Jamaican Music

Interview With Nadine Sutherland

She is, arguably, the most successful Jamaican female singer of her generation chart wise, Nadine Sutherland is veteran with more than two decades of hits to her credit. Looking at her, it hard to believe she has been around that long, in the looks department, Nadine’ youthful presence-it must be the aerobics-compares favorably to her much younger peer; vocally she has managed to stay at the top of her game. With periods of inactivity, the surviving vicious career-ending rumors, Nadine Sutherland have not only been able to survive, but thrive. As she enters the third decade of her musical career with professional experience, a slew great Jamaican and cross-over hits like “Anything for You’ ‘Action’ and ‘Baby Face’ she re-asserts her leadership among today’s young female singers. When this writer last saw her with Sly & Robbie in Philly in 05, she was in fine form. With her new record label, 876 Record, a new single ‘Big Tingz’ and album ‘Call My Name” Nadine’ future looks bright. She took time out of her busy schedule to talk to Jamaicans.com writer Stan Evan Smith

SS: How long have you been singing professionally?
NS: I’ve been singing professionally, for over twenty five years.

SS: Who were your major influences, internationally and locally?
NS: My major influences were Marcia Griffith, and Aretha Franklin.

SS: How would you describe your music, which genre best describes your sound?
NS: I am an eclectic mix of sounds. Music to me has no definition or barriers.

SS: Which artist in music would you say your style of music comes closest to?
NS: It varies on my mood (laugh).

SS: It is reported that Bob Marley signed you to Tuff Gong as his first artist can recall what that felt like at the time?
NS: Now, that I am older, it is thrilling. I was a little girl, there was some excitement. But, I really was too young to process the magnitude of the experience. The high of it came later. Much later.

SS: Being so successful at young age how did handle the pressure at such a young age?
NS: I don’t think I understood fame. I was a child. I didn’t have the life experience to put it in perspective. In retrospect, it was very pressuring. Thank God, it was a small Island. I am glad for maturity.

SS: You are possibly the most successful female singer from the dancehall era. How have you managed to stay at the top of your game?
NS:I don’t know (laugh). I wonder sometimes. It has had its ups, and downs. I really can’t say, if there has been any formula. I’ve made a lot of music. The ones you have heard, or hearing, are a minuscule of the work put out. It puzzles me sometimes.

SS: You have many hits like ‘Wicked Dickie’, ‘Action’ ‘Baby face’ and the monster jam “Anything for you’, do know when you have a hit song?
NS: Not really, sometimes you think you have a good song, and it doesn’t hit.

SS: List your most successful singles and how many albums have you done?
NS: I really can’t remember all the hits. I could name a few. Apart from the ones you mentioned there’s been Starvation, A young one like me, Until, Pair of wings, I am serious. There are others that, I can’t remember at this point. The albums have been ‘Until’ and ‘Nadine’ and now this one.

SS: It’s been a minute since the public has heard from Nadine what has she been doing?
NS: I’ve been expanding me. I’ve done some writing for the Jamaica Observer. I am a panel judge/.presenter on TvJ, I’ve been the spokesperson for a product called Supligen Soya, and I’ve done my certification, as a fitness instructor all while working on my musical career, and performing. I’ve been keeping busy.

SS: You have new single ‘Big Tingz’ and album ‘Call My Name” (in stores April 3rd) Tell us about your new album, your new label and your new company?
NS: This album was done, when I was going through some changes in my life. I was ridding myself of some baggage, both internal, and external. I was defining me, and being very honest. A lot of the songs are redemptive in many ways. 876 Records, are not followers, who go with the trend. Myshua is a powerhouse. I was allowed to be free; YaBreeze is my musical cosmic twin. We just enjoyed the process, respectful of each other’s ideas. It was no ego trip, for no one involved. It’s been all about the music.

SS: Is there any collaboration on the album, if so with whom?
NS: There is one collaboration with Chrisinti called, “Caan Tek It”

SS: Lets talk about the state of the female artist in reggae music today, do you have an opinion?
NS: I think it has improved. The old belief system is being dismantled. It’s the first time; I am seeing so much female doing their thing. This is definitely an improvement.

SS: Despite your youthful and sexy appearance you are a veteran, when you first started there wasn’t as many female artists as today what do you think of the emergence of a strong female presence in Jamaican music today?
NS- (I do like the sexy youthful veteran (laugh). I would say, it’s the media, and the players being more receptive, and open to female vocalists. There has always been a lot; they just didn’t get the respect, and the exposure. It’s getting there.

SS: Have you seen any changes for female artist?
NS: There has been. More respect for female artists. Radio, television, now reflects this. I am happy, it is about time. The biggest obstacle has been the mindset of the power broker that has a limited perception of the Reggae female vocalist. So, they move from that parameter. The music, so far has reflected this. Although, there has been improvements.

SS: Do you think your gender plays a part in helping or advancing your career?
NS: Not at all. I must give thanks though. I’ve gotten support.

SS: Do you think that radio, TV and the concert stage offer the female artist the same opportunities to be seen and heard as your male peers in reggae?
NS At this stage, I’ve stopped focusing on the Gender issue. It can be dis empowering. It can cripple one’s creativity. I act, like it does not exist.

SS: What are some of the things you think the reggae industry could do to make it easier for female artist to break into the industry or succeed?
NS: Start judging an individual by talent. Emancipate yourself from sexism slavery.

SS: What can female singers/DJs do to improve and increase their visibility on stage and on record?
NS: Work, like you are an “It”, without the thought you are female. Which means hard. Do not focus on the issue.

SS: What is, or has been the biggest obstacle you have faced as female artist?
NS: The Boy’s club mindset

SS: What are your professional goals as singer?
NS: To have number one songs across the Globe. World Domination.

SS: .What does a typical day for Nadine look like?
NS: A typical day starts with me praying, and meditating. Then going off to the Gym, the studio, or whatever. Could be interviews, rehearsals, or some musically oriented activity.

SS: What are your interests outside of the entertainment business?
NS: Too much at the moment.

SS: The Jamaicans.com webmaster, Xavier, tells me you are a better actress than singer and you were once a member of the joint Jamaica College/St Andrews High drama club. Is this true and were you destined to be in show business?
NS: I think so. I’ve questioned it strongly though. On more than one occasion.

SS: What can we expect from you in 2007?
NS: Music, TV, writing, dancing. Hopefully acting. Growing as a business woman. Big Tingz!!!!

SS: You still look youthful and sexy do you have a personal trainer, what is your secret…?
NS: I love working out, and try to keep my space free of negativity. Negativity, ages you.

SS: As a Taste Talent winner at 9 years old you know the pressures of many of the contestants at “Rising Star” experience. Tell us of one of the moments on the show that took you back to that time?
NS: Every moment. It’s hard to be fresh, and to sing in front of a crowd of critical people. I am very passionate about my contestants.

SS: If you were a judging the top “American Idol” who would you chose Kelly, Ruben, Fantasia or Carrie or Taylor?
NS: Fantasia. She makes me cry, with her sheer passion, and connection to her music

SS: It is reported that you once had plans for law school if you were not in show business is that where you would be?
NS: A therapist, helping people to have better lives.

SS: Your brother Gary is a well known engineer has he contributed to your career?
NS: We are family. We both support each other.

SS: Thank you Nadine and much success.
NS: You are welcome.

Stan Evan Smith is contributing editor to Everybody’s Magazine, Music critic for The NA Star and media personality. Staff writer for Jahwork.org. Westindiantimes.net and contributing writer to POSH Magazine. He can be reached [email protected]. http://www.myspace.com/stanwsmith

About the author

Winston Stan Evan Smith

Senior Editor and North East Media Coordinator for Jamaicans.com