Crystal Shawanda

Country artist Chrystal Shawanda follows her heart and remains true to her Native American heritage when she uses music to recall her people's history, dance, remember, forget and celebrate life and death.  On April 24th, she released her new album Just Like You to honor her gift of music and beautiful singing.   Her wonderful mezzo-soprano voice  is something I noticed when I first listened to her first single Closer which is quickly rising up the Canadian country charts and that is what got my attention right away.  Her first album Dawn of the Day sold over 400 000 copies and earned her the titled of Canadian Country Music Association’s Female Artist of the Year in 2009.  Chrystal is also the First Nations woman to own a record label: New Sun Records.  I think that she is a fantastic role model for her people and other young women out there trying to make their mark in an often male-dominated business!  For more info on this artist and tour dates, visit:  
Interview by: Valerie Bastien
Valerie: Can you please introduce yourself! Talk to me about your music; what 3 words would best describe it?

Shawanda: I'm from Wikwemikong reserve, Ontario,Canada!  The three words that would best describe my music would be soulful, passionateand sincere!

Valerie: Congratulations on releasing your new album Just Like You just a few days ago on April 24th, 2012; how does it feel?

Shawanda: Releasing my new album is definitely exciting,and nerve-wrackingbut also it's just a great big relief because I've been working on it for so long!  So at this point I'm kind of like love it or hate it,  I'm just glad it's finally out there and not just in my head!

Valerie: You are a First Nations member of the Ojibwe band; how do you remain true to your roots while forging yourself an identity in the country music world?

Shawanda: I stay connected with my family,and my roots in the way that I carry myself and represent.

Valerie: You were the winner of the Best New Country Artist at the 2009 Canadian Radio Awards; how did you deal with the pressure of writing a follow-up album that could live up to your fans expectations?

Shawanda: I know I was supposed to feel pressured but I mostly felt excited, I was ready to embrace the next page!  I guess the one thing that I've learned through my fans is that everybody is struggling with something-our dreams, our families, where we've been and where we're going...  It's through the music that we can all relate to each other so I was not afraid for more of that. No pressure only release.

Valerie: What inspires your writing? What do you like to write about?

Shawanda: I write from personal experiences and what I've been through. I just kind of let life around me inspire me on a daily basis.

Valerie: Tell me about what your first single Closer is about.

Shawanda: Closer is a feel-good song that has an infectious melody,and a feel-good groove!  It's about falling in love, that first kiss and those butterflies you get in your tummy!

Valerie: Tell me about a song that wrote itself up really quickly and about another that took a long time to come about.

Shawanda: Just Like You, the title track, came about pretty quickly!  Mostly because it was inspired by an actual conversation with my mom so it was very honest and natural.  One of the songs that took the longest was called Slipping Away, I did not want to force this one.  This song was also inspired by actual events, When we started writing it, two of the events had not happened yet.  So quite honestly, as each event happened, we wrote it into the song. There's a couple like that on the album.

Valerie: What song on the album do you feel is particularly worth listening to the lyrics carefully?

Shawanda: The Chance You Take has a really good message. Sometimes we all need a reminder that we are not alone even in our darkest hour.  Especially, in our darkest hour.

Valerie: Your have a very beautiful voice; your tone is warm and well balanced; how did you learn to sing? How do you maintain your instrument?

Shawanda: In the beginning I taught myself to sing by mimicking all of my heroes,  I have always tried to learn something from every voice that I hear.  Over time I have tried to educate myself properly about my voiceand how to take care of it.  I think it's important to listen to your voice,  Is it what you want it to be?   What are your strengths?  What are your weaknesses?  And what is it trying to tell you?  Does it need rest? Do you need to learn proper breathing? Etc...  I have always been drawn to strong and very capable singers.  Tthey were like guiding forces.

Valerie: You are currently touring Canada; how is the tour going? What are your plans for the summer?

Shawanda: T
he tour has been so exciting, I'm just so happy to be out on the road, sharing the new music with the fans!  I will stay busy right into the summer, through to the fall, promoting the new album.  Thank you so much!!!!!

Valerie Bastien is a vocal coach, teacher, musician and freelance journalist.
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