In Conversation With . . . Adrian Sutherland of Midnight Shine

Midnight Shine is a new Ontario band grounded in classic rock and roots, and renowned for their energetic onstage persona and relevant lyrics. Their just-released self-titled debut disk was recorded at Toronto’s elite Noble Street Studios under the guidance of accomplished producer Douglas Romanow. Recently lead vocalist Adrian Sutherland took the time to answer Wanda Waterman’s questions about balancing life in a rock band with a traditional Cree lifestyle.

Tell Me About Your Childhood.

Adrian grew up in Attawapiskat in northern Ontario, and the rest of the band’s members are from other nearby First Nations communities.

?My childhood was hard,? Adrian admits. ?I do have many fond memories?there was a strong emphasis on hunting. But I wouldn’t say my childhood was happy; it was mostly tough.?

One of the bright spots was the presence of music in his home: ?I always was around music; my mother played guitar and piano, and all my uncles played in a rock band.?

How We Came to Be.

Adrian was a lone singer/songwriter in 2011 when the famous Canadian band Trooper invited him to open for their concert in Timmins, Ontario, on the condition he be accompanied by a band. Wasting no time Sutherland recruited guitarist Zach Tomatuk, bassist Stan Louttit, and drummer George Gillies. The crowd was ecstatic, and that was the beginning of Midnight Shine.

The band has real chemistry; Adrian cites his most mesmerizing musical experience as having occurred during a rehearsal. ?I felt something spiritual during one of our songs,? he remembers. ?It was awesome!?
Every band member brings with him a love of classic rock; lead guitarist Zach Tomatuk cites a love for the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Rush, and Jeff Beck, as well as classic films with great soundtracks. Drummer George Gillies is a long-time fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, and the Beatles.

First Nations Conscience and Consciousness

?Aside from my album,? says Adrian, ?I’m a very traditional person (but not a ?new traditionalist?). I was raised to practice what it truly means to be Indian. I speak Cree fluently, net fish, harvest moose and caribou, and pick herbs and berries with my family. I’ve fasted every year since I was young, and I sing on the drum with my brothers.?

Passing on the wisdom of ages is an important part of Sutherland’s lyrical palette.

?In the song ?James Bay,?? he says, ?I’m speaking for myself; I wanted to get out a message about the old people who had such a strong belief in what was given to them?they believed in the animals, birds, water, and land. We need to pass this on to our children and grandchildren.?

Does being First Nations within a larger culture have an impact on his writing?

?Yes, sometimes my music is politically driven; I want people to understand me as I am. I think that there are misinterpretations on both sides of the table. Canada needs to work with us First Nations people, and we as First Nations people need to be clear about what we need in our communities. I’m tired of being told what I need to do, or become.?

Adrian balances his burgeoning rock career with performing in a traditional First Nations drum group as well as serving as Chief Operations Officer for economic development in his community.

On the Horizon

What’s next for Midnight Shine?

?We have a new album coming out in the near future,? he says. ?We want to focus on getting to the next level in the music biz.?

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