When Adrian Sutherland began songwriting, he wrote lyrics in English despite it not being his first language. He would occasionally use Cree words here and there, before venturing deeper with an entire verse in Cree in his cover of Neil Young’s Heart Of Gold. Now, after 40+ original tunes released over the past decade, Adrian is proud to share an entire song in his mother tongue for the very first time.
Notawe (Father) – pronounced Noh-TUH-wee – is the first single from Sutherland’s second solo album. The song was written and performed entirely in Omushkegowuk Cree and pays homage to Indigenous culture and language.
“Notawe is one of two all-Cree songs on my new album, which is something I’m exploring for the first time,” says Sutherland, who wanted to write a song that would be extra meaningful for the Cree people of James Bay – and beyond.
“Notawe means ‘my father’ in my language, and can also mean ‘my Creator’. It’s a song about fathers who have departed to the spirit world, but it’s not so much about the grieving process. It’s about finding the will to move on and live life on your own after your parents have passed, no matter how hard things get.”
“It turned out to be a beautiful song, and I’m proud that it’s in Cree. When I play it back now it inspires me, and I hope others will find it inspiring, too.”
ABOUT THE SONG
Notawe (Father) was written by Sutherland, and produced by Colin Linden – marking the second time the two have collaborated. Colin produced seven tracks on Adrian’s JUNO-nominated debut album, recorded remotely during the pandemic with Adrian in Attawapiskat, Colin in Nashville, and other musicians in their own studios. For the new album, Colin and Adrian were able to work in-person for the very first time, in Colin’s Nashville recording studio.
Notawe was recorded and mixed by Colin and Michael Stankiewicz. Performing on the track are Adrian on vocals and acoustic guitar, Linden on acoustic and electric guitars as well as bass, Jeff Taylor on accordion, Jim Hoke on tenor and baritone saxophones, and Jerry Roe on drums. The track was mastered by the legendary Greg Calbi (Sterling Sound, NJ) who has worked with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Norah Jones, and John Mayer, to name just a few.
Notawe is one of two all-Cree songs on Adrian’s upcoming ten-track album, which will be released in the spring of 2024.
The artwork for Notawe was designed by Nick Perreault, Adrian’s long-time art director. It features Adrian’s son Geeshig Sutherland alongside a ‘Young Brave’ circa 1903 – and it comes with an interesting story… Nearly ten years ago, Nick had created design samples for Adrian that were never used. Jump ahead to now, and Adrian remembering that image of a ‘Young Brave’. It turned out to be perfect for Notawe – especially since the ‘Young Brave’ is about the same age as Geeshig, with similar features, too.