Nadine Sutherland’s ‘Queen’, a birthday gift to herself
Song highlights ‘women who have gone through the wringer’
“I can’t believe I’m going to be ... no, I believe it – I’m 54,” singer Nadine Sutherland squealed in a phone call interview with The Gleaner.
She had initially intended to release Queen for her birthday today. The project, her first executive-produced, all-hands-on-deck record, will instead debut on March 25 as a universe-timed birthday gift.
“It’s a song I poured everything in, financially, emotionally, everything, so that’s my birthday gift to myself,” she said. “The song is about women who have gone through the wringer to be successful, who have been hit down and rise back up, and through it all you are a queen. It was actually written with Marcia Griffiths as she wanted to do a duet with me. She got busy, but I had the song, and the song was like, you’re not gonna put me down… women need to hear this.”
The process of actualising the project was one of support and Sutherland stepping outside of her comfort zone. Recorded at Donovan Germain’s Penthouse Records studio for Oyin Records, an ensemble of venerable musicians like Dean Fraser (sax), Robbie Lyn (keyboard), Glen Brownie (bass), and Kirk Bennett (drums) form part of the production, as well as the talented trumpeter Okiel McIntyre, guitarist Dario Morgan, and Sherida Sharp on harmony vocals.
“It’s the first time I’m ever doing something like that, and I was so supported by men, and the musicians were very respectful of my musicality and where I wanted it to go … Nobody put any obstacles in my way. The door was just flown open with respect, love, and support by men in the music industry.”
It was Fraser who pitched the song to VP Records president Chris Chin, who loved it and made distribution possible through VPAL Music. The icing on the cake is powerful visuals co-directed by Sutherland’s manager Ryan Bailey and Gracian Christy, which mirror Sutherland’s success story while paying homage to women who continue to rise above obstacles, coinciding with Women’s History Month.
“My mother is in the video,” she shared. “I also included Miss Pat Chin. She’s one of my queens. Babsy is one of my queens, Portia is one of my queens, Rita Marley is one of my queens. I really wanted to be authentic in terms of singing about the struggles of women. I want this to be a song that women listen to and can see themselves … I put a lot of emotions in it because it meant so much to me because I know my story is a story of other women.”
She also received support from her alma mater St Andrew High School for Girls, which provided one of their students to play her.
Known as reggae’s “teen queen”, Sutherland made her stage debut in 1979 as the first winner of the Tastee Talent Contest. Sutherland’s career easily inspires, from being mentored by Rita Marley and being signed to her husband’s Tuff Gong label. Not only has she conquered the music space as a vocalist with timeless records like Babyface, I’m in Love, Action (with Terror Fabulous), and the star-studded Snow collab, Anything for You, but her skills as a live performer continue to impress foundation and new fans.
Sutherland’s evolution includes successfully transitioning into television, earning her master’s in cultural studies, and serving as the performing arts director at the Challenge Preparatory Charter School in New York. To top it off, she’s been etched in political and feminist history through a book on American Vice President Kamala Harris who she supported in the 2020 US elections. She also recently performed on DJ Cassidy’s ‘Pass the Mic’ show.
“I never dreamed of these things happening to me. I just followed what the universe said and did my master’s in preparation, in case. It’s just like everything turned around, and God is like, you know we’re not finished with you in entertainment, and here I am, going on … If there’s one message that I want for people – young women and older women too – to take away from my life, is just show up the best that you can be.”