JUNO-winner Crystal Shawanda to bring bluesy Americana sound to Sudbury

·3 min read

Award-winning blues artist Crystal Shawanda will be making her return to Northern Ontario with a concert in Sudbury on Saturday, Aug. 6.

Born and raised in Wiikwemkoong First Nation, the JUNO-winning Objibwe artist found her earliest success not as a blues artist, but as a country singer-songwriter. Growing up, she said her whole family listened to old country. It was also the popular genre in her hometown.

“My dad always said to me, you can sing any kind of music you want, but if you want to have a gig locally, you’re probably going to have to sing country music. That’s kind of how I went in that direction.”

But her shift to blues music a few years ago felt natural, she said, and allowed her to better showcased her talents.

“When I was singing country music, I had to constantly restrain my voice,” said Shawanda. “I have a really big voice and that doesn’t necessarily exist in country radio, which is a little bit more pop oriented.”

Since transitioning to blues and embracing her new sound, Shawanda has found tremendous success. Last year, she won the JUNO award for Best Blues Album of the Year.

“With blues, you can get raspy, you can growl,” she said, describing just some of the elements she now showcases in her music. “You can do trills, you can hit high notes. It’s more comfortable for me; I don’t have to hold back.”

Her new album, “Midnight Blue,” is set to release Sept. 30 and will feature a collection of original songs of all stripes, like the swampy dance track “Rumpshaker,” the softer “Take a Little Walk with the Moon,” and the seductive rocker “Midnight Blues.”

“It’s a very personal album, yet every song is something everyone can relate to,” she said. “We recorded this album throughout the pandemic, when everyone was just surviving. As we’re coming out of the pandemic, everybody wants to get back to living again, and I think some of the songs really reflect that feeling.”

The record, her eighth studio album, was also produced and engineered by her husband and collaborator Dewayne Strobel, who Shawanda said was able to capture who she has truly become as an artist within each track.

“With past album, I think I was just trying to prove how blues I was,” she said. “Now I’m at a point where it’s like, I’m a blues singer and I’m not trying to prove it. This is just an album of really great music.”

For Shawanda, Sudbury is the site of some of her earliest successes as an artist, growing up performing on the telethon, in country clubs, and at Northern Lights Festival Boreal.

She said her Sudbury gig will be like a homecoming of sorts, marking her return to Northern Ontario to perform after traveling across Canada and the United States.

“I have a lot of history as far as performing in Sudbury and it’s always good to come back,” she said. “It’s always a full circle moment. Back then, I was just dreaming about doing the things I’m doing today.”

Shawanda is set to perform on Saturday, Aug. 6 at the Bell Park gazebo behind the main beach. For more information, visit crystalshawanda.co. Her single, “How Bad Do You Want It,” is now streaming wherever you get your music.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.


Twitter: @mia_rjensen

Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star

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