Sultans Of String And Crystal Shawanda Collaborate On New Single Close To Her Heart “The Rez”

Crystal Shawanda's single cover graphic for song titled "The Rez"



“The Rez” is a collaboration between 2x JUNO Award winning blues and country music artist Crystal Shawanda and 3x JUNO nominated, 6x CFMA winning Sultans of String. Crystal is 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”, says 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, she 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 and subsequently 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 explains, “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 continues. “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, 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 Ontario.

Recently asked in an interview if she goes back to Manitoulin, she answered “Definitely for inspiration. I go to Manitoulin Island to rejuvenate my soul. When I’m there, it’s being around my family, my community and even just the land. It’s the island, the water, the land. When I’m there, I feel inspired.”

Like the song says:

It’s my blood, it’s my tears,

Everyone I love is here,

Yeah I know in my heart I was blessed,

To grow up on the Rez.

“The Rez” by Crystal Shawanda

Please click here to learn more, including how we are including cultural safeguards in our work on this project.


All tour ticket links are here.

2023 Ontario Tour

Sep 28 – MarkhamFlato Markham Theatre
Sep 29 – StratfordStratford Symphony
Sep 30 – St CatharinesNiagara Symphony
Oct 1 – St CatharinesNiagara Symphony
Oct 2 – St CatharinesFirstOntario PAC Education show
Oct 3 – BrantfordBrantford Symphony
Oct 4 – Lindsay  Flato Academy Theatre
Oct 10 – Sudbury Café Heritage
Oct 11 – North Bay  Capital Centre
Oct 12 – Timmins Timmins Museum, O’Gorman HS 
Oct 13 – Geraldton Geraldton Concert Series
Oct 14 – Thunder BaySleeping Giant Folk Music Society
Oct 15 – DrydenDryden Entertainment Series
Oct 16 – Sioux LookoutSioux Hudson Entertainment Series
Oct 17 – Red Lake  Red Lake Entertainment Series
Oct 18 – Kenora  Lake of the Woods Concert Group
Oct 19 – Fort FrancesTour de Fort Entertainment Series
Oct 22 – BurlingtonBurlington PAC
Oct 23 – Burlington  Burlington PAC Education show
Nov 12 – WalkertonVictoria Jubilee Hall

2024 Tour Dates

Jan 19 – Ottawa Centerpointe Theatre
Jan 23 – KingstonKingston Grand Theatre
Jan 25 – Brampton Rose Theatre
Jan 29 – GuelphRiver Run Centre Education show
Jan 30 – GuelphRiver Run Centre Education show
Feb 1 – Guelph  River Run Centre

Courtesy of That Eric Alper