FEATURED ARTIST | APRIL 2014
Bio: Crystal Yates has been in the music industry for nearly 15 years, she is no stranger to writing, performing, and recording, having played across the US and Western Europe in the last 5 years. Crystal is a frequent songwriter, with not only her own original writing but also collaborations with #1 Country writer and CMA award winner Don Poythress, Dove Award-winning songwriter Jennie Lee Riddle, Nashville songwriter and producer, Michael Farren, and others. Since the release of her 2011 project, "Love Wins", the response has been phenomenal, and Crystal has since been a featured performer at the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, The Wildflower Singer/Songwriter Festival, Good Morning Texas, Texas Independent Music Expo, and many more.
In 2011, she released "Love Wins", which featured her original songs as well as co-writes with ASCAP award winner Don Pythress and Dowe Award winner Jennie Lee Riddle and others. Crystal was recently named the winner of in the 2014 Texaco Country Show, the largest country music competition whose past contestants include Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley and more. She is currently working on her 2nd album, with Grammy award-winning producer Charlie Peacock, due out September 2014, with a new single, Goodbye Letter to be released in Spring 2014.
Hometown: Originally from Niceville, FL but I make my home in McKinney, TX
Favorite hangout: My kitchen or my friends' kitchens ;) Also McKinney Farmer's Market, Pecan Lodge BBQ in Deep Ellum, Thai Noodle Wave in McKinney
Currently listening to: Kacey Musgraves, Mary Gauthier, Grace Potter
AHD: How did you get started singing and writing songs, and how do you describe your current style?
CY: As a little girl I fell so thoroughly in love with music. I sang an old Hank Williams tune "Why Don't You Love Me" before I knew my ABC's. My parents exposed me to country music legends Waylon Jennings, Don Williams, Patsy Cline, Keith Whitley, Ronnie Milsap, Willie Nelson...the list goes on and on. At 5 years old I went to a concert at my granny's church and I was so captivated by my emotions and the way the music touched my soul. From then on, I knew I wanted to communicate that way and touch hearts with music. I also began to listen to strong, soulful female vocalists like Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. They became part of my artist DNA. I guess I would describe my music as soulful, country(ish).
As for writing music, in 5th grade I fell in love with the poetry of Shel Silverstein and started writing short poems that later turned into songs. Interestingly, I later found out that Shel wrote the popular Johnny Cash tune "A Boy Named Sue".
AHD: You're working on a new EP with Art House America co-founder and music producer extraordinaire Charlie Peacock. How did you team up with Charlie for this latest project, and what has the working relationship been like?
CY: Well, I got involved with Art House because I finally discovered that so many projects and artists I loved had a common thread...Charlie Peacock :) I began to admire his ability to capture an artist.
The artists he was recording felt exactly right, even though they are from different genres and walks of life. As I delved deeper I ran into Art House Dallas. I loved the mission of Art House and went to a pub gathering, Art House Exchange. I loved the community and I met Marissa Delcambre and we arranged a lunch meeting. She prayed over our meal, for me and she captured my heart! The rest is history. I love Art House and Marissa and have been involved since.
And working with Charlie has been absolutely everything I imagined it to be. He is wise, has good sound opinions, and listens to mine. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I feel that he really is rooting for the artists. The experience he brings to the table sets a relaxed tone in a space where I can get really intense and intimidating. I think he has a good heart and that makes for a positive atmosphere. He has an amazing reputation...not by accident he truly is a creative soul that understands creative souls.
AHD: Besides writing your own songs, you've collaborated with several award-winning songwriters in the industry. How have these collaborations helped you grow as an artist?
CY: They have helped me conquer a lifelong battle of needing to be right for the sake of people pleasing. It has greatly exposed these insecurities -- I had no choice but to admit it and face it head on when I came to these crossroads. I arrived at a new and glorious epiphany: I really can't please everyone and I don't need to. I was created to be exactly who I am. I have purpose. Don't be afraid. This world needs us all coming from different walks of life, different cultures, and different mindsets. We all have purpose. Collaboration and community makes us stronger. I am not completely terrified of being wrong anymore and I have become a better listener. You could say collaboration has put my people pleasing in remission.
AHD: You're fresh off a big win at the Texaco Country Showdown, the nation's largest and longest-running country music talent search. Can you tell us about the showdown, and what it means to have taken home grand prize?
CY: Well, apart from the prize money and the title, I've gotten to work with my bucket list producer to help me create my album -- Charlie! The Texaco Showdown experience was all so surreal. We entered it early last year just to see what it was like because we had so many people at our shows telling us we should enter our country songs. So we finally did, and then we just kept on winning round after round.
When we won the regional finals in New Mexico last year, we were beyond overjoyed because that meant we would be playing at the Ryman auditorium in Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry! I was worried I would fall out flat! Ha! It was surreal enough just to have that opportunity, but then they announced we won! My husband, Will, and I well...we cried like teenage girls after a breakup! We had visited that stage over 17 years ago in college and said “let's take a picture...we will never get to sing here” and to our surprise, it actually happened!
AHD: As an Art House Dallas regular you're firmly planted in the local creative community. How has your time spent baking and bantering with likeminded artists refined you and your craft?
CY: As artists we share so many common struggles. I can't tell you how many times I have said "I know how you feel, I get it, and me too"! It is so encouraging to know you are NOT alone. From my very first meeting at an Art House event, I knew there was something special about it. I've met SUCH wonderful people from here and have resulted in some long-term partnerships. Sean Carter and Kim Edwards are two of the most insanely talented people I've gotten to meet through Art House and they have such a heart for the community. Learning to write with them and others is such an experience, and like the verse, "iron sharpens iron", collaborating with guys like this can only bring out the best in you.
AHD: You've said you write about love, life and relationships, and we can't help but notice that you share the stage with your husband Will. Does that make for a more intense or intimate experience when you two perform together?
CY: Okay, this question makes me smile. Will is my right arm. I literally could not do all I do with out him. That being said, he challenges me also. It gets intense for sure! We share music and a love for Disney World but other than that we approach life so differently! We "see" each other thoroughly, fully exposed -- he sees my weakness, and I his, when no one else does. It is both intimate and intense. We both admire each other's talents and gifts as well. Thank goodness we enjoy each other!
AHD: When can we check out your latest EP, find past releases or catch a live performance?
CY: Go to my website crystalyatesmusic.com. We keep the website updated very regularly as we book new shows. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter. I love staying connected with everyone that way!
We will release a new single "Goodbye Letter" mid-April, I cannot wait to share. And finally, there will be a watch party of the Texaco Country Showdown on April 13 at the MPAC (Downtown McKinney Square) at 6:30pm. It’s open to the public so we would love to see you there! We will get to share some of the new music we have been working on along with a Q&A. Be on the watch our upcoming EP that we plan to release in September produced by Charlie!