BILLY SUTER chats to Ballito-based PIERRE DE CHARMOY, former heart-throb singer and film star (he was the lead in the 1984 Afrikaans film, Tawwe Tienies). Pierre, his flowing black locks now shorter and greying, is recording a new album in between sugar farming and performing occasional gigs.
HIS main focus over the past 20 years has been on family and farming, but don’t for a minute think former South African heart-throb singer-songwriter Pierre de Charmoy has shelved his music.
Quite the contrary – the award-winner, who reached No 1 on the local charts with Live On, in the 1980s, has performed regularly over the years, has collaborated in more recent times on various projects with the likes of Dennis East, Kurt Darren and Steve Hofmeyr …and is now working on a new album, tentatively titled Reflections.
He had hoped to release the new collection by Christmas, but is now looking at an Easter release, says Durban-born farmer’s son Pierre, who turns 57 on February 1, 2018.
The new album will feature adult-contemporary songs along the lines of his most popular previous works; all his own compositions, he explains. He will be working with his “old label”, Gallo, and featuring his “old mate”, guitarist Jethro Butow, a legendary session musician who has worked with just about everyone from Radio Rats and Rabbit to Margaret Singana and Lesley Rae Dowling.
“The studio is my happy place. It’s where I create. I hope to produce 12 timeless songs, and might just add a cover or two,” adds Pierre, pointing out that the most special of his new songs is titled Sail On My Friend.
“It’s my favourite track as it was written with my ‘cuz’ who died suddenly. We enjoyed life together, fishing and hunting,” he reflects.
Pierre, who estimates he has written about 70 songs to date, plans to make some promotional videos for his new tracks, as well as tour nationally, and is requesting fans to visit his website (www.pierredecharmoy.com) for updates on these plans.
It was in 1992 that Pierre opted to bow out of the spotlight after a dozen years of continuous recording and touring. It was time in which he received four South African Sarie Awards and two Scotty international awards, and rubbed shoulders or shared stages with, among others, Juluka, The Judds, Julio Iglesias… even Mother Theresa.
“My other passion took over – and that was to farm,” he says, adding that he missed the creative side of the music business only, “none of the rest”.
Pierre started out developing a two-hectare property into a home rental estate and then tried hydroponics , growing tomatoes and cucumbers.
“I gave that up in 1999 when a sugar farm came up for sale, and I have been farming sugar ever since.”
His releasing a new album soon in no way indicates he wants a big return to the limelight, he explains, adding that “the market is very small in South Africa, and to go into it full time is another story…”
He adds: “I have three sons, all doing outstandingly, and I want to be available for them. Going into the industry full time would require a lot of international travelling.”
Pierre’s son Byron is pursuing a career in the hotel business at Cathedral Peak, and son Christian has qualified as a civil engineer and is doing his Honours degree at Tuks. He plays keyboards and guitars, and sings.
Son Philip has just matriculated and has achieved provincial and national status in basketball. His path for 2018 is still undecided.
Their mother, Karen de Charmoy, wrote Pierre’s biography, What Happened?, which comes with a CD and can be ordered from Pierre’s site.
“I am always asked, ‘what happened?. Karen, my multi-tasking, ever-capable wife decided to write my story. Karen told my story with compassion, truth, humour and attention to the facts. It is all in the book.”
RPM Records signed Pierre, and they recorded and released his first single, Lonely Hearts, in December 1981. It led to him being named Most Promising New Artist at the annual South African Sarie Awards, Pierre recalls on his website.
RPM quickly followed up with the album Ovation, containing the No 1 single, Live On. It won Pierre the Best Male Vocalist Sarie Award the following year. Reaching Out followed in 1983 with the singles Reaching Out and You’re My Lady.
Pierre performed at Rapport Miss South Africa pageants and presented the radio programme Southern Sounds Top Twenty, his website reports. He also hosted TV shows, including No Jacked Required.
He may also be recalled as a principal cast member of Geoffrey Sutherland’s ambitious and spectacular Queen tribute show, The Show Must Go On, the sequel to Queen at the Opera. Both shows were huge hits at Durban’s Playhouse Opera theatre.
The year 1984 was particularly memorable for Pierre, as he received both the Sarie Award for Best Male Vocalist and The Scotty 3M Best Album Award. He also took the Sarie for Best Male Vocalist in 1985.
Pierre has many memories to look back on, but a highlight of his career, he says, was performing for a crowd of 120 000-plus at the historic Concert in the Park, in January 1985. It was the first fully multiracial, mega-music event in South Africa, and raised funds for NGO Operation Hunger.
When asked for five words to describe himself he says: “Determined, focused, committed, positive and driven”.
Some things about him that the general public is unlikely to know is that he struggled at school (his own words) and was stripped of his prefect duty while in matric at St Charles College in Pietermaritzburg, where his interest in music started when he began composing songs and arranging music for the popular Sunday folk Church Services there.
Another thing fans might not know is that he had trouble with his vision to the point that “I never read a book”.
Pierre loves the outdoors, hunting , fishing , diving and cooking. He is also is a big fan of golf , tennis, surfing and “fixing anything”.
The best advice he ever received, he says, came from musician Chris Rea, who told him, “As an idea comes to you, drop everything and write it down”.
He remains grounded: “Most compliments are a surprise. I’d like to think I am a humble farmer who has a passion for nature and music.”