For her second album on True North Records, Nashville-based singer Crystal Shawanda has channeled the spirit and strength of blues greats such as Etta James and Koko Taylor, paired with a contemporary delivery that makes the 10 tracks on Church House Blues a rousing testament to her powerful vocal and songwriting abilities.
An Indigenous musician who grew up on the Wikwemikong reserve on an island in Ontario, Canada, Crystal lived in a home filled with the music her oldest brother loved most: the blues – even though her parents encouraged her to play country songs. Moving to Nashville brought her some early success in country music, but as Crystal herself admitted in an interview, “The whole time I was singing Patsy Cline on stage, I was singing Etta James at home.”
Still, Crystal is hardly what one might call an overnight sensation. “I grew up with blues music and I used to jam with blues musicians when I was still living in Canada,” she recalls. “It’s funny. After moving to Nashville the second time in 2000, I was discovered while actually playing the blues —the music made by Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin. But when I was offered the record deal to make country music, it felt like the opportunity of a lifetime, and so I took it and ran.
“I veered towards the blues because that’s the music I love to sing. It feels so natural, the kind of music I was meant to sing. It’s a beautiful release. It’s like letting a bird out of a cage. This is what I’m supposed to do. This is how I fly.”
Penned by Shawanda and her husband/guitarist/producer Dewayne Strobel, the bittersweet ballad “When It Comes To Love” was the first single released from Church House Blues. Now we’re excited to present the World Premiere of the song’s video.
With regard to the video, Shawanda shared with us:
For this song we initially had different ideas for the video, and planned to shoot it at home in Nashville, but due to the pandemic we’ve sort of been stuck in my hometown Wiikwemkoong reserve, in Canada, and were limited. So some of the footage is from a live show last year, and the rest was filmed by my Husband/guitar player Dewayne Strobel, and he and our little girl Zhaa Zhaa became my costars. I realize now it turned out the way it was meant to, because that’s what this song is all about, holding on for love. Kieth Holding was the video editor, and took all our home footage in a very creative way and made magic.
*Feature image by Joshua Hart courtesy of Mark Pucci Media