Crystal Shawanda follows her heart into the blues

Crystal Shawanda releases her third album later this month.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since homegrown Manitoulin star Crystal Shawanda began her annual homecoming concerts at Wikwemikong, Ms. Shawanda and The Expositor have had a yearly date for an interview about her musical career to date and her future plans.

NASHVILLE—Wikwemikong’s favourite country songbird is going back to her roots with her third ‘official’ album, ‘The Whole World’s Got the Blues’ is due to be released in record stores across Canada on September 30.

“We have an official release date for my new blues album ‘The Whole World’s got the Blues,’ it will be in stores September 30,” said the singer, barely pausing for breath between sitting on the advisory board for Nike’s N7 charitable foundation, driving home from the gym and ducking into the recording studio to work on her next project. “I am really excited about this project. It is really me going back to where I started out.”

Ms. Shawanda said that while she would always be grateful for the opportunity presented to her when she was signed to a recording contract with RCA records, she is pleased to be delving more into her roots with this independent production.

“When I was a kid jamming out on the Scotch Line at Johnny Jones’ people would say to me ‘you should do an Etta James song’,” she recalled of her Manitoulin roots. “I grew up listening to the blues my brother played.” Ms. Shawanda said that she was always very much at home when covering tunes by BB King and Janis Joplin.

So does this mean the new album will be blues inspired? “Oh definitely, it is a blues album,” laughed the artist. “It is definitely a change in direction for me.”

The new album features 10 songs, including the title track ‘The Whole World’s Got the Blues.’

“I am definitely happy with the work I have done in the past,” she said. “I wanted to see if I could be that writer, the writer doing songs for radio, and it has been a lot of fun. I really love what I am doing. But you know, I decided one day to just sit down and write a song the way I would have when I was a young person sitting at home when I was first starting out.”

From that first song came another, and then another, and soon the muse was playing fast and furious in her head, fueled by her heart and informed by her fans.

“When I was performing, I would always slip in a blues song, like an Etta James number or Joplin, and fans would ask me to do more,” she said.

Country music, in fact the entire music industry, is in an interesting state of flux, noted Ms. Shawanda. “It’s true, you are seeing rap moving into country and a lot of rock and blues crossing into country,” she said. “You will see Adele have a new song and it will be playing alongside a Nicki Minaj number and people are enjoying them all.”

Her new album will feature a couple of love songs, including ‘Always Love You’ by the Beat Daddies. “I really think that might be ‘the’ wedding song for next year’s weddings,” she laughs. “There is ‘Blue Guitar’ by Ralph Murphy, who used to write for April Wine back in the day, and even a number that is a little more rootsy. There are even some rock elements in the new album.” But everything on the album is being played straight from Ms. Shawanda’s heart.

A couple of the new songs she has written have been inspired by the plight of the missing and murdered aboriginal women, not just here in Canada, but across the globe.

“When I started to dig deeper into the issue a little more, I realized that there is a lot of oppression of women going on across the world,” she said.

This album has been in the works for a year and has taken up most of Ms. Shawanda’s time and treasure. “Just about every dollar that has come in has gone into this project,” she said.

As for her Nike gig, Ms. Shawanda said that she has been involved since 2008 and that the experience has been wonderful. “We try to make a difference in the lives of young aboriginals through sport by helping kids get going,” she said. “When you look at the numbers for diabetes and other health issues in our communities across North America you know that something has to be done.” A major initiative with the Nike N7 foundation is being launched October 3 through 5. You can find a link to it on Ms. Shawanda’s website while you are checking out the tracks for the new album at crystalshawanda.co.

Ms. Shawanda will be home next week and will be performing at a fundraising concert in Espanola to help raise money for a new van for a disabled friend.