On any given pre-pandemic weekend, the nightlife and entertainment segment of Huntsville’s downtown would be thriving. You could casually drift, share a pint with a friend, and marvel at the diverse, expressive performing arts scene, with musicians of fine sensibilities and skill, playing their own brand of song from original to covers. You could come home knowing you had seen and heard some of the very best that Canada has to offer. Then a historic pandemic set in, changing everything.
Nathan Da Silva had barely settled in Huntsville. His audiences enthralled by a guitarist of profound dexterity, melodic and fluid, seemingly effortless fretboard exploration, capable of articulating an endless energetic stream of tunes from one genre to the next. Seeing Da Silva in a local pub or venue, covering some local favourite drink-along-to songs, few would realize that Da Silva is a world-class musician who has played as a backing guitarist, bassist, and vocalist for a wide array of musical adventures from country to jazz, in both French and English bands across Canada.
By March 2020, Nathan Da Silva had lost a national tour schedule due to the pandemic, his ten year progressive rock band The Slyde was in hiatus due to personnel issues, and his work as a freelance arranger, transcriber, and teacher had evaporated along with the fortunes of so many in his profession. Da Silva has surprisingly found a way to continue. His work through social media and his savvy on how create unique listening opportunities in isolation have garnered him a growing following and fan base.
During his studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Da Silva discovered his love for guitar. He gravitated early to heavy metal bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, and Korn, but soon he was drawn to European metal bands that exhibit a more intricate sense of melody and harmonic progression akin to classical music. The range and versatility of instrumentalists like John Petrucci, David Gilmore, and in particular Canadian Don Ross soon influenced and shaped Da Silva’s approach and style. The determination, drive, and perseverance necessary to master and aspire to this degree of musicianship cannot be over emphasized.
Nathan Da Silva worked steadily with bands throughout the Ottawa area, mostly with Franco-Ontario bands, beginning with Paul Demers who is renowned for his song “Notre Place”; country singer Gabrielle Goulet, for whom he played bass and banjo; Le Groupe Swing (LGS), a highly regarded néo-trad band; and Yao Musique, a daft punk performer with whom Da Silva had toured Canada. All of these experiences as a freelance side musician have broadened Da Silva’s gift and capacity as a multi-instrumentalist and provided a valuable foundation for his stagecraft and energized showmanship.
Through his childhood friend and The Slyde drummer, Brendan Soares, Da Silva was introduced to Reuben and the Dark, a Calgary-based folk-rock outfit led by Reuben Bullock. Throughout February of 2020, Da Silva toured steadily as a bassist for the group but all of their shows were subsequently cancelled. The Dark’s music is haunting and soul searching, expansive.
Most dear to Da Silva’s heart and musical identity and aspirations is his band, The Slyde, co-founded with Sarah Westbrook and included bassist Alberto Campuzano, and drummer Brendan Soares. The band formed around 2009, releasing several prized recordings culminating in 2018 with their critically acclaimed Awakening. Considered by many as melodic progressive rockers similar to Rush or Dream Theater, the band was a powerhouse live with Da Silva’s exciting vocal range and guitar playing, but overall it was the tight-knit interplay between the members that made them so visually and sonically stunning. The successes of the album lead them to become finalists in the highly prestigious 2019 Wacken Metal Battle Canada competition for a place in the international final at Wacken Open Air in Germany.
Poised for the next step in their career advancement, The Slyde, ten years into their evolution, stumbled on interpersonal issues and disbanded throughout preparations for their 2020 scheduled album release. The loss of his touring possibilities and the derailment of The Slyde has forced Da Silva to explore other ways to get his music into the world. From 2013, Da Silva had been engaged by On the Docks Pub in Huntsville as a regular act, where he has enjoyed audience favour and found a growing fan and support base. He decided to venture to Huntsville and live here full-time.
During the pandemic, Nathan Da Silva has developed and produced an expansive video library showcasing his various abilities as a solo act. Without exaggeration they are something of a wonder to behold. Sometimes doing all the parts or at other times using isolated friends, Da Silva captures spirited renditions of many of his influences and inspirations. His YouTube tribute to Rush, in which he plays the entire Moving Pictures album, is a breathtaking and exhilarating exhibition of Da Silva’s far-reaching gifts and capabilities, not only as a stylist interpreter but as a savant of extraordinary advancement. Along with Matt Haché, Patrick Dal Cin, and Michael Cisterna, Da Silva performed, recorded, and filmed all of Rush’s iconic album Moving Pictures. The collection of videos have collectively reached over 50,000 views between YouTube and Facebook.
Da Silva has enrolled in the Master of Arts in Music and Culture program at Carleton University in Ottawa for September 2021; he was recommended for maximum funding through the school, plus a guaranteed teacher’s assistant position for one or more music courses at the undergrad level over the two-year graduate program. He hopes that given the circumstances performing artists will face throughout the next few years, this will enhance his opportunities to teach and grow.
Despite the setback that his professional life has endured, Nathan Da Silva pursues his mission and goals, relentlessly crafting and shaping, preparing for the future that a musician of his calibre must fulfill. As venues slowly open again locally, audiences will once again have the joy and pleasure of hearing this talented songwriter and performer.
For more on Nathan Da Silva, visit nathandasilva.ca. He’s on Instagram @nathandasilvamusic and Facebook here. Watch and listen at these links: theslyde.bandcamp.com/album/awakening, and youtube.com/user/nathandasilvamusic/featured.
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