Native American Crystal Shawanda had to deal with traumatic events from an early age, as the prosaic lifestyle of growing up on a reservation would lead to the suicides of close friends and family members. Writing songs was her way of dealing with turmoil, and music, she was sure, was her way out of the traps that had befallen those around her. Her father was a truck driver and would routinely drive from Michigan to Nashville. Shawanda would go along for the ride when she could, and by the time she was a teenager, she had many trips under her belt. Each journey down would bring her to Tootsie's, where she'd get onstage to sing Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn songs. Throughout her teens, she would travel to Nashville and sing for anyone who would listen. Shawanda was eventually signed in 2007 by RCA Records, which led to a CMT six-part reality series, Crystal: Living the Dream. Her debut album, Dawn of a New Day, was released in August 2008.