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Friday, October 18, 2019

VIDEO: A Protest Song for Canada: "Politician Man" by Adrian Sutherland

Frame via video for "Politician Man" by Adrian Sutherland

Earlier this year, we posted a cover of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" by the Canadian band Midnight Shine.

As we said at the time, while many may argue that the world really didn't need yet another cover of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold", we begged to differ. Because we say that the world really DOES need another cover of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold". Actually many, many more would be a thing of beauty. And if you watched their beautifully, wonderful video cover featuring Cree Indian children in Northern Ontario, you understood.

"It's these expressions I never give
That keep me searching for a heart of gold"

Video frame via "Heart of Gold" by Midnight Shine

(Yes -- it really is all about The Kids, The Children of Destiny.)

The video above is titled "Politician Man", the debut single from Adrian Sutherland, a protest song for Canada. The seeds were planted in July, when his Cree community of Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency over contaminated water. At the same moment, insensitive comments from a politician in Ottawa sparked massive public outcry, a spontaneous response from Sutherland himself, and national media coverage.

Call it uncanny circumstances that lead to the release of a song from Adrian Sutherland (of Midnight Shine). Uncanny timing, too, considering the song’s name, and the fact there’s a federal election just around the corner. Jump ahead to August, when co-writing sessions with musical brothers sparked a song that was important, timely, and totally kickass. One day in September, that song came to life in a recording studio. By the first week of October, a filmmaker was adding his keen artistic eye to the message behind the music.

The result… is Politician Man, released October 17 with accompanying video by Justin Stephenson (director of animation and editor, The Secret Path).

Politician Man was written by Adrian Sutherland, Chris Gormley (The Trews, Daylight for Deadeyes), and Matt Gormley (Daylight for Deadeyes). It was produced and engineered by Carl Jennings at Westmoreland Recording in Hamilton, mastered by João Carvalho in Toronto, and released independently on Sutherland’s record label, Midnight Shine Music.

Politician Man speaks to Canada’s troubled relationship with First Nations. Growing up in an isolated place like Attawapiskat has given Sutherland a unique perspective, while his growing 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 people face in Canada, while the country takes growing 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,” says Sutherland.

“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. Let’s move past the blaming and do something. We all need to do our part. That’s what reconciliation is, and the message behind Politician Man.”

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.

"I love the song and believe in the message. I really wanted to do this. Adrian is a real talent and powerful storyteller. He’s the kind of person that makes you want to do something about this difficult history, and makes me, personally, want to be a better ally. In this song, I feel he really speaks to non-Indigenous people in a way that makes you want to step up. My respect for him grows with each pass of the video I make,” says Stephenson, who had only two weeks from concept to completion.

“I knew we’d have footage of Adrian in the studio and used this as the starting point. We wanted to combine his performance with images of Canada, and sought permission from Canadian Geographic to use their Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada. It's a beautiful and important map that shows Indigenous territories and communities without provincial boundaries.”

Adrian's family did a translation of the title into Cree syllabics, explains Stephenson: “I was struck by Adrian’s description of the Cree term for ‘Politician Man’ – which he said translates into ‘okimaw-khan’ or ‘voted big boss’. I found this interesting as it takes into account the system of governance imposed by the Indian Act.”

“I added song lyrics using a treatment reminiscent of the rich and inviting visual language of old Nashville music posters, with design embellishments that draw inspiration from Cree floral patterns like those found on the beading on moccasins and mitts.”


Politician Man is being released at the start of Secret Path Week, a national movement commemorating the legacies of Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack, and calling on all Canadians to “Do Something.” Adrian Sutherland will be taking part in several events in the Toronto area:

Ø October 16 – Legacy: A Tribute to Gord Downie (Rose Theatre, Brampton)

Ø October 17 – Artist Ambassador school visit (Toronto)

Ø October 17 – Indie Week media event (Toronto)

Ø October 17 – Legacy: A Tribute to Gord Downie (Burlington Centre for the Performing Arts)

Ø October 18 – Exploring By The Seat Of Your Pants online classroom (streaming from Toronto)

Ø October 18 – Gord’s Legacy Concert: The Path of Reconciliation (First Ontario PAC, St. Catharines)

mahalo, pono

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At 10/18/2019 11:56:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Adrian & best of luck w/ "Politician Man" and its message.

Hopefully it will resonate for Canada's upcoming election.

In the fields of wheat, after the Harvest, only the chaff is left behind which will burn with unquenchable fire.

peace & love,

At 10/18/2019 11:09:00 PM, Blogger Fort Mac said...

Ha .... so typical of you self righteous Americana types .
You have no clue , or desire to be concerned with Canadian issues .
Stay out of our election , unless you live , pay taxes and have earned the right and privilege to vote in Canada .
Obama , in his arrogance , stuck his nose , where it shouldn't be , such a common American disrespectful thing to do .... eh

You vote for the right to carry guns .

Please allow Canadians the right to make our choice .

Long Live our Gracious Queen ... you yellow bellied blue coats !

At 10/19/2019 10:23:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Fort Mac - thanks for the chaff.

we would hope someone from the TAR SANDS area would be a bit more enlightened here before coming south of the BORDER.

Clearly, Mr Ft Mac, you didn't view the video, comprehend the lyrics or read the background. If you had you would know that Adrian Sutherland is Canadian.

so, please spare us the lecture, ok?

you're in a global village whether you like it or not. afterall, aren't we neighbors?

and isn't that what good neighbors do?


Ha .... so typical of you self righteous Americana types .
You have no clue , or desire to be concerned with Canadian issues .
Stay out of our election , unless you live , pay taxes and have earned the right and privilege to vote in Canada .
Obama , in his arrogance , stuck his nose , where it shouldn't be , such a common American disrespectful thing to do .... eh

You vote for the right to carry guns .

Please allow Canadians the right to make our choice .

Long Live our Gracious Queen ... you yellow bellied blue coats !

At 10/21/2019 12:48:00 PM, Blogger Shakey said...

Please ignore Ft. Mac. He's like the Monsanto shills we see here from time to time. He doesn't speak for all us Canadians. Bet he'd argue he has the right to say his piece because of Freedom of Speech, and he would be right. However, his ilk usually only defend the freedom of speech of people like him. Canada is great and hopefully we have a government that can acknowledge the damage that the tar sands are doing before it's too late. And A government that finally steps up and deals with these issues that our First Nations peoples have been dealing with for far too long.

P.S. Fuck the queen and long live Canada


At 10/21/2019 02:11:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Shakey.

yes, normally we ignore comments like Ft. Mac's. but sometimes the comments are so egregious that we really don't feel we can leave unchallenged.

in this case, we don't want to leave an impression that TW is trying to interfere in Canada's elections. this idea that foreign election meddling is quite absurd. that aside, it was important that Ft Mac understand this video was produced by his own fellow citizen.

long live Canada! as for the queen? well, ...


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