Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer
The cover picture of Nadine Sutherland's album 'Call My Name'. - Contributed photo
Another day, another fight
Another moment to get things right
These little heartaches are all stepping stones
Another Day (written by Kenroy 'YahBreeze' Archibald, sung by Nadine Sutherland)
After winning the Tastee Talent Contest in 1979 through to the duet 'Action' with Terror Fabulous in 1993 (that song is named at number 19 on a recent all-time vocal pairings list by Vibe magazine), then over the last three years being the kindest judge of all on the Digicel Rising Stars talent show, Nadine Sutherland hardly has to ask anyone to 'Call My Name'.
Nor are those three little words a command to a tongue-tied lover.
They do come from love, though, of the genuine friendship kind ("hey I'm missing that smile, been gone for a while ... call my name and I'll be there to hold you ... "), and form the name of the title track of Ms. Sutherland's latest album, a 15-song collection from Eight76 Records. And while the bouncy cross-Caribbean roll call Big Tingz and the video for the socially aware Can't Tek It with Chrishinti have been getting strong airplay, on this album Nadine Sutherland invites all who would listen into her head space.
"There was a sense of vulnerability," she says about the album. "I was like 'oh my God'. Then I said 'so many people experience this'. I wanted people to listen and connect. Your experience is my experience is life ... I live life and I am a human being."
Getting past personal vulnerability
It is also a matter of getting past personal vulnerability, as on the first song, It's My Day, she sings "The enemy inside was in my mind/listening to the negatives of the unkind/but now I see they are no threat to me/cause I never stop moving." Literal self-examination comes up on the penultimate song, Where Did My Heart Go, as Sutherland sings "I look into the mirror and what do I see?/The person who has grown to love me unconditionally/I look into the mirror and who gave me a wink?/The person who pulled me from the edge, from the brink/Where did my heart go?/I am keeping it for me, under lock and key."
Sutherland says, "It is the song that I felt every time I hear it, it makes me sad, yet triumphant - sad at what happened, yet triumphant at where I am ... Sometimes I skip it. It is so deep." (After all, she does sing "know what hell is like/been there once or twice"). Among the things that 'happened' was an album that was expected to be the big international breakthrough being shelved, a relocation to New York and nagging rumours of her being on drugs.
A report in The Gleaner of March 7, 2003, said Sutherland, performing at the Liguanea Club, New Kingston, a week earlier, said "There were rumours for many years that I was a drug addict. It really hurt me. What really hurt was that it went international, but it started at home! Look pon mi! Mi look like a drug addict?" she asked and got a resounding 'No!' in reply.
And now, Sutherland tells The Sunday Gleaner, she is at a place where "It is a good space to be in. I hope people can have their personal epiphanies and say I have been there for me. I have earned the respect I have for me."
Part of that 'enemy inside' was "my shyness that I had to deal with. A lot of people see me as this glam person." There was also that "lack of confidence. My giving away of power to what people would say, to rumours. Even my personal life.
"Why do you give away your power so much? Why do you give in to the whims of everyone else's frailty?" she said she asked herself. "I decided, screw them all. It was a case of being self-accountable and being responsible for some of the filters I saw things through."
As for how some would treat her negatively for no apparent reason, Ms. Sutherland says, "We are all walking around as insecure people. We have issues and we project them on each other."
Near the end of It's My Day, Sutherland sings "my destiny is in my hand/now I am sticking to my game plan". That plan is "to recognise my role and to address it and move on. The role is not allowing so many people to have power over me, not allowing them to project their issues on me and treat it as gospel."
As for the shyness, "It is really dissipating. I am more confident now. It has not dissipated, but I can own it." And as for the unconditionallove, "I don't even know if I am there. It is work in progress. It is not every day you get up you say 'I love you', but every day I get up I say 'I respect you'. At least I can recognise the worth of myself as a person to me, which is the most important thing."
Just a Little Bit Longer was written by Kenroy 'Yahbreeze' Archibald of Eight76, saying in part "Sometimes the good in me/gets no space to be/there's time eyes believe/where heart disagrees." Sutherland says "It captures a lot of what I have been through as a public figure."
"I believe a lot of people have judged me and not seen me. They have never ever seen who I am. A lot of people step into your life as a celebrity thinking you are immune. They think you are superhuman," Sutherland said. There are those, she says, people who come and say they are not impressed. In their weakness, they think they are stronger, then "When you react hurt something is wrong with that."
The love songs Remedy and Come To Me were written last year when she was engaged. "Then I got disengaged and that helped me to write 'look into the mirror'," Sutherland said.
The gospel flavoured request to Keep Me Safe harks back to Seventh-day Adventist Church on Saturday and New Testament Church on Sunday during her childhood, even before the Tastee contest. Maybe two decades later in her life, came her previous late 1990s album Nadine, but of this set she says, "This is the woman Nadine. In your face!"