Crystal Shawanda

Canada Country & Blues Musician 

Canadian “Living the Dream” in country music

Crystal Shawanda is a Canadian Blues and Country Music Artist who grew up on the Wiikwemkoong First Nation, Manitoulin Island, Ontario.  However, today, Crystal is also producing Indigenous music, or as she likes to refer to them,  storyteller songs. That suits us just fine, as we are storytelling bloggers who have deep roots in country living and the country lifestyle.  No wonder we proudly celebrate Crystal  Shawanda with a Merritt Mural in Downtown Merritt BC Canada.  

Crystal Shawanda Canadian Blues Country Music Artist

The Beginning of Crystal Shawanda as a Canadian Blues and Country Music Artist

Little do people know that Shawanda was surrounded by country and blues music throughout her childhood. Often, she was sitting back as a child  observing her family singing and playing instruments. However, as she aged Crystal’s parents noticed her keen interest in singing and instruments. Therefore , there were little options available but to teach her to sing and play guitar from her home on the lands of an Wiikwemkoong First Nation

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,” Crystal Shawanda. I remember holding up a Loretta Lynn record and saying, ‘Whatever she does, that’s what I want to do.”

The Younger Years of  Country Music

Crystal Shawanda is a Canadian Blues and Country Music Artist who started singing on stage when she was 6, and getting paid gigs by the time she was 10. Consequently, this was the beginning of  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.”

Music School to Music Capital to No Music 

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.

“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)

The Low Notes of Country and Blues Music

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. Albeit, it was blessing that would help her see and come to terms with what she was dealing with.

The Rise of a Canadian Country and Blues Artist

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. It was the beginning of Crystal Shawanda Canadian Blues Country Music Artist.

Crystal Shawanda in Nashville

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville. Photo credit: iStock Photos

Crystal Shawanda 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 First Nation songstress.

Dawn of the Day Release Her Inner Country Music

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. 

 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)

CCMA Awards

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.

The Junos

Crystal Shawanda Canadian Blues Country Music Artist, 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’s, rise to fame in a six-part series Crystal: Living the Dream, which aired in February 2008.

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.”

Country Music Scene and Artists

In light of everything, 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 dreams. 

From time ot time 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.

Blues and/or Country Music Artist

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.  For this reason, while working on her third country album, she made the decision to abandon the project and take some time off.

“You’re too bluesy. I so wanted to be what everyone wanted me to be” (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”. Finally, this was the inspiration to her first blues album. Furthermore 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.

All in With the Blues

The album garnered a Juno nomination, and received mixed reviews, with moderate airplay, but it opened a whole new world to Crystal. 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  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

“Voo Doo Woman”, produced by Crystal and her long time guitarist and husband Dewayne Strobel, was released in October, 2017. To clarify Voodoo Woman is Crystal’s third blues album – and the first to be released outside of Canada. This album was a declaration, an affirmation, Crystal Shawanda is a true blues singer.  

Crystal Shawanda is a soulful little powerhouse, and will make you feel every word. In particular, she has 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)

Crystal Shawanda Merritt BC Mural 

Crystal Shawanda Canadian Blues Country Music Artist, sometimes referred to as the next Shania Twain, tops the Canadian country music charts with “My Roots are Showing”, and at that time also graced the main stage of The Merritt Mountain Music Festival in 2009.

“I was just blown away and touched.” (Crystal Shawanda)

I was worried because it was starting to get cold and starting to rain right before our show. My band 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. 

However, it was after this performance at the 2009 Merritt Mountain Music Festival that, Crystal had her mural painted by Michelle Loughery as part of the 2005 Merritt Mural Project.  In other words 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. Hence, 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.  

Back To Merritt, BC For The Rodeo

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.  “I’ll cover Prince, Tina Turner, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams. In other words, it’s just like, what do I feel like singing tonight?”

Welcome the Rockin’ River 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. Lastly, Crystal has left her mark in Merritt and did return  for the 2017 Rockin River Music Fest held every August long weekend in Merritt, BC.

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