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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Adrian Sutherland: The Magic Of His Debut Album

You could say a whole lot of serendipity went into the making of When The Magic Hits, the first solo project from Adrian Sutherland.

Like connecting with two co-writing brothers because one of them was a studio player on some of Adrian’s earlier recordings. Or arriving at a session with another writer only to discover they both shared the same song idea. Or being randomly paired on stage at a tribute show with a musician he’d never met before, which led to a small tour four months later where he would ultimately meet his album’s producer. Or his album producer’s own album being released on the same day as Adrian’s album, completely by chance...

Those are just a few of the ‘magic moments’ that found their way into the making of When The Magic Hits, the beautiful nine-track album that is out now. It features lead single Magic Hits, produced by Colin Linden, who brings vocal harmonies plus magical mournful guitar stylings to the song. Magic Hits was written by Sutherland along with previous collaborators Chris & Matt Gormley. Together, the three of them have some kind of magic indeed, evident in the three songs they wrote for this album (and two previous).

Says Adrian Sutherland about When The Magic Hits: “My new album is about deeper meaning for me. These songs allowed me to explore some personal stuff I've never been able to on past albums. Some of the themes are sensitive but it was important for me to write about them, like fighting through losses and traumas, and learning to appreciate everything I have today, because it hasn't always been clear to me.”

“The world we live in seems to be in chaos, with no signs of settling back down to 'normal' anytime soon. Some of these things scare me at times. Not knowing where all the love is, not knowing where we're heading as a country. Are we truly ready to walk with each other in a good way? I was thinking about all of these things as I was writing this album.”

“The songs are emotional, and powerful for me to listen to now. They move me in ways like nothing else I have written. The talent who came together to help me make this album – from the producers, to the musicians, to the songwriters who collaborated with me – their passion shines through in every song. I absolutely love this album and hold it close to my heart.”

When The Magic Hits features co-writes with Chris Gormley (The Trews) and Matt Gormley (Daylight for Deadeyes), Tim Vesely(Rheostatics), Colin Cripps (Blue Rodeo), Jay Semko (The Northern Pikes), Scott Dibble (Hemingway Corner), and Serena Ryder.

Seven tracks were produced, engineered and mixed by GRAMMY Award-winning Canadian-born producer Colin Linden, who worked remotely from Nashville while Adrian remained isolated in northern Attawapiskat First Nation. Colin lent his legendary guitar talents to the tracks, helping bring Adrian’s songs to life with a whole new depth of heart and soul.

Featured on the tracks are Linden’s wife Janice Powers who delivers on keyboard and organ. Jerry Roe (Nashville) and Gary Craig (Toronto) both contributed drum tracks, with John Dymond (Toronto) providing bass. Adding to the magic is Chris Carmichael. It was Linden’s 11th hour decision to bring on Carmichael, who all on his own added the passionate sounds of a full string quartet to Once That Was You (written with Semko) and Walk With Me (written with Ryder). It was only afterwards that Sutherland found out Carmichael has performed on seven GRAMMY winning records and 25 gold and platinum recordings…

Two album tracks – Right Here and Make Me Better – were produced, engineered and mixed by Tim Vesely at The Woodshed Studio in Toronto. Adrian worked remotely with Vesely, who plays guitar and bass on the recordings. Vesely brought in Colin Cripps for electric guitar, and Lyle Molzan for drums.

When The Magic Hits was mastered by previous GRAMMY nominee João Carvalho Mastering in Toronto. Artistic designer Nick Perreaultcreated the artwork for the album and singles, and Adrian’s wife Judy Sutherland provided photography for the covers and liner notes.

The music from When The Magic Hits began to generate interest before release, with three tracks earning advance national radio premieres: The Strombo Show with George Stroumboulopoulos (Paranoia), Reclaimed on CBC with Jarrett Martineau (Nowhere To Run), and CBC’s q with Tom Power (Walk With Me).

On the day of album release, syndicated radio broadcaster Alan Cross chose Magic Hits for his New Music Friday report on 102.1 The Edge in Toronto. Cross only spins two new tracks each week, and Sutherland got one of those spots. The other went to Gord Downie, and a previously unreleased acoustic version of Fiddler’s Green – which coincidentally happens to be Adrian’s favourite Hip song. The date of Cross’ broadcast? September 17… just like the opening to Fiddler’s Green

Spotify Canada selected Adrian to showcase on their giant billboard at Yonge & Dundas in downtown Toronto, to curate their Indigenous playlist, and to feature in the New Music Fridays and Renegade Folk playlists.

Amazon Music selected Adrian as the cover of their Finely Tuned playlist, and included tracks in two additional playlists: Brand New Music, and Fresh Folk & Acoustic. Apple Music is featuring Adrian in four playlists: New Music Daily, New In Rock, Indigenous Now, and Boots & Mocs.

Doing it all independently as a self-released artist, with a dynamic marketing team now spanning three countries, Sutherland is excited about the potential of When The Magic Hits: “I’ve always believed my music would reach a lot of people, and after being at this for ten years now, it feels like I’m finally getting to that place.”

“It feels like the magic is starting to happen.”

Adrian Sutherland is a roots-rock recording artist with heart from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay. He’s a singer, songwriter, musician, writer, speaker, and advocate. He’s a father of four, grandfather to four, a traditional knowledge keeper, and respected cultural leader, fluent in Mushkegowuk Cree.

The fascinating frontman and founder of all-Cree rockers Midnight Shine, Adrian released four albums with the band before shifting his attention to solo projects in 2019. After building his own recording studio in a sea-can out of necessity during the pandemic, Adrian completed tracking for When The Magic Hits, and scored his first television series (Unsettled by Jennifer Podemski for APTN and TVO). He is presently writing his first book for Penguin Random House Canada about growing up in Attawapiskat – a remote and sometimes-harsh place he still chooses to call home.

Adrian cares deeply about many causes, and is using his music and voice to share first-hand perspective on issues facing First Nations like contaminated water, housing shortages, food insecurity, addiction, and mental health. At a time of growing awareness about Reconciliation, Adrian is hopeful for Canadians to better understand one another, and take further steps together.


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