Crystal Shawanda – Canadian Singer
“Dawn of a New Day”(Crystal’s name in Ojibwe)
“I would spin the records while she cleaned and we would both sing at the top of our lungs,” (Crystal Shawanda)
Crystal Shawanda Canadian Singer, grew up on the Wikwemikong Reserve on an island in Ontario. Shawanda was born in Wiikwemkoong First Nation, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, July 26, 1983. She spent her youth in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where she attended Korah Collegiate.
The Beginning Of The Road To The Dream
Shawanda learned music early on as a kid by observing her family. Crystal’s parents raised her on country music as well as taught her to sing and play guitar.
Shawanda used to go with her mother when she cleaned houses. To make the time pass, she would be the DJ.
“I would spin the records while she cleaned and we would both sing at the top of our lungs,” she said. I remember holding up a Loretta Lynn record and saying, ‘Whatever she does, that’s what I want to do.”
She started singing on stage when she was 6, and getting paid gigs when she was 10. This was the beginning of playing every stage she could, including touring with a theatre company when she was 9.
When Crystal was 12, because her dad was a truck driver, she started taking frequent trips to Nashville. As a result she would walk through downtown Nashville, by all the honky-tonks. I’d get up to sing at everyone of them and then we’d get back in the truck and leave. It always kept me wanting more.
These trips lead to her first album when she was 13. She attended music school that same year, dropping out after 3 years. She was 16 years old.
The Crushed Dream
“I just don’t know if Native Americans make sense in country music, I don’t know if fans would be receptive, and I wouldn’t even know how to market you” (respected music executive)
After dropping out of music school, Crystal moved to Nashville. Even though, she did not know a soul, and was all alone she was determined to make something happen. She met a well respected music executive, who told her there was no room for her in country music. She tried to find a positive in the critique as well as take it with gracefulness, but the words stung too much which resulted in her moving back home, and giving up on her dream.
A New Day
“If I was out of tune I could take voice lessons, if my song was bad, I could write another, but I couldn’t change the color of my skin”. (Crystal Shawanda)
She started travelling down a dark road on a self destructive path. Somehow that road always had enough light to lead her back to the stage and microphone. A blessing that would help her see and come to terms with what she was dealing with.
New Days in 2008
All things considered, Crystal moved back to Nashville in 2008, with a mission, and a purpose. She played at Tootsie’s Orchid lounge 6 days a week, 3 shifts a day. She created a buzz and landed a production deal with Scott Hendricks. After hearing Crystal cover B.B.King and Janis Joplin a record deal was landed with RCA records by Joe Galante.
Crystal Shawanda Canadian Singer burst onto the country music scene with her hit single, “You Can Let Go,” and her debut album, “Dawn Of A New Day”. September 6th, 2008 marked the Grand Ole Opry debut of this Canadian Aboriginal beauty. Fans fell in love with this country sweetheart from across all borders.
Shawanda’s first album, “Dawn of a New Day”, was released in Canada on June 24, 2008. It would release on Aug 19, 2008 in the United States. The album would chart at number 2 on the Top Country Albums in Canada, and number 16 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart in the United States. Her album was released in stores internationally, resulting in a top 16 song on the American Billboard Chart.
Her story, female artist who travels to Nashville with a single suitcase, is a common one. However big dreams, and even a bigger voice struck a chord and landed her a ton of success. Following the path of many females before her, Shawanda did not give up.
Award Clean Up In 2008
Aboriginal People’s Choice Awards 2008
Aboriginal Awards 2008
- Artist of The year
- Album of The Year (Dawn of A New Day)
- Best Single of The Year (You Can Let Go)
Canadian Aboriginal Awards 2008
- Artist of The year
- Album of The Year (Dawn of A New Day)
- Country Album of The Year
- Music Video of The Year (You Can Let Go)
- Best Single of The Year (You Can Let Go)
She won Female Artist of The Year at the 2008 Canadian Country Music Awards as well as Best New Country Artist at the Canadian Radio Music Awards.
Crystal Shawanda Canadian Singer, was nominated for a Juno Award, five consecutive years since 2009, winning Aboriginal Album Of the Year.
Living The Dream
“I want to inspire people to just take chances, “she said. “It’s not about being perfect, if you love something, go after it.” (Crystal Shawanda)
CMT documented Crystal Shawanda Canadian Singer, rise to fame in a six-part series Crystal: Living the Dream, which started broadcasting in February 2008.
“When I first heard her sing, I almost fell over. (Phyllis Elliot)
The music scene loves Crystal Shawanda. The realization of how far she’s come, manifested when her feet touched down on Nashville’s country music epicentre- the Grand Ole Opry. “It was definitely the highlight of my whole journey,” she said.
Phyllis Ellis, writer and director of Crystal Shawanda: Living the Dream, said working with Shawanda and visiting her First Nation roots was a benefit to her work and life. “When I first heard her sing, I almost fell over. She is one of the most talented artists I think I’ve ever heard.”
Ellis believes Shawanda is a role model for all young people- Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike. She said the songs provoke insight, experience and humour. “Her music is direct. It is not obscure. She addresses things.” Calling Shawanda an “old soul,” Ellis described her as having the “knowledge of a 80-year-old. She is complex, honest and has integrity.”
Realizing She Reached The Dream In The Country Music Scene
Shawanda said, it was at the CMT Music Awards, when she shared the stage with such country stars as Martina McBride, Brooks and Dunn and Carrie Underwood, that she realized she had reached her Country goals and dream.
Shawanda toured with various artists across Canada and the northern United States in 2008. She toured Canada and the United States with Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley as a special guest on the Paisley Party 2009 Tour.
In spite of her success on the country music scene, she released one more country album “Just Like You” in 2014 that resulted in a Juno Award, and a top 20 hit in Canada. In addition the opportunity to perform for millions in New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, televised internationally.
The Switch To Blues
“You’re too bluesy” I so wanted to be what everyone wanted me to be“(Crystal Shawanda)
As the format of country music started to change Crystal found the feedback to be a resounding “your too bluesy”, and this had her chasing her sound. “I so wanted to be what everyone wanted me to be, I lost myself along the way”.
While in the studio working on her third country album, she made the decision to abandon the project and take some time off.
Crystal learned at an early age that the Blues were all about release and healing. While she was out on stage singing Patsy and Loretta. In the background behind the scenes she was singing the blues.
It was her oldest brother who introduced her to the blues. He would hang out in the basement cranking Muddy Waters, B.B.King, and Etta James. Crystal would sit at the top of the stairs, straining to hear the soulful sounds, wondering if she could ever sing like that. In spite of her self doubt, when no one was home, Crystal would practice singing the blues. (Wikipedia)
Chasing The Blues Dream
”The songs just fell out of me and it was like setting my voice free” (Crystal Shawanda)
One day during her hiatus while watching the news and feeling overwhelmed by the headlines, she wrote “The Whole World’s Got The Blues”. This was the inspiration to her first blues album. It was a modern take on the blues, but deep rooted. It captures the resilience of the human spirit, much like the way Crystal does.
The album garnered a Juno nomination, and received mixed reviews, with moderate airplay, but it opened a whole new world to Crystal and would lead the way for her to secure her musical identity and still hold the title, Crystal Shawanda Canadian Singer.
During this time some of the feedback was that Crystal was a country music artist, and couldn’t know the blues. This had her feeling like a fish out of water, which would result in being the inspiration behind her second blues album “Fish out of water”. A mix of blues, and soulful roots, it was released in October 2016. Consequently the album was nominated for a Juno award, and received some of the best reviews from the critics since her debut album.
The Dream Continues To Grow
The following year Shawanda had her first baby girl in February 2017. She was back on the road by April, performing at blues festivals, country music festivals, multi genre festivals, making her mark as a multi genre artist, but absolutely a bonafide blues mama.
She is claiming her identity in the music scene. “Voo Doo Woman”, produced by Crystal and her long time guitarist, and husband Dewayne Strobel, released in October, 2017. This album is a declaration, an affirmation “make no mistake, Crystal Shawanda is a true blues singer”. Fierce and fearless, her vocals powerful, she lands where she means to, always doing it her way.
Crystal Shawanda is a soulful little powerhouse, and will make you feel every word. With a voice that’s not like anyone you’ve ever heard, it’s pure and precise, yet at the same time gritty and gutsy .
“I can’t help but feel like I’m home, no longer holding back.” (Crystal Shawanda”
Voodoo Woman is Crystal’s third blues album – and the first to be released outside of Canada.
The Road to The Mural Wall In Merritt, BC
“I was just blown away and touched.” (Crystal Shawanda)
Crystal Shawanda, referred to as the next Shania Twain at the time, topping the Canadian country music charts with “My Roots are Showing”, graced the main stage of The Merritt Mountain Music Festival in 2009.
I was worried because it was starting to get cold and starting to rain right before our show. I thought, oh no, they’re all going to start heading to their campers and their motorhomes, and to my surprise I came out — at this point it was pouring rain — and everybody was just sitting in their seats.
Smiling Crystal called out if everyone was feeling rowdy tonight? Not so much. They were getting soaked out there. The result was her biggest ovation for her “You Can Let Go Now Daddy” hit. I was blown away and touched that they sat through the storm.
It was after this performance at the 2009 Merritt Mountain Music Festival that, Crystal had her mural painted by Michelle Loughery. The Merritt Mural Project was created in 2005. The Merritt BC Murals were part of a successful program called, the “Merritt Youth Mural Project”. A project designed for working with local young artists and “ youth at risk”.
The Crystal Shawanda mural is included on The Canadian Country Music Mural Walk in downtown Merritt, BC. Crystal’s mural can be found in Spirit Square on the corner of Granite Avenue and Voght Street, in a row of murals near the stage. Crystal was honored to have this mural of herself done and signed it with love.
Back To Merritt, BC For The Rodeo
Record labels are closing and people are losing record deals, but as long as someone listens to my music, I’m happy. “It could be for 10,000 people, it could be for 10 people, as long as I get to sing I’ll be good.”
Shawanda came back to play The North America’s Richest Indian Rodeo held in Merritt at the Nicola Valley Rodeo Grounds on May 22, 2010
While she was keeping busy on a North American radio tour, she said she was excited to be playing Merritt again, where she will be able to meet up with old friends and hopefully make some new ones.
She played songs from her albums as well as songs she loves to sing from what she calls her heroes. Every show is always different. “That’s why we say if even if you’ve seen our show, come out again ’cause it’ll be a different one the next time.
I’ll cover Prince, Tina Turner, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams. I mean, it’s just like, what do I feel like singing tonight?”
Last Performance At The Infamous Merritt Mountain Music Festival
Crystal Shawanda’s show at the 17th annual Merritt Mountain Music Festival in 2011 was a treat as she played Prince’s Little Red Corvette. She definitely the first female artist to do the song. She again sang some of her album songs along with her heroes songs and closed out her performance to a roaring crowd.
Crystal has left her mark in Merritt and has returned for intimate appearances at various venues in Merritt since 2011, including NVIT.
She also performed at the 2017 Rockin River Music Fest held every August long weekend in Merritt, BC.
Visit downtown Merritt in the beautiful Nicola Valley and take part in the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, Merritt, BC Mural Walk. The Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame includes Hall of Fame Inductees as well as CCMA Award Winning Artists.
Crystal is very active and still performing all over North America – Follow Her On:
Merritt BC Canada Downtown Mural Digital Walking Tour
** Information resources includes the Crystal Shawanda’s website, Wikipedia page, and social media pages.