Q&A: Andres Sierra
I'm half-asleep, my phone is buzzing and there's a text from Andres: "Be at the Harbourfront centre in one hour". In a daze from the quick Bloody Ceasar I called my breakfast, I grabbed my shoes, my shorts, a bottle of water (that I did not drink) and I ran over to my first proper vogueing workshop. I lived, I died and also couldn't walk for a couple of days... but it was all worth it. We then sat down at a Quiznos, because that's where serious stuff happens, to discuss art, career and where this beautiful creature is heading.
Dressed HEAD TO TOE in Andrew Coimbra, I chat with Andres Sierra!
Let's start from the beginning, what is your latest record House arrest about?
The record is an amalgamation of work since I began recording back in 2012. Throughout that whole time, I spent a lot of time discovering my sound – curating it really, alongside my manager/producer/writing partner, Bobby, aka The Intellexz.
I had always wanted to release a body of work before, like an EP. I even teased about it, but it never came to fruition even though songs were finished. Like, demo is gone, mixed and mastered, and it just never made it out. But I’m happy that’s how it played out to where I am today. The song that sort of kick-started the album was “In the Name of Love.”
You mention these older singles prior to “In the Name of Love.” Have any of them made it onto the album?
There is an old song, very old: "Why Do I.” That’s one of the oldest songs I have on the album, from 2013! Because it was my favourite track when I did it back in the day and it’s just – I love it so, so much. We had written so much material within those five years. We had a lot to choose from, and I really wanted that one to make it. What I love about writing with Bobby is that his focus was always on writing the best song. If the vocals and melody were strong, that a cappella could be given to anyone and transform into anything. Obviously, as time moves on pop music changes, and there are new, different sounds. So I’m not going to put that version onto the album, but I will fuck it up, you know what I mean? Bring something new to it. We sent the a cappella of “Why Do I” to UK producers Midnight City, who did the first demo. I called Bobby after listening to it, and before you know it we’re producing it over the phone. FYI, it’s actually the only song that I produced on my computer using logic and shit (*laughs). That was really, really cool!
What is your favourite track on the album?
There are a couple that are tied. I fucking love “Chosen,” aka my new single out right now, and “Fallen for U”. “In the Name of Love” is so emotional for me, and like I said, it kick-started the album. That’s what really began this journey. It was also my first music video with choreography, which is something I had always dreamed about, and then it actually happened (thank you, Bobby!), which for me was just mind-blowing. The dancers were amazing; the choreographer, Leon Blackwood, was amazing. I know Leon from when I was 14 years old, so it was just really cool that these people I knew for so long came together to be a part of it.
So do you write a lot for yourself or other people?
It’s all for me (*laughs). To be honest, I never had a plan to write for other people. I didn’t want to be a songwriter; I wanted to be a pop star. Everything was going to be for me. I am selling myself as the artist, always. However, I did do a lot of collabs with producers. It’s how this album came to be. I needed producers who could elevate these songs, that started (mostly) on piano, into full-fledged dance/house/pop bops. I found most of them on SoundCloud or Spotify, except for 10Digits, a producer from Toronto who I met before I ever released anything – literally at the beginning of my journey. He produced “Chosen,” “Synthetic” and “All Over Again.” I did a show with him recently, and I just gotta say, I’m so proud of him. It’s been amazing to see him grow over these years, and I’m very lucky to have met him and his partner, Yves. Gang gang. Anyway, there are also a lot of songs I wrote with producers for their own releases with me as the feature that never came to light, but, like … no regrets.
You’re from Toronto, and there is a track on your album called “City Lights.” Is it about Toronto, and if yes, how did you come to write a song about the city?
That’s another really old one, actually. It’s from 2013. I remember back then it was like an EDM song – super, super EDM – then Rogerseventytwo turned it into more of an Afro-house thing, which is really dope.
How is it to be you, as a queer Latinx singer in Toronto?
I’ve been reconnecting to what it means to be from Toronto. I love how diverse it is. To me it’s like this utopia filled with people from all walks of life that you don’t see anywhere else. Like, I’m from Colombia and when I go back there, it’s so weird to see such homogeny where everyone looks the same. But I come back here and I’m like, “Ha – this is where I feel at home.” I love that I can get, in one area, the best Indian food and in another area the most incredible Afghani food, and then I finish it off with some halo-halo at the Filipino store, maybe throw in a lumpia or two. My school was 80 percent second-gen Canadian, born to hard-working immigrant parents that came here with very little, possibly not knowing the language and starting from scratch, leaving everything they knew and loved behind. I love that I grew up surrounded by that, and I love how safe it is. When you leave Toronto that’s when you see it. I think that’s why it’s been such a breeding ground for openness and diversity. Obviously, we are not fucking perfect; there is still racism and homophobia and shit. But to know that there’s such a strong community of queer POCs in Toronto makes me so proud.
That’s why I’m so mad at myself for denying it so much – pressured to hide it because that’s what I believed was going to bring me success. I caved in to the pressure, and I did my best to conform to what the industry expected from me. There was no space for a queer Latinx pop star, even though it shouldn’t matter in the first place because it’s about the music and the talent and the work it takes to do what I do. That’s something I am finally realizing, and I’m done with pretending to be anyone else because nobody can be me but me, feel me?
The suffering wasn’t worth it. I was going crazy. I was the most depressed I had ever been in my life even though I was making the most amazing music, and all the strides I had been able to achieve from “playing the game” were not lost. But I had felt for a long time that something was holding me back from really fucking blowing up, and immersing myself back in the community and connecting with other incredible queer POC artists has given me courage and comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. I’m ready, bitch.
I’m telling you, people are sleeping on Toronto. I was at Toronto Fashion Week recently, and I was in awe at the diversity of talent and models. I was, like, this is the future of fashion. This is the future of the world.
What do you feel is the next step now that House Arrest is out?
My number-one priority right now is to perform. People need to be able to see what I can do live. One thing is to hear my music; another thing is to see a performance. When I’m onstage, I’m at my most free. I feel on top of the world, I feel invincible. I think that my passion, when it radiates – people fuck with it, do you know what I mean?
I don’t know. I’m on this beautiful journey of self-discovery right now, and I’m just taking it one day at a time. It follows a very dark period of my life, and I’m in such a good place right now.
Photographer: Colin Gaudet
Clothes provided by: Andrew Coimbra
Make up/Grooming: Brittany Sinclair (P1M)