Crystal Shawanda was told by a talent agent in Nashville that he wasn't sure how to market her. The Canadian singer, songwriter and musician has turned that concern upside down.
Speaking on the phone from Winnipeg, the Juno Award-winning singer says she's making her way west after performing at a festival in Winnipeg last weekend.
The one-time Ontario resident explains that she's moving over to Saskatchewan then playing a bunch of shows in B.C. One of her stops in this province is Whistler.
She's bringing her list of influences, which includes Patsy Cline, Janis Joplin and Hank Williams, to the GLC for a night. There's no doubt that Shawanda is a country performer but hold onto your hat for some of the other artists she says have influenced her musically. That list includes Pink, Prince and AC/DC.
"Like everybody else, I grew up with the radio," she explains in a telephone interview. "Even though my parents listened primarily to country music my brothers listened to everything from AC/DC to Prince to Tom Petty and Steve Earle, and everything in between. Whatever I could find on the radio, I reacted to artists like Heart and a lot of Motown. So much influence from everywhere and it definitely comes out in my music."
Shawanda is a prolific YouTube up-loader with the video service offering a number of cover tune videos featuring her versions of music originally performed by Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys and Bruno Mars.
Her next album, called
Dirty, is due out this summer. The album name was inspired by a song of the same name written by her friends Misty Dawn and Charlie Worsham.
"For me when I heard this song I just connected to it so deeply," says Shawanda, who has been writing music and lyrics since the age of 12.
"We might make mistakes in our life," she says and carries on by pointing out that who we were yesterday could be quite different compared to who we are going to be today. "Sometimes it is hard to move on because sometimes when we try to clean up our lives we still feel dirty from all the mistakes we make."
The last album Shawanda produced was very country, she says. This new one she describes as edgier so the title Dirty seemed to fit well.
"This time around I've gone a little more edgier with the production and the song selections," says Shawanda. "Just peeling back another layer."
When she describes this next collection of songs as edgier she says she doesn't consider herself political. Her sound is upbeat and energetic but with the release of her song "Not Without a Fight" she makes it clear that she isn't afraid to write about more than just falling in love, heartbreak and fun times. The song and the video that goes with it dig deep into the Idle No More movement.
"I stand up for things I believe in," says Shawanda.
The song lyrics paint the picture of her support for the movement.
"You can take away the blue in my sky," she sings. "You can even take away my life — but not without a fight."
Her willingness to wade into current affairs aside, Shawanda promises an energetic show when she gets to Whistler. She says she visited the resort during the Olympics but she has never played a show in Whistler.
Her set list, she says, will include some of her favourite songs by her favourite artists along with a bunch of her own music.