Nick Hiebert remembers the moment he knew he had to do better with his life.
Living on White Rock’s Stayte Road, in a house most people referred to as ‘the crack shack’, the then-15-year-old was washing his leg in the only sink that had running water.
“I looked in the sink and I was as thin as a stick,” the Earl Marriott alumnus told Peace Arch News, referring to the toll his sparse lifestyle was taking.
“It was the fear of living like that again that pretty much fueled my determination to go out and work hard. I just remember looking in the mirror and saying, ‘I can’t live like this, it’s not going to be my life’.”
Now 33, a construction-business owner and singer-songwriter, Hiebert continues to live up to the promise he made to himself, and he’s hoping his journey will inspire others.
Last month, he donated drop cards and 480 of his CDs to kids supported by Vancouver’s Covenant House – which works with more than 1,400 street-involved youth every year – wanting them to know they, too, can get past difficult times.
Proceeds from albums which were available for a limited time by donation also went to the charity, and Hiebert – who records and performs under the name Poppy Seed – plans to pay Covenant House a personal visit in the coming months.
His message to the kids is not just about music, Hiebert said.
“The message I have for them – don’t ever give up on yourself, just because you’re in a (bad) situation now,” he said. “You don’t have to be like this for the rest of your life. There is hope.”
Hiebert said working hard and having faith in himself is what got him through tough times, and music was a central piece to the puzzle.
“That’s my creative outlet. It kind of gives me a little bit of hope,” he said.
Hiebert said he started free-styling in high school, and gradually put together his own studio, spending “a couple years” working on beats and figuring out programs.
He started his framing business – Hiebbs Construction & Development Ltd. – in 2006, putting “everything” into it to build it to where it is today, with a crew of 18.
Hiebert started putting an even greater focus on music when he moved downtown in 2010, taking vocal lessons, networking, finding a producer and collaborating on beats and instrumentals.
“I just started building myself a solid team of people to work with,” he said, noting he performs and records in genres ranging from hip-hop to soul, and has even done country covers.
Music, he said, is a world without rules, where the only limits are self-imposed.
“The thing I like about music the most is that there’s no boundaries,” Hiebert said. “The only boundaries are the ones that you set for yourself.
“It doesn’t always go how you expect it to go. Just the process is beautiful, because there’s nothing holding you back. You can do whatever you want to do.
“That’s kind of what sucked me in.”
Hiebert knows he could easily have chosen a more nefarious path, but said he knew it would hold no real future.
“I just seen that there was no longevity in that. Everybody that I knew that was like that, they either became drug addicts themselves or ended up in jail.
“I will only do something like that if I absolutely have to. I’d rather try to be a good person.”
Next up, Hiebert is preparing for a cross-Canada tour that’s set to start in May.
He’s also exploring a new market for getting his music to a global audience: Pay Per View.
A recent performance of his at Venue on Granville Street was available online through Pay Per View, and he hopes the exposure will lead to more tours and airtime.
The singer-songwriter has already toured Western Canada and Europe, and may be heading to India later this year.
And while life isn’t exactly stress-free, Hiebert said all the “behind-the-scenes” work he’s done over the years is starting to pay off.
That, too, is a message he hopes takes root.
“There was a lot of times that I had no hope, but at the end of the day, my determination outweighed that,” he said.
“As long as you don’t give up on yourself, it’ll be OK. Just keep striving for something better and it’ll come.”