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"It's a high energy show." Blues singer Crystal Shawanda ready for Jack Pine Music Festival

Updated: May 13, 2023

by Scott Roos

photo by Nora Canfield

Nestled amongst the trees in the Boreal Forest on the fabled Ness Creek site will be one of this summer’s newest and most intriguing festivals in Saskatchewan. The Jack Pine Music Festival, dubbing itself a “North Americana Experience”, will take place June 24th through 26th.

To those unfamiliar, the Americana Music Association defines the genre as follows: Americana is contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band.

The basic concept of the Jack Pine Music Festival,then, is to provide a “North” Americana festival featuring musical stylings from Mexico, the United States and Canada with the prevailing opinion that this style of music tends to be underrepresented at festivals despite rising interest over the last few years. The festival intends on doing their part to rectify that opinion by providing what they hope to be a yearly event.

The lineup boasts Whitehorse, William Prince, the Hackensaw Boys, The Mariachi Ghost, Bella White and award winning blues singer Crystal Shawanda. Shawanda will perform on June 25th.

“I have played music festivals all over the place but this will be my first time in this particular area so I'm excited about it,” related Shawanda in a recent conversation with NSMZ. “I just love the vibe of a music festival. It's a whole different animal than playing a regular concert at a venue.”

Shawanda, who began her career as a country music singer and currently resides in Nashville, was born and grew up on the Wikwemikong reserve on Manitoulin Island in Ontario. Showing a talent for singing early on, she signed to RCA in 2007 releasing her hit and breakaway single “You Can Let Go” followed by debut album Dawn of a New Day in 2008. She was also the subject of the reality show “Crystal: Living the Dream,” on the CMT television network which charted her rise to prominence. As it turns out, fellow Jack Pine headliner William Prince was an avid viewer of the show. Shawanda and Prince shared the stage together on Canada Day in Ottawa in 2019. Prince told Shawanda that the reality show had been a source of inspiration for him.

“He shared with me that he watched the show and that I inspired him and motivated him and how it was a surreal moment to be with me on stage,” recounts Shawanda “(It was) a full circle moment for him. And it was a full circle moment for me too because it's kinda rare when another artist lets themselves be vulnerable and share that with me. Not everybody always tells me if I've inspired them. I've only heard that from a few so it was a really special moment for me.”

Shawanda has also shared the stage with the husband wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McLelland, better known as Whitehorse, at the Skookum Festival in Vancouver in 2018.

“They're a really cool musical duo and also my husband is my guitar player so we're also a touring husband and wife so I enjoy watching their journey,” explains Shawanda.

Shawanda, whose style eventually migrated towards her natural blues leanings, won the Juno award for “Blues Album of the Year” for her most recent release: Church House Blues. Her husband DeWayne Strobel acts as her guitarist, producer and sometimes co-writer.

“We're like any normal couple. Things come up and things happen and especially the tension of living and working together - we're literally never away from each other. And sometimes we actually work out those tensions in our songwriting. Sometimes I'll bring up an idea or he'll bring up an idea. I'll say 'hey what about this' and then we don't really talk about what inspired the idea but we both kinda know. And we both just kind of add to it. We each add our own POV to the song and then that way if there's a couple going to that it's relatable to both sides because it's hearing out both sides,” explains Shawanda of her songwriting process with Strobel. “I've always said that songwriting for me is like cheap therapy and I think it's the same for us as a married couple when we're writing together it's like a cheap marriage counselor.”

Shawanda is set to deliver a high energy and impactful blues set at the Jack Pine Music

Festival. Her appearance, along with Whitehorse and William Prince, the ability to see them share the stage, is a rare treat. Shawanda, for one, is excited for the opportunity.

“It doesn't matter what style of music you listen to, I like to think that what I hear from people at our shows is that we appeal to everybody. It's a high energy show. It's an emotional roller coaster. It's gonna be a fun time. Come on and give it a chance. Even if people were fans from my country music days, come on out anyways now that I'm doing blues because it's still Crystal Shawanda music,” said Shawanda.

Tickets are still available for the festival and can be purchased here:

The festival, as mentioned above, will take place on the Ness Creek site and run from June 24-26th.

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