The Painful Experiences That Moira dela Torre Uses To Fuel Her Beautiful Songwriting
The singer and songwriter talks to multimedia artist Toni Gonzaga about how life shaped her as an artist, including the people who helped restore hope and love for her
Moira dela Torre has known fame, but when her new hit single "Paubaya" became the massive success that it is today, she was in shock.
She didn't think it would resonate with her listeners the way it did, but some weeks after the noise has passed, Moira reflects on the song, her songwriting inspirations, and the collective, often deeply painful, experiences that have shaped her as an artist.
Moira's fellow Kapamilya Toni Gonzaga-Soriano invited her for an exclusive interview on Toni Talks, a show on Toni's YouTube channel focused on celebrity guests and upfront conversations with them.
In this episode of Toni Talks featuring Moira dela Torre, Toni asks the award-winning singer about why her songs always hit the emotional soft spot—and how Moira owning her depression, trauma, and unbreakable hope for better things ahead have been the most helpful things in her life professionally, personally, and spiritually.
Check out what Toni and Moira talked about below:
"At the time, I was going through something. My depression was really bad, so he didn't want me to be alone."
It's lesser known that when Moira was but a up-and-coming artist making her entrance in showbiz, Sam Milby was her bestest of best friends. He didn't only support a 16-year-old Moira in her career, but he let her live with him for some time, just because she literally had no other place to go to. They became each other's family since she and him both had no relatives in Manila at the time, and they struck up such a friendship that Moira still talks about with fondness today, 11 years since.
"For a long time before that, walang nangyayari in my career. I just, I felt like this could be it. It was really painful when I didn't make it, but also, it made sense. Because I remembered that the reason why I started writing my own songs anyway was because I couldn't sing other people's songs."
Moira saw her shot at winning the first season of The Voice Philippines as her golden ticket to becoming a professional singer. She didn't win despite making it to the semis, but even so, she learned to see the loss as life's redirection to where she was supposed to be. The fact that she didn't become a champ, thanks to singing someone else's music, was a gift; it reminded her that she was going to make it, but only if she performed her original material, singing her own stories with melodies she composed. Moira says that the shape her career eventually took is even a tribute to the grandma who raised her; this lola was a teacher and a journalist whose way with words inspired Moira to become the lyrical storyteller she's now famous for.
"Being in a broken family... My mom and my dad separated when I was four. My mom remarried when I was seven. I didn't see my dad again until I was 16. It was 12 years of not having my dad."
In place of her biological father, Moira's mom's second husband, a pastor, was there to raise her. She talks about how an unstable family life affected her, especially during her adolescence. Anorexia and bulimia were problems for her when she was 12, and by the time she was 18, she had become suicidal. It was in her lowest moments when she wrote some of her most beloved songs ("Tagu-Taguan," "Malaya"), and when the emptiness she was feeling was slowly being replaced by her passion for songwriting. She talks openly about having seen a therapist to help her heal and now that she's a successful artist, her wish is for her audience to see her songs as friends—the kind of comforting presence that she herself wish she had when she was at her loneliest and most emotionally isolated.
"May notion kasi tayo na kapag na-reach mo na 'yung dream mo, tapos na 'yung rejection, tapos na 'yung paghihirap. Pero dumodoble lang pala siya."
Moira had to learn how to process her feelings of being rejected and disappointed with herself. Beginning with her parents' separation, to when she was booted off The Voice, to when her concert wasn't selling as well as she'd hoped, to when she didn't get picked for a project by her music agent, she's tasted the bitter pangs of not being good enough. Even with her many successes, she still doesn't truly feel that "she's made it" as an artist, and it's a challenge for her to acknowledge all that she's been able to achieve for herself. She names two things in her career she's most proud of: finally selling out an Araneta Coliseum show (9,000 in attendance) and hearing an audience sing her songs, word for word, while she was backstage listening in awe at how so many people cared about her music that much.
"Hope... My greatest achievement is knowing that my music has become a friend to so many people. That kind of comfort is something that I didn't have."
Hope is what Moira wants people to feel and to always have for as long as they have her songs with them. It's the heart and soul behind her latest hit single "Paubaya." The record featuring the song, Patawad, was released during the height of 2020's pandemic woes and as Moira and her husband Jason Marvin Hernandez were figuring out how to close the album, they decided that hope should really be a grounding theme. In the end, the couple turned to their faith and wrote and composed a song telling the world how they choose to leave everything up to God.
"I wanted to write an album that will help balance it out... To promote forgiveness, to promote humanity. Remembering that we are dealing with human beings that are far from perfect. To promote compassion. Compassion and kindness really matter."
Patawad is a record that seeks to unite, rather than divide. Moira's intentions in this latest collection of songs was to show her listeners that they are more alike than different, especially encouraging everyone to think of their words carefully before speaking. She mentions that she moves within a generation of "cancel culture," where bashing is mainstream and speaking one's mind too easily becomes offensive and hurtful and that her album is a small response to this; maybe, if more people come to realize that everyone hurts and feels pain, that everyone has all these shared experiences and emotions, kindness—not hate—will abound.
"I think it's my parents. My parents and myself. I was very mean to myself. I always blamed myself for not being enough... A lot of my pain and my depression, a lot of it was self-inflicted."
Self-blame is a tough habit to break. Thinking of how hard she was on herself in the past as a young girl is enough to bring Moira to tears. She had to forgive herself for being unkind to her younger self and taking out her pain on herself, and her parents, too. After all, they were the first people in her life to cause her so much sadness that she as a child was unable to manage. As Moira talks about these emotional breakthroughs, she also takes the time to say that it's alright for anyone to seek professional help for mental health; it's a tough path to walk and sometimes we need company along the journey, and it's totally okay if that company comes in the form of a mental health professional. Everyone who brings you closer to healing "are all gifts from God" as Moira says.
"I get to create the kind of friend I want through my music."
If there's anything that her struggles have taught her, it's that everyone's experiences are valid. There is no pain too small for attention, and that everyone needs to be heard. And each time Moira writes a new song, she thinks of how her lyrics can accompany people as if they had a friend to hear them.
Watch Moira dela Torre's full interview with Toni Gonzaga below:
Lead photo from @moirarachelle