Singer-songwriter Crystal Yates is a regular on the local music scene in McKinney and North Texas, and now she’s poised to hit it big on a national scale.
Crystal won one of the four Texas titles in the state round of the Texaco Country Showcase singer-songwriter competition held at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth in August. She just advanced to the regional round held Sunday, Oct. 19, in New Mexico. (Texas is the only state divided into multiple regions because of its size.)
She didn’t jump into the contest when she first heard about it. While she had grown up around country music, she hadn’t ventured into country writing. But the way the contest came her way, she had to check into it.
“I was surfing the web one night and found it, but something inside me said, ‘you don’t do contests.’ Then, like the next day, I was singing somewhere and someone came up to me and asked if I’d heard of it. Then the next day, I’m singing in a house concert and a lady asks me if I had ever heard of it,” Crystal said. “Hearing about it three times in three days and I had this ‘Why not?’ moment.
“I figured worst case, I’d get some feedback that I’d listen to with an open heart and open mind. Feedback is always good. It’s hard sometimes, but necessary if you want to be a better writer and a better person.”
Crystal won two preliminary rounds, one in May and the next in July at Choctaw Casino. Then with five judges and a couple dozen contestants involved in the state competition, Crystal was selected to move on to regionals.
Winning the North Texas title enabled Yates to advance to the regional round held Saturday, Oct. 19, in Albuquerque. Winning that round now, she will represent Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas in the national competition in Nashville on Jan. 14. Five winners will vie for that national title with the competition, hosted by Jewel, set to air on CMT (Country Music Television).
Crystal, a McKinney resident who lives in the city’s historic district with husband Will and sons Hayden (15) and Evan (7 months), most regularly can be found performing on the weekends at Lone Star Wine Cellars on the downtown square. She also lends her voice to city events, church and fundraising events, and at house concerts, in addition to teaching songwriting. Just this week, she released a live CD recorded recently at Lone Star Wine Cellars. (It is available from iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere online.)
Hailing from Florida where she and Will both grew up and became music ministers, the duo (he is her manager, her accompanist and provides vocal harmonies) moved to McKinney three years ago. Crystal met Dove Award winner and McKinney resident Jennie Riddle via MySpace and Jennie invited them to come to Texas and move in with her family so they could work on music together. It was the beginning of new and soul-nourishing projects for the young songwriter who also has an amazingly smoky, sultry voice. Not one to be pigeonholed into any one genre, Crystal’s voice can effortlessly (or at least it sounds effortless) shift between pieces in her cover repertoire that includes songs by Patsy Cline, the Civil Wars, Adele, and plenty of blues and Christian standards, too.
Because the Texas Country Showcase is about country music songwriting, Crystal entered two new songs she had collaborated on that fit the country genre – “Goodbye Letter” and “Let That Record Play.” Both songs are included on the newly-released live CD. (Crystal performed “Goodbye Letter” on Friday, Oct. 18, on WFAA-8’s Good Morning Texas.)
Drawing from either personal experience or life lessons learned by those special in her life, Crystal’s songs are always heartfelt, warm and often a little spunky, like “No More Sighin’,” a song she wrote for teen son, Hayden. This song and a handful of other original compositions are found on her first release, 2011’s “Love Wins.”
Story by Beth Shumate, McKinney Convention and Visitors Bureau