Get to know 2022 Contemporary Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year Presented by Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada nominee, Adrian Sutherland in our “7 Questions With” series where we speak with first-time JUNO Award nominees from all genres.
Adrian Sutherland is a roots-rock recording artist with heart from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay in Northern Canada. He’s a singer, songwriter, musician, speaker, author, and advocate. He’s a father of four, a grandfather to four, a traditional knowledge keeper, and a respected cultural leader, fluent in Mushkegowuk Cree.
After building his own recording studio in a shipping container out of necessity during the pandemic, Adrian completed tracking for his debut album When The Magic Hits, which was released September 17, 2021, and is on the ballot for the 64th GRAMMY® Awards. The fascinating frontman and founder of all-Cree rockers Midnight Shine, Adrian released four albums with the band before shifting to solo projects in 2019. His debut solo single was the award-winning Politician Man, nominated Best Music Video at the 46th American Indian Film Festival in November 2021.
Adrian cares deeply about many causes, and is using his music and voice to share first-hand perspective on issues facing First Nations like contaminated water, housing shortages, food insecurity, addiction, and mental health. At a time of growing awareness around Reconciliation, Adrian is hopeful for Canadians to better understand one another, and take further steps together.
1. How did it feel to be nominated for a JUNO?
It felt really good to be nominated! This is my first JUNO nomination, and it’s something I’ve been working towards for more than ten years now. It means a lot to finally get the nod.
2. Which album made you want to become a working musician?
I would have to say that Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters really got me going. It lit a fire in me to want to really work hard at my music career, and I’ve been doing that ever since!
3. What are 3 items you require when you’re on-tour?
Three items I must have are; resistance bands for exercising on the road, warm clothes for unpredictable weather, and sweetgrass for smudging to keep me grounded.
4. What do you think is the best song you’ve ever released? What’s the story behind it?
There are a few, but if I had to choose it would be “Magic Hits.” I wrote it with Chris Gormley and Matt Gormley, two brothers from Hamilton that I’ve co-written with a few times now. There’s something about “Magic Hits” that gets me every time I hear it. It’s about finally achieving something you worked hard for, and when that happens it can feel like magic.
I’m also really proud of the cover of “Heart of Gold” released with my band Midnight Shine. I added pow wow singing and chanting, and translated a verse into Mushkegowuk Cree. We’ve had a lot of great feedback about our version, and fans really seem to like hearing Cree language in the song! It has become a favourite in live shows, and I always enjoy performing it.
5. Which artist would you like to collaborate with most?
Good question! Maybe Dave Grohl because I’m a big fan of his music and work, and he has inspired me a lot over the years.
I’d also like to collaborate with Buffy Sainte-Marie one day. I’m a fan of her music, and the trails she has blazed for Indigenous musicians. I saw her speak on a panel in Montreal a few years ago, and got to meet her afterwards. Also, she is Plains Cree, and I’m Mushkegowuk Cree, so it would be meaningful to write a song with her that pays homage to our Cree cultures.
6. What has been your favorite performance of your career?
My favourite performance was at Ottawa Bluesfest in 2017 with my band Midnight Shine. We performed on the last night of the festival, kicking off the mainstage performances. We got to open for Peter Wolf, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers! That turned out to be one of the last performances Tom Petty did before he passed away just a few months later. Looking back now, it was a thrill to have the chance to play on the same stage as him.
7. What’s next for you?
I would like to continue making music this year and getting back to performing again – I haven’t performed in over two years! I’m also writing a book for Penguin Random House Canada about my life in Attawapiskat, so I’m working on the manuscript now, too.
Tickets for The 2022 JUNO Awards are on sale now! Don’t miss out on an unforgettable night of Canadian music hosted by Simu Liu on May 15th.