Crystal Shawanda shares her skyrocketing move from country music to Midnight Blues


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When Crystal Shawanda made the decision to switch from country music to blues, it didn’t sit well with a few fans.

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“Some people got really personal about it,” she laughs from her home in Nashville. “I was actually getting messages from people saying, ‘Well, now that you’re not singing country music anymore, I’m not going to listen to you or buy your albums anymore. I just thought, ‘Okay, that suits me perfectly.’ »

The 38-year-old singer-songwriter from Wiikwemkoong First Nation in Ontario isn’t particularly keen on currying favor with closed-minded listeners. It’s one of the reasons she made the switch in 2014 with The Whole World’s Got the Blues, swapping the twang for twelve bars as she immersed herself in the music she sang at home when no one was around. was listening. The decision paid off a few years later when she landed a Juno for Church House Blues in 2020, the first such win in the blues category for an Indigenous artist.

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The problem? The album was released at the very start of the pandemic, and the 2021 win came when she couldn’t do much about it.

“I was very lucky to have True North Records as my label,” she notes. “I couldn’t tour with my record, but the label supported the recording we were doing for our follow-up. Rather than pushing us, they said, “Let it be awesome. Take your time and let the music breathe.

The new album, which Shawanda calls Midnight Blues, is due out this fall. The extra time given to him from not touring had beneficial effects on Shawanda’s family, including giving him the space to let them into the music-making process. In particular, her five-year-old daughter is now listed as a co-writer on one of the songs.

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“It’s a song called Take a Little Walk with the Moon,” she says. “Every week was our outdoor getaway because Nashville had something like 20,000 COVID cases. We didn’t feel safe going out during the day. So we would go for a walk in the evening when the moon was out, and that was our refuge.

Shawanda has been in Nashville for nearly two decades, and during that time the city has gone from its image as an exclusive home of country music to a much more eclectic range of sounds. Not just the blues, which has always been a staple of Tennessee’s capital, but also pop, rock and hip hop. This suits Shawanda, who does not claim allegiance to any particular genre of music.

“It’s completely fulfilled here,” she exclaims. “Everyone comes here to record, not just country musicians, and the best songwriters and musicians from LA and New York are now flocking to Nashville. It’s interesting and exciting to watch. I guess on the one hand it’s sad to see the old model evolve, but at the same time it’s exciting to see the city really open up.

Leaving aside any question of genre, Shawanda simply wants to play what is close to her heart.

“You know, sometimes when I get booked for gigs, people ask me to play a bit of everything from all my albums, from country to blues,” she says. “I’m happy to do this. I’m also happy when people who have listened to my country albums come and give my new music a chance because it’s Crystal Shawanda music anyway.

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Crystal Shawanda

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Blues on Whyte, 10329 Whyte Ave.

Tickets: $17.80 available in advance from Showpass


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