Home Feature Adrian Sutherland brings more Omushkegowuk Cree to Precious Diamonds

Adrian Sutherland brings more Omushkegowuk Cree to Precious Diamonds


When Adrian Sutherland recorded his debut solo album, When the Magic Hits, in 2021, he worked remotely with producer Colin Linden. While Colin was at his studio in Nashville Tennessee, Adrian constructed a recording studio out of a shipping container in his community of Attawapiskat First Nation on James Bay. The album earned nominations for the 2022 Juno Awards and the 2023 Canadian Folk Music Awards.

“The intent was always to record it in-person at Colin’s studio, so we made it a point that we’d do another one down the road,” Adrian said.

To that end, Adrian began writing songs for his next album soon after finishing his first. Armed with a dozen songs, Adrian and Colin whittled them down to the 10 that appear on the newly released Precious Diamonds.

“It was the first time I’ve ever recorded “live on the floor” with a full band. They’re such great players I felt I needed to bring some kind of energy or emotion to the sessions.”

Highlights of Precious Diamonds are “Notawe (Father)” and “Kiyash (Before),” which Adrian sings in Omushkegowuk Cree.

“For many, many years I chose not to embrace that side of me and not bring First Nations stylings into my music,” he said.

“Saying that, it would still be there in subtle ways, and a bit of the language would find its way into the music. For this album I decided it was important to face it and find a way to get past whatever it was that kept me from embracing it.”

The process of writing in another language can be challenging, what with different sentence structures and ways of saying things.

“Sometimes it’s backwards compared to English,” Adrian said. “In fact, there are some things, like the sentiment of lyrics, that I’m having trouble translating into English right now.”

And singing in Omushkegowuk Cree is another obstacle to be faced.

“The sounds or enunciation of the words come out a little bit more harsh than English. So, it was challenging to write and sing in my language.”

The music Adrian created for his two solo albums is not that different from what he wrote as a member of Midnight Shine, the band he fronted for 10 years, which released four albums. The big difference was time.

“I still approach music in a similar way. I’ve always had control over my songs, but I always felt I had to compromise in some ways. The big difference with Precious Diamonds is that I really was able to be with the music for a long time and get inside the songs before recording them.”

A big impediment Adrian faces in sustaining a career in music is touring while based in a remote community like Attawapiskat. But he’s been able to partner with the airline Air Creebec to fly him to Timmins where he can then get flights to the rest of Canada.

“They’ve been around for 40 years, and they made it clear they wanted to support me as an artist in whatever way they could,” he said.

Precious Diamonds is a very important album for Adrian Sutherland’s career, and to that end he put every resource he could find into making it.

“It’s an important project for me,” he said. “It tells stories of my people, where I come from and some of their history. I come from a very disadvantaged place in the world, but I’ve never seen myself as being at a disadvantage.”

For more on Adrian Sutherland and Precious Diamonds, go to http://www.adriansutherlandmusic.com.


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