Crystal Shawanda was born on the Wikwemikong Native Reservation on Ontario's Manitoulin Island.
Crystal Shawanda scores at Juno Awards
~ Rod Nicholson
Crystal Shawanda has had a great 2013 so far and the year isn’t even half over yet. After being honoured with an invitation to be a part of Barack Obama’s Washington, D.C. festivities as a performer at the Native Nations Inaugural Ball this past January, Shawanda was also awarded this year’s Aboriginal Album Of The Year Juno for her 2012 release Just Like You (Fontana North).
After breaking into the Canadian country music scene (and enjoying significant U.S. chart success) with her 2008 major-label debut Dawn of a New Day (Sony), Shawanda had experienced the additional rush of not one but two 2009 Juno nominations for Best New Artist and Country Recording Of The Year. Although she didn’t make the winner’s circle on that occasion she was there this time out and still remembers the flood of emotions attached to a humbling and exhilarating experience.
"Oh, everything, just relief and just feeling so thankful. The last couple of years has been a growing process, branching out on my own, starting my own record company. I've been very blessed with a lot of people guiding me along the way and holding my hand through it all so I was just thinking of all those people. There have been so many colourful characters that have been in my life that have made it possible. I just wish I could have hugged every single person who's helped me, whether it was for five minutes or five years."
Although she had in some respects found the 2009 Junos a less sociable event than this year’s edition, Shawanda feels that the positive and easygoing vibe she personally experienced backstage at this year’s festivities is a reflection of the growing independence of many musicians who’ve found success outside of the major labels as the overlapping of genres on radio has given everyone more creative license and toned down past competitiveness.
"It really was a celebration of Canadian music, everybody was so friendly. Carly Rae Jepsen, for example, was just so down to earth. I was really psyched about meeting Monster Truck, I've become a big fan of them lately, I just think they're awesome, the best thing to happen in a long time. And it didn't matter about genres, we were just talking to each other and just celebrating each other and it was just networking and getting to know each other. I was just so honoured to be a part of it."
Shawanda has also had a very busy year above and beyond the high points of the past few months, contributing her time and talents to lend support to the aboriginal protests against the proposed XL pipeline and the effects it will have on native Canadian communities living in its path. A song and video featuring Shawanda singing her song ‘Not Without A Fight’ has appeared on YouTube.
"Where it's going to end up is anybody's guess because it all depends on the people. It's frustrating because there are a lot of people who are right there in the middle of the action who have their hearts in the right place and then sometimes there are people who are in positions of power who don't necessarily have the same agenda. There are people trying to think of the good of the planet versus the people for whom it's more of a political fight. It really is about fighting for the Earth. It really comes down to people want to be heard."
Shawanda has also been at work on nurturing the success of her recording label, New Sun Records. The label is home to several other artists as well as herself and although there are times when the challenges of being an entrepreneur take her into unknown territory, she has found the overall experience a learning process she will be applying to upcoming releases under her own name.
"I'm working on an album of covers called Under The Influence. We're going to do them in a series of volumes, so I'm just wrapping that up and I'm wrapping up a new EP for the spring. ‘Not Without A Fight’ is going to be on an EP I'm going to be releasing closer to the summer and I'm going to be doing an aboriginal album. I felt like it was time to do it. It's going to be a mixture of really organic rootsy bombastic music as well as very traditional music with a couple of songs that are just a hand drum and flute and chants."