Crystal Shawanda Biography
Last updated: 05/21/2012 12:00:00 PM
I'm Native American. We're automatically country... joined to the land and the real stories of everyday people. A long time ago, we traditionally used music as our daily prayer and as our way of giving thanks. To Native Americans, music is our everything. It's our storytelling, our history, and our dance. We use it to remember and to forget. It's how we celebrate life and mourn death.
I wrote my first song at 9, not knowing that songwriting would become my way of coping with the hopelessness I saw around me on the reservation. Growing up, I watched too many people lose hope and leave this earth... including cousins and many friends of mine. I watched as my brothers lost almost every childhood friend before they were 16. But music was my hope. It saved me, and it became a doorway for me to find freedom from the hopelessness that we all felt on the reservation. Loretta Lynn was my childhood hero... and she continues to be that for me today. I grew up watching her be a friend to my mom through her music. Mom would sing along with those records like finally someone understood her. I want to be that for someone. I was born a country music singer. I was driven to sing, and I drove my parents nuts about it.
I'm a citizen of both the U.S. and Canada, though I was born in Ontario and grew up on a reservation called Wikwemikong on Canada's Manitoulin Island. My daddy drove a truck from Michigan straight through Nashville on his North-South run, so I had a ride whenever they would let me go. I started my trips to Nashville at the age of 11. We stood on the sidewalk in front of Nashville's famed Tootsie's Orchid Lounge and watched through the window. I was scared I would be told I wasn't good enough. By 12, I had written enough songs to do my own little demo album which I sold back home to pay for more trips to Nashville. Country music had become my full time way of relating to my world. If I couldn't write and sing, I couldn't talk and feel.