Sultans of String and Crystal Shawanda collaborate on ‘The Rez’
“The Rez” is a searing collaboration between two-time Juno Award winning blues and country music artist Crystal Shawanda and three-time Juno-nominated global music act Sultans of String.
Crystal, an Ojibwe Potawatomi Indigenous singer, born in Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, is also decorated with multiple Aboriginal People’s Choice Awards, Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, a CCMA, a Canadian Radio Music Award, and too many Juno nominations to list.
“I started singing as soon as I could make noise,” said Crystal. “I grew up in a house where everybody listened to all styles of music – and from an early age, I could see that for my family, music was like therapy. So depending on what mood they were in, that’s the song they would listen to. My dad taught me to play guitar, and after he taught me everything he knew, he suggested I take lessons. He always tried to let me know how important it was to be able to play an instrument for myself.”
Initially signed to RCA in 2007, Crystal hit her stride as a country singer and songwriter when she scored a top 20 hit with her song “You Can Let Go” and subsequently tallied sales of over 50,000 copies of her debut album, Dawn of a New Day, which debuted in the Billboard Top 20.
Fast forward 16 years, and even though Crystal now lives in Nashville, with many albums and awards under her belt, she still keeps her Rez roots close to her heart.
“I wrote ‘The Rez’ with Ed Hill and Shay Smith, and it came out of the stories I had shared with them, when they asked me what it was like growing up on a reservation”, Crystal explained, “After which they said, ‘That sounds like a song,’ and from there it came together pretty quick!”
“I’m very proud of my roots, proud to be a ‘Rez kid,’” she continued. “I grew up around intergenerational trauma, but that’s not all I remember. I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, but in mine, I remember my beautiful family that surrounded me with love and showed me that laughter, like music, can be medicine. I remember my community, so resilient and strong. We have all been through so much, but we’re still here. My roots, the rez, is very much a part of who I am as an artist and person.”
“The Rez” is the fourth single off the upcoming Sultans of String album entitled Walking Through the Fire (Sept 22, 2023 release), the most ambitious and important project of their career. It’s a CD and concert of collaborations with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists across Turtle Island.
Studios were used throughout Ontario to record this track. Crystals vocals were recorded with Grammy and Juno Award winning John ‘Beetle’ Bailey at Orange Lounge Recording Studio in Toronto. Sultans of String bed tracks were recorded at Jukasa Studios, an Indigenous-owned, world-class recording facility on another reservation, Six Nations of the Grand River, south of Hamilton, ON.