Published: Sunday, August 6, 2006
On tour, singer is a hard act to follow
The Vienna native has entertained U.S. troops in 45 countries.
By AMANDA GARRETT
WARREN Musician Kimberly Burns has had her equipment confiscated, gone without a shower for days at a time and been evacuated from a war zone while entertaining U.S. troops serving overseas.
The Vienna native and her five-piece band travel extensively for the Department of Defense and Armed Services Entertainment, performing shows at military bases from Kuwait to Kyrgyzstan.
"It's always such an honor to perform for the troops," she said. "It's hard to do, but it's one of the most important things we do. We have a captive audience who maybe haven't had very much entertainment for a while, so we feel obligated to put on our very best show for them."
Burns, who is also a songwriter, performs a mix of originals and covers during her concerts for the troops.
"A couple of my songs, 'Wild Heart of Mine' and 'Wrap My Baby Up for Christmas' are really popular at the shows," she said. "Beyond that, the soldiers always like good, old classic rock."
Burns is one of Armed Forces Entertainment's most popular performers, said John Field, circuit manager for the Mediterranean region. "Whenever she tours with us, we always get requests from troops on the ground to have her return for another performance," he said.
Since 1999, Burns has been on 14 tours in 45 countries.
One of Burns' and her band's most memorable experiences occurred during a 2003 Christmas season tour to the Middle East and Africa.
"We flew into Oman, had a show there and then were supposed to go to Djibouti," she said. "However, our equipment and luggage didn't make it to Oman for almost a week. We had to keep our schedule, as it was Christmas, and we didn't want any of our troops to be without any form of entertainment, so we went on to Djibouti."
Burns and company traveled to the small African nation, still without any luggage or equipment. After about five days of waiting for their equipment without any access to showers the commander of the USS Mount Whitney, which was stationed in the waters near Djibouti, asked them to come aboard for a "handshake" tour and the promise of shower.
"We got on the ship and they told us they had found us a guitar. No one mentioned a shower," she said. "So our drummer got two galley pans, serving spoons and a five-gallon bucket, which served as drums. Someone found a couple of deck mikes and an amp, which our guitar player used, and my keyboard player hummed a bass line through one of the deck mikes as I sang. We were supposed to only play for a few minutes, but wound up playing for an hour and a half.
"It was one of the most difficult shows to do, but it was one of the most appreciated."
Other adventures Burns experienced included having her equipment confiscated in Saudi Arabia and being flown out of Afghanistan because the area in which she was to perform had become too dangerous.
Burns' performances for the military have allowed her to fulfill a lifelong dream, she said.
"I've been writing songs since I was 12 years old," she said. "Singing and performing is who I am."
Burns is now back at her home base in Nashville, though she would like to travel to Iraq for a Christmas tour. She is working on an as-yet-untitled album that will be released through her Web site, www.kimberlyburns.com, in October.
She is a 1992 Mathews High School graduate. Although Burns now calls Nashville home, she still has ties to the Mahoning Valley. Her parents, Richard and Shirley Burns, live in Vienna, and her brother Michael lives in Bristolville.
"I miss it back home," she said. "I try to come and visit whenever I can."