also produced, mixed and recorded the release. While controlling the entire process had its tough moments, he says it was also fulfilling. "Everyone is their own worst critic," he says. "You can imagine how knit picky you can get over your own stuff. Especially mixing I can get into it. You can get picky to the point that the things you're picking apart, no one would notice. At the same time, I've worked with a lot of engineers and beat makers and I just wasn't happy with what they gave me back after."
With a rushed delivery of CD copies of the record arriving at his door last minute, Hamliton is preparing to head out on his first cross-Canada tour, hitting up 20 dates in 24 days, including a stop in Whistler at Moe Joe's as one of the opening acts for Masta Ace on March 11. While the album features a full band, for logistical reasons Hamilton will only be accompanied by a guitar player and DJ.
"It's going to be tough," he says. "Any artist who tours will tell you the same thing. They love it and hate it. At the same time, we get to do what we love every night. I'm looking forward to it for sure."