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21-year-old singer has bluesy voice, 'old soul'

Shawan Rice's bluesy voice makes her sound older than she is, and it’s earned the 21-year-old from Harrisburg comparisons to Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday.

“Maybe I just have an old soul, and I’ve been here for, like, quite a few lifetimes,” said Rice, who also plays guitar, “and I’m just … here doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is just ... sharing some love, and … sending some healing vibes through some … tunes.”

Her song “Daddy Issues” is an example of that approach. She said the song was inspired by losing her father when she was 3 years old and later making peace with his death.

“Did you ... did you watch me grow?” she sings in a video posted online, stretching out the vowel sounds at the end. “Or is the guilt … all you know?”

Then her voice and the music shift to a calmer tone.

“I hope you’re doing all right,” she sings. “I hope you’re doing all right.”

Here are five things to know about Rice, who will be performing with her group, Shawan and the Wonton, at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 25 at Mexitaly in Springettsbury Township.

1. When Rice was a kid, she was a big Shirley Temple fan.

Rice admired the child star from “Heidi,” “Bright Eyes,” and many other films. “She was just so … spunky,” Rice said.

2. Rice got her first guitar when she was 13.

That’s when she started writing music. Before then, she wrote poetry and lyrics for songs, but she didn’t have the instrumentation to match.

3. She worked in retail before deciding to pursue music full time.

Before the switch, she felt like she didn’t have enough time to completely focus on songwriting and booking shows. But she realized that she was the only one setting limits for herself, she said.

As she pursues a music career full time, the biggest challenge for her is making time to book, promote, practice and play for shows, while still making enough time for writing new music and taking time to relax.

“But I feel like life isn’t any harder than it was ... five years ago or ... two years ago when I wasn’t doing music full time,” she said.

Life is always going to be some level of tedious and difficult, she said.

But “if I’m going to be living I might as well be living, you know,” she said, and laughed.

4.  She has a variety of musical influences.

The list includes: Conor Oberst, Etta James, Erykah Badu, Modest Mouse and Jimi Hendrix. Lately, she said she’s been “really digging on” The Doors’ album “An American Prayer,” which features poetry.

“There are so many influences constantly,” she said, adding that she can be influenced by someone she meets for just five minutes. “Their perspective on life can … impact my music.”

5. The name of the band started without any real meaning.

The idea for the band’s name, Shawan and the Wonton, came from another member of the band, she said. She thought it was perfect.

“It’s whimsical. ...It’s fun,” she said.

She thought it was a nice contrast to her music, which can be on the heavier side. Earlier this year, she told WITF that the name made sense.

"And it's funny because I like to say you don't really know what's in a wonton, but it's really yummy. And every time you get it, you know what to expect but you really don't know what to expect, so that's kind of the way the band is,” she told WITF.

The number of musicians accompanying Rice varies, which makes the performances a little different. But she said the performances have the “the same vibe and the same tunes.”

If you go

Who: Shawan and the Wonton

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 25

Where: 2440 E. Market St., Springettsbury Township

For more information: Visit or search for the group on Facebook.