This Burlington music producer works on protest song for Canada

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A Burlington music producer is one of several celebrating the release of a new protest song for Canada.

Call it uncanny circumstances that led to Adrian Sutherland’s (of Midnight Shine) song release. Uncanny timing, too, considering the song’s name, and the fact there’s a federal election on Monday, Oct. 21.

The seeds were planted in July, when his Cree community of Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency over contaminated water. At the same time, insensitive comments from a politician in Ottawa sparked massive public outcry, a spontaneous response from Sutherland himself and national media coverage.

"Politician Man" was written by Sutherland, Chris Gormley (The Trews, Daylight for Deadeyes) and Matt Gormley (Daylight for Deadeyes). It was mastered by João Carvalho in Toronto, and released independently on Sutherland’s record label, Midnight Shine Music. It's the debut single from Sutherland. Carl Jennings, who is a member of Burlington band Freedom Train, produced and engineered the song at Westmoreland Recording in Hamilton.

The song speaks to Canada’s troubled relationship with First Nations. Growing up in an isolated place like Attawapiskat gave Sutherland perspective, while his profile as an artist is now giving him a voice.

This is his way of taking action, doing something about the ongoing struggle that Indigenous peoples face in Canada, while the country takes steps toward reconciliation.

“Sometimes reconciliation sounds like an empty word, and it’s frustrating. You keep trying to get ahead, but there are ongoing challenges, one obstacle after another. I have to wonder what I’m doing still living in Attawapiskat and if anything is ever going to make a difference,” Sutherland said.

“The relationship between Canada and First Nations has been difficult for a long time, and in many ways it still is. 'Politician Man' is about this relationship, and the need for all of us — politicians, chiefs, Indigenous people, all Canadians — to start listening to each other, and take steps together.”

When it came time to think about something visual to go with the audio, only one person came to mind. Sutherland’s team approached Justin Stephenson, who saw the vision right away. Stephenson came up with a video treatment that, quite literally, makes "Politician Man" a song about a country done in a style that pays homage to country songs, while honouring Sutherland’s Cree culture.