With a voice described as “made for soul”, Pierre Da Silva’s music is an effortless blend of R&B and soul, with pop sensibilities. A naturally gifted songwriter and storyteller, he thrives off the emotions and concepts he’s able to portray through his lyrics.
Citing influences like Donny Hathaway, Lauryn Hill and Lianne La Havas, Pierre has managed to carve out a name for himself in other spheres, releasing music in 2017, via the ‘formidable’ drum and bass duo the Brookes Brothers’ highly anticipated second album ‘Orange Lane’. He wrote and featured on ‘Times of Trouble’ and closing track ‘We Got Love’, both receiving plays on BBC Radio 1 and BBC 1Xtra, introducing the wider world to Pierre’s incredible voice.
Today he joins writer and confidant, Siannarah for an intimate sit-down with F Word to discuss his mental health journey and debut track ‘Only God Knows’, which was released on World Mental Health Day, October 10.
Siannarah Millanaise: So Pierre talk to me, how are you feeling this afternoon?
Pierre Da Silva: This afternoon. I'm feeling great. I'm feeling excited - to have music out. To have music coming out. Yeah… I'm feeling really good, actually. And I'm excited to have this conversation.
SM: Yeah. So let's talk about music, actually. Your new single is called ‘Only God Knows’. And I've listened to it. There's a lot of questioning going on - I feel like we are getting a firsthand look inside your head… Inside a moment of back and forth. Can you just talk to me a bit about that? What was going on?
PDS: And that's exactly it. It really is... a moment inside of my mind. And yeah, it was kind of like I'd gone through a crazy time with mental health. And I was kind of finding my way back to myself. And writing this song... It was very much my thoughts just coming out and questions coming out and realising no one has the answers - to finding peace, to solving anxiety, dealing with depression. We can all seek certain solutions, but no one has the right answers. Some people find comfort in Church. Some people find comfort in talking to family. Some people find comfort in therapy. Some in all of the above. Some in exercise, you know? But it was very much realising like - ONLY GOD KNOWS but we all just have to try. To talk and get better. Regardless of who it is you speak to, you know?
SM: Mmm. I hear that. And you spoke about anxiety there and depression, mental health. And you're actually previewing this song in line with World Mental Health day (10 October). So was that alignment important for you? To prep your release of this song with such a critical moment in the year?
PDS: 100%. It was definitely important, it was definitely critical and it was definitely intentional. I think having gone through [poor mental health] myself, I really realised the importance of raising awareness for mental health and speaking out and maybe helping someone else's journey that might feel very alone. And them realising - actually, I'm not alone. This person over here is going through it. This artist that I'm listening to has gone through the exact same thing. And has written about it in such a detailed way. I think we all - especially when it comes to, well, in one intersection, men, but in another intersection, people of colour - we need to be more open and kind of talk about it more. In different ways. And raise more awareness and help each other along the way because it takes a village to get better.
SM: So is Mental Health a running theme within this project?
PDS: I wouldn't say it's a running theme in my project. But I feel mental health and my struggle was a big part of the last few years - in my life. And that's really what this project is. A piece of the last few years. Whether it’s excitement, whether it’s someone new that I'm talking to or whether it’s me racking my brain on how I'm going to get better. It's all real parts of me, you know whether it's me finding new confidence. These are all things explored in the project and which are all real parts of what the last few years have been for me.
SM: Yeah, I really love that. I think mental health is something that we're talking more and more about. But I think ultimately, it's not a standalone thing, as you mentioned. It's a part of our journey, just like our physical health. It's something that as we go on our journey, it's just going to naturally kind of be expressed if we allow it to. And I think you mentioned about, men and people of colour, maybe having a stigma around talking about their mental health. I've seen some great work, especially around men speaking out and sharing their stories. And I know that you spoke about your own journey with BBC this time last year. Why do you think these conversations need to be amplified?
PDS: I think… it's extremely important for people to feel seen - for people to feel less alone with what they're going through. And I think it's great that we have Awareness months and I think we should be talking about it all the time, you know? But I think it's a great start to have these mental health days and mental health awareness months to really give it a moment and shine a light on resources available. Shine a light on what different people may be going through, shine a light on ways to realise that you might be going through something - before you’ve even realised it.
So, yeah, talking with BBC - it was with Amelia Poamz and funnily enough, it was frightening, but it very much felt like a safe space... the environment that was created made me feel very relaxed and it was the first time I'd really talked about it in such detail. And that's definitely something I definitely want to do again and continue doing. So many people reached out to me after it - with words of encouragement or letting me know they'd gone through similar things and I think that's what we need. We need to talk more about it freely and have open conversations. And let people know that we're there to have conversations. Whether it's with our family, whether it's with our friends or whether it's with people in our industry.
SM: Mm, I think you've even begun to answer the next question I wanted to ask you. But yeah, as we’ve said, I knew there was a stigma around men talking about mental health but what I didn't realise is how staggering the statistics were in terms of the number of people that loose their lives to suicide each year, and actually that 77% are men. We're talking about conversations but what conversations do you think aren't taking place that should be? What is it that society is missing - especially when it comes to men and their mental health?
PDS: That's a very difficult question to answer because it's - where do we even begin? And it's a shame - that's something I kind of touched on before, but when it comes to men's mental health unfortunately... I guess the patriarchal society that we live in has very much contributed to this. The way men feel like they have to be portrayed and the whole idea of masculinity, and what that means - unfortunately has very much created this system and this world where men aren't allowed to be vulnerable, and talking about mental health makes a lot of men feel and not even just men, but portrays men as being weak, which is definitely something that isn't true.
It's a strength to be able to be vulnerable but unfortunately, men, us men are the cause of that. But what we need to do is start undoing some of these systems… these false systems that we've created. And create more spaces for us to be open, for us to be vulnerable and for us to be supportive to one another. Both men and women.
SM: Yeah. Thank you. I think given what you've just said, that typically in society it's not seen as masculine to share your feelings. It's not seen as strong. And, yes it’s not seen as a male thing to do - to kind of share your experience, you mentioned that your whole project isn't about mental health, but that this particular song is. Why did you - knowing how society is, why did you decide to make this song of all of them your debut? Did you have any reservations or any kind of challenges around that based on the fact that it is kind of expressing your own journey with mental health?
PDS: Ermm, you know.. I did. I was very aware that it was… an interesting move. But, I just wanted - it's my most personal song on the project, and that was a big, significant part of… not just the last few years, but just my adult life.
It was my first time really going through something that serious and I felt like the direction I want to take as an artist - I want to be real. I want to be authentic. I want people to connect. With whatever it is that I am expressing. And that's what this song really is. It's just me being real. So I felt like that was the right step. It just felt right to just kind of start with that. It feels very much like a diary entry. And I want to welcome brands and the public into my world, and that was a big part of my world, so that just felt right. I could have easily gone with the catchiest song to get the people excited about my project, but it just felt more authentic to kind of start with something that came from… the deepest… most broken part of me.
SM: Yeah, I think that just really speaks to your authenticity. So let's get into the track.
The song says: ‘Where do we go when the world gets too loud?’ Where do you go when things get too loud? What helps you to defog and un-cloud your brain?
PDS: One of my quickest ‘go-to’s is the gym - which is so interesting because I never used to be a gym guy. And it was really during the deepest - while I was really going through it, my friend started taking me to the gym with him. And now I go to the gym religiously. I go to the gym several times a week. And although sometimes I'm really tired and I don't want to go, it does me so much good. And I encourage anybody to work out. So yeah, that's my first thing. It just helps clear my mind. It gives me so much energy - even when I'm tired, like first thing in the morning, it really energises me for the day, so that's very much my first little quick fix. It's not a long term fix, but it's definitely a quick fix.
SM: Yeah, I love that and I love that ‘changing’ of your mindset that's taken place… The song says 'I probably should get some therapy.’ Have you tried therapy?
PDS: I have, I have and I need to go back because I still have a few sessions. And it was very daunting. My first couple of sessions were very emotional and draining, but I felt good straight away - after them. Yeah, it can be very daunting talking about stuff you know is hard, but it really, really helps and I would encourage anybody to have therapy. And my introduction to therapy was via Help Musicians and The MOBO Awards Fund. And they provided therapy via an organisation called BAPAM (British Association For Performing Arts Medicine) and yeah, I would recommend any creative to check them out. They’re a great organisation and they have really great therapists - they try to tailor it to the person needing therapy so whether it's by race or by sex or by religion, they give you options to help give you the most comfortable introduction to therapy, which was really important for me.
SM: And so we’ve spoken about the gym… we’ve spoken about therapy… is there anything else you found that has positively impacted your mental health?
PDS: Being open with my family, definitely has. Even just them understanding that even when I don't talk to them, I'm going through something - but them just knowing and them giving me words of support and encouragement. I'm very blessed to have a family that kind of understand what it's like dealing with mental health. So for a long time I didn't speak to them, but once I did, it made a big difference. So yes… aside from gym, therapy, talking to my family… praying actually. And I think whether it’s to God or just an acknowledgement to a higher power, I think it helps. And I think the more I do it, the better I feel - whether it's a little word as I leave the house or as I wake up. It always kind of helps set the day right. Especially when I'm going through a difficult time.
SM: So this may be quite a big question, but, is there anything that you found particularly challenging as a man or even as a creative?
PDS: As a man that is a creative, I wouldn't say I found it challenging, but it took some time for me to be able to figure out how to delve - how to comfortably delve into my vulnerability and to express it. And I feel like this debut project is very much that. I've started working on the follow up project and I'm starting to learn how to be emotionally transparent with how I'm feeling - and talk in ways that I wouldn't necessarily talk in real life, but express myself and really delve into certain vulnerabilities, which a lot of the time isn't expected of men in the same way that it may be with women… starting to really get beneath the surface-level-type of topics and ways of communicating experiences. So yeah, that's something that as a writer - as a male writer, I'm starting to learn is okay. That even though it is scary, that maybe it's okay to be emotionally transparent and vulnerable… in my lyrics… in my vocal expression… in my artistic expression as a whole.
SM: For a new artist, you've got some solid projects and experiences under your belt. You've worked with the Brookes Brothers in a writing capacity. You've performed on Jools Holland with Pip Millett. You've recorded with Jordan Mackampa at Abbey Road Studios. Have you ever been in these spaces and experienced impostor syndrome? And for anyone who doesn't know what imposter syndrome is, it’s this idea of feeling like an imposter - not worthy of yourself or of your craft or to be in a space… that you feel is beyond you. Have you ever experienced that?
PDS: So, in a short answer - yes. And I've experienced imposter syndrome in every-single-one of those places. And I'm sure I will continue to experience impostor syndrome. I saw somebody say they don't like the term imposter syndrome and I think I have to agree - I think there needs to be a better term for it. But it's something that I hope to continue to experience because as an artist my biggest goal is to continue growing. To continue growing as a writer, to continue growing as a singer, to continue growing as a performer. And for that, I need to continually expose myself to environments where I feel challenged. And I think for me imposter syndrome comes from being challenged. And each of these experiences you named had a big impact in my artistic development and just how I see my journey, and my drive as an artist. So I want to continue feeling like that because that continues to push me to growth.
SM: I've often felt similarly about imposter syndrome. The term just doesn't sit right with me, I don't know. But I like the spin you've put on it. I like how you have seen it - that if you're experiencing that, it means you're challenging yourself, it means you're growing, it means you're exposing yourself to new environments. So, yeah, amazing. So given that this is now your moment. Your debut. What piece of you do you want to leave with the person reading this?
PDS: What piece of me. That's an interesting question... I think my main thing is [that] I want to encourage. I want to encourage bravery in being vulnerable, whether it's as a creative, whether it's in a form of expression, whether it's in just saying something to someone that you didn't dare say. That leaves you maybe feeling vulnerable or feeling unprotected. I feel like vulnerability - there's so much strength in that. And I realised it more and more while writing this EP. And especially this song. It was so empowering. So yeah, I think the main takeaway I would want is to be brave. There's bravery in being vulnerable and seeking help and speaking out when you need it.
SM: Thank you. And last, but not least, what is your favourite F-word?
PDS: Ooo... my favourite F word has to be finished. Because I finished my project and I'm so excited to get it out. It's been a long time coming.