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Five Questions With ... Midnight Shine's Adrian Sutherland

The Indigenous roots-rock band from Attawapiskat is releasing an expanded version of its debut album, James Bay. Its leader explains why here and discusses the relevance of its material, his songwriting, and the challenges faced by his community.

Five Questions With ... Midnight Shine's Adrian Sutherland

By Jason Schneider

Midnight Shine’s new release brings the roots-rockers full circle. Right back to where they started, in fact.


It was 2013 when Adrian Sutherland from the Cree community of Attawapiskat released his debut album with newly formed band Midnight Shine. This collection of songs written by Sutherland provided the foundation needed to start pursuing his musical dream from the Far North. Now, these songs are returning to the forefront once more, in a fully remastered version of Midnight Shine’s debut album James Bay to be released June 30 on Sutherland’s own label Midnight Shine Music.

The new edition of James Bay will feature the stunning artwork of its namesake region and a special greeting by Adrian in his Mushkegowuk Cree language. In addition, the album includes two bonus tracks: a brand new radio edit of debut single Since You Been Gone and the previously unreleased Misguided Woman, one of the first songs Sutherland ever wrote.

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This reissue is just a part of Sutherland’s current busy schedule. He was a featured performer on CBC/APTN’s broadcast of the 2020 Indspire Awards (taped pre-pandemic), and the video for his 2019 solo single Politician Man recently earned a Golden Sheaf Award at the Yorkton Film Festival.

We spoke with Adrian Sutherland about all of this activity and other topics. You can find out more at midnightshineonline.com.

What made this the right time to reissue your debut album James Bay?

We’ve wanted to release the remastered album for quite some time now, and since the pandemic started it’s allowed us to focus on doing that. It was great to be able to share the radio version of Since You Been Gone, as well as Misguided Woman, which is still one of my favourites to this day. We had new artwork created that features the James Bay region, along with lyric videos, and will be rolling it all out starting at the end of June.

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Did revisiting the album give you a new perspective on your songwriting? 

I really enjoyed revisiting the album because it allowed me to think about what those songs meant. Reading through the lyrics did give some new perspective on songwriting in a way that reminded me that as an artist, you always have to be open and willing to learn and improve your craft.

Are there any songs on James Bay that might be more relevant today than in 2013?

Save My Life might be one. When I was younger, I had a drinking problem. It got so out of control that at times I felt like I was dying or going to die eventually if I didn’t get help. So I managed to get cleaned up before things got too bad and never looked back. This song is about that time in my life.

Your solo single Politician Man has been getting more attention lately as well due to its message about the government’s lack of response to conditions in Attawapiskat. What needs to happen for real change to occur there?

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People in power—our political leaders and community leaders—need to get real and stop pointing fingers at one another. Blaming doesn’t solve anything. We need action.

It’s unfortunate that James Bay is being released in the midst of the pandemic. What are your plans for when things start getting back to normal?

It’s certainly very challenging times right now with all the restrictions put on us, especially those of us who live here in the North. Right now we’re not being allowed to leave the community at all, and for who knows how long. I hope to travel south again once things get better, and spend some time in the studio. I do have some live streaming events coming up throughout the summer, so I’ll be performing that way for a while.

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