Adrian Sutherland wants you to know that being in a successful Indigenous rock band is not all about the glamour and fame.

Sutherland, who fronts the Attawapiskat band Midnight Shine, says he is ready to add his voice to highlight some of the issues plaguing his community in northern Ontario.

Midnight Shine is in Winnipeg this weekend, getting ready to perform at the Indigenous Music Awards. But the critical success his band is currently enjoying, and the material success that comes with it, stands in stark contrast to living conditions in his home community.

“It’s a real thing and I almost feel guilty,” Sutherland said. “You’re in a nice hotel…knowing my family’s still in a rundown home.”

“Some of us are in the old houses that were initially built from the 60s and 70s so they’re quite old now,” Sutherland said. “I would describe them as basically cardboard boxes put on a big pile of mud.”

“I think people need to be aware that there’s still people living in Third World conditions, even artists like me,” he said.

And there’s no simple solution to the crisis. Sutherland said he is not interested in uprooting his family to live in southern Ontario, even if it would provide the band with more opportunity in the music industry.

“We’re deep-rooted and I want to raise my family the Cree way and continue my tradition,” he said. “So it’s very frustrating and it really does take a toll on your mental well-being. And even just physically and it can wear you down spiritually and emotionally.”

“It really does affect you.”

Sutherland said he will continue to speak up about issues facing Attawapiskat, but expects something good to happen this summer.

“I’m just kind of keeping my fingers crossed and hopefully people see their commitments to all and I’m certainly prepared to go out and swing the hammer all summer if I have to.”

Sutherland will be co-hosting this year’s Indigenous Music Awards, where Midnight Shine has been nominated in two categories: Best Rock Album and Best Producer/Engineer.

The event is set to take place in Winnipeg on Friday night.

More than 60 Indigenous artists and storytellers are up for awards. Sutherland will also be presented with SOCAN’s Indigenous songwriter of the year award during the event.

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