ETHAN — Before Brian Hoffman followed his passions, he had to find out what was important to him.
That took him to a pretty dark place.
“It's been a very bumpy road since when I started and where I am at now,” said Hoffman, who lives in Ethan. “A lot of the reason I started to get back into it was after an attempted suicide. After that, I knew something had to change.”
Where he is at now is having a successful career as a musician and artist, something he has done since high school. For about the last five years, Hoffman, 30, has been touring the country, performing mostly solo music and selling his artwork. Musically, he plays what he calls country alternative and folk genres of music, which he says are introspective of his own emotions. His artwork portrays mostly abstract and surreal depictions with inspiration from Bob Ross.
Prior to that, his battles with depression and mental health issues and a dealing with being a father going through divorce, Hoffman said he was in a tough spot in his life.
“I did everything I was humanly supposed to do, but nothing was enough to want me to keep moving forward,” he said. “To be honest, I stopped painting and playing for a while after high school because I simply could not find the time.”
But Hoffman described the change in his life as being a leap of faith to try to shape his career in a new way.
“It took a large jump and help from my family to really get things going for me, but I am so glad I took the chance,” Hoffman said.
The titles of his songs describe some of his journey — “On My Own,” “Over My Head,” “Nothing Left To Say,” all on an album called Lessons in Losing — and summarize a musical life that has seen a lot. On his website, he describes it as “True Sad Dad.”
“It's been really cool being a guy from Ethan, South Dakota that has been able to travel around using my passion for art and music as the driving force,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said he’s been able to connect with his fans through his merchandise sales, because rather than selling band T-shirts and the like, he sells his artwork.
“I take my artwork on tour because I want to share it with as many people as possible. It is a great way to get people to look at it, and I usually sell quite a bit that way,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman works primarily solo, but future plans include collaborations with other artists.
“As of right now, I put in upwards of 40-hour work weeks planning out my tours with phone calls, messages, emails, and bookings on my own,” said Hoffman. I am just glad now I am at the point where I am receiving more calls than making them myself for bookings.”
Hoffman's most notable performances include The White Wall Sessions in Sioux Falls, at a local bar in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. His Midwest tours are generally 10 days at a time and while his career has been a constant grind, but it’s fulfilling no matter the time invested.
“It’s not how the movies may make it out to be,” he said. “There may be a lot of days you will find yourself sleeping on floors, and treating yourself to a hotel bed once in a while is a great luxury. But I wouldn’t want it anyway else,”
Hoffman said he has two upcoming performances scheduled in the next few weeks in North Dakota and Wisconsin. He said it’s been rewarding to see one of his art pieces hanging in a bar that he’s played before.
“It really took a lot of time, traumatic events, and continuous support from family and friends before deciding I needed to go after what I love. I couldn’t be any more grateful to finally be where I am at now in my life,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman said that he wishes more people had the courage to jump towards things that make them feel fulfilled rather than doing what is expected.
“Do what you want to do if you enjoy it, because it is important. You were born with a gift for a reason don’t squander it,” said Hoffman. “When it’s all said and done I really just want to create as much music and art as I possibly can before my time has ticked.”