How did a girl from Waterloo, Iowa, end up in Nashville, by way of Iraq?
Crystal Guzman began her music career at an early age with violin lessons. She taught herself guitar in high school in order to write songs and perform them for her family. Then, after high school she made the decision to enlist in the U.S. Air Force—to serve her country and pursue her other calling, nursing. That led to her deployment in Iraq.
Now in Nashville, Crystal works in the healthcare industry, while pursuing her passion for songwriting and performing. Operation: Sound Off! is helping Crystal reach for those dreams. For more information about how you can help, follow the links at the bottom of this article.
How long have you wanted to pursue a music career? What inspired you?
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to pursue a career in music, but the defining moment came the year that I saw Alison Krauss perform at the Strawberry Point Bluegrass Festival. As soon as I entered the fourth grade and heard about the Orchestra program being offered at school, I begged my parents to let me play violin. I continue to play violin, but my musical interests have shifted more toward singing, songwriting, and guitar playing.
Over the years, I have never stopped playing music, but my commitment to following my passion has come and gone with waves of excitement and disappointment. My experiences as a nurse in the military served to strengthen and renew my passion for music, because they gave me something meaningful to sing about. Until very recently, I never talked about my experiences in Iraq, because I didn’t think many people would want to hear or could even grasp some of the ‘not-so-pleasant’ things I would have to say. However, I found out early on that I could write and sing about my experiences without it feeling ‘too personal’, and, as a result, music has been instrumental in helping me move forward and heal both mentally and emotionally.
Looking back on some of the choices and career changes I have made, I now see a pattern of unrest in which I would often find it easier and more secure to pursue the ‘next big thing’ than to follow my true passion. However, that little nagging voice in my head telling me to ‘go for it’ has never left me for a moment, and, for the first time in my life, I am eager and determined to heed its advice!
Do you write your own songs? If not, what do you look for in a song?
Yes, I write my own songs. I love the creative process of songwriting even more than performing. Writing is a freeing experience for me. I don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules!
You chose to postpone your other life goals to join the U.S. military. Why? What impact has that decision had on your life?
I wish that I could honestly tell you ‘why’ I joined the military, but I don’t really have an answer to that. Some may call me naïve, but all I know is that I felt very comfortable and at peace with my decision from the very beginning. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I ‘postponed’ my other life goals, but, rather, took a different route to get where I am today than I once might have imagined.
Although my military experience has changed me in many ways, I will never regret my decision to join. I have made so many wonderful friends and had amazing experiences along the way that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Life has taken on a new color for me after witnessing the pain, love, suffering, fear, and heartache present in a wartime environment. Initially, after my deployment, it seemed harder to ‘fit in’ to society, because most of the things that once mattered to me had become far less important. I think that most veterans carry around a certain amount of ‘why guilt,’ whether they ask themselves why this is happening, why me, or why they survived. In my case, I think I was simply waiting for someone to give me permission to ‘live’ again, not realizing that I was the only person who could give myself that.
What music artist or artists have most influenced your musical style? Have you met any of your musical heroes? If so, what was that like?
Ray LaMontagne, Alison Krauss, John Denver, Patty Griffin, Hank Williams Sr., Amos Lee, and the list goes on… I was within a few feet of Alison Krauss at an awards show once, but have never actually ‘met’ her! That will be a day to remember, for sure.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
I would have to say that my deployment to Iraq was an unexpected detour in my life that has turned out to be a positive experience. Without my experiences in the military, I wouldn’t understand the sacrifices that our military men, women, and families make on a daily basis, or have ever gotten involved with Operation: Sound Off! This ‘detour’ has lit a passion within me for helping our troops find ways to cope and for increasing awareness about the many diverse needs of our veterans and their families. When I found out about Operation: Sound Off!, I was instantly on board with its mission.
Let’s talk about your music!
Well, this is where Operation: Sound Off! comes into play! I am a songwriter by nature, and I don’t pretend to be an audio engineer or producer. I primarily write folk-acoustic style music and record my songs in a small home studio. It would be wonderful to be given the opportunity to have a song or two professionally produced, and for my music to touch the lives of a much broader audience. Operation: Sound Off! will provide military men and women with this very opportunity!
How did you find out about Operation: Sound Off!?
I actually just sort of stumbled upon an Internet article soliciting artists for Operation: Sound Off!. I submitted my artist profile that very day and have been a believer in its purpose and potential ever since.
Besides providing entertainment, as a performer what is the one thing you hope to convey to your audience?
Honesty. I want my audience to hear more than the words that I sing; I want them to attend to the deeper meaning that lies just beyond the lyric. Music can be brutally honest, and that’s what makes it such a wonderful mode of expression. I may not be able to tell my listeners what is true, but I can help my audience find out what is true for them. Music is as much a process of self-exploration as it is about rhythm and rhyme.
A few fun questions…
What is your favorite comfort food and why?
If coffee was a food, it would definitely be my favorite! There is just something about feeling that warm cup of Joe in my hand that reminds me of home, family, and all the good things in life.
This website features both music and literary guests. Do you have literary, as well as musical, talent?
I don’t know if I would call it a talent, but I love writing poetry. Two of my poems were published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing shortly after I finished nursing school. Other than that, I have attempted to start a book or two…. I guess I can call a few pages of scribbles a start, right?
What kind of books do you like to read?
I like books that make me think about the world in new ways and that challenge the ideas I hold sacred. Fortunately for me, these types of books span all genres.
In describing your personality, would you say you are a major or a minor chord?
Definitely a minor chord. I’m not one of those blend-in-with-the-crowd types. I like being different.
For the ladies: In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
I’ve played so many of these parts in my life that I can’t name just one! I try my best to rise to whatever occasion or situation life offers me.
Do you have a pet? (Or a favorite pet from the past?) If so, please tell us about them.
I don’t currently have any pets, but growing up my family had a golden retriever. I was pretty young when we had him, so most of my ‘memories’ come in the form of pictures. I am assuming he was a pretty calm dog, as there is a picture of me sitting on him and sticking my hand in his mouth. And I still have both of my hands!
Crystal, thank you for your service to our country! It’s a pleasure to have you at DivineDetour!
Thank you for having me.
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For additional information about Crystal, visit:
For additional information about Operation Sound Off!, visit http://www.OperationSoundOff.com
To donate to Operation: Sound Off!, logon to http://KickStarter.OperationSoundOff.com