Kristian Bush thinks of Independence Day much like Christmas morning — it’s “off limits for bad stuff.”
“Can we just have a night where we can just sit with a friend and hit pause on everything and say thank you to who made this country what it is?” Bush said. “Thank you for just another spin around the sun. Thank you for right now.”
Bush, best known as half of country duo Sugarland, will spent this Fourth of July on stage in Naperville, Ill. But he kicked off the previous patriotic holiday by saying thank you to the troops.
The singer, who recently released his debut solo album “Southern Gravity,” teamed with Armed Forces Entertainment, MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) and Stars for Stripes for a two-week tour of U.S. military bases in Japan. The tour launched with a Memorial Day concert on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Oahu, Hawaii.
Bush shared his photos and memories of the trip with The Tennessean.
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
“There’s always added weight to a show when you play for the troops. It has exponential weight when you’re playing Memorial Day. It feels like you’re not just there to entertain but to celebrate those that came before. Then to do it in Pearl Harbor across from the USS Arizona Memorial is (remarkable).
“I felt very responsible for being the best possible entertainment I could be, but also carrying the weight as a songwriter. I’m not just here to dance and sing, but to connect you together.”
“We played for military bases and some of them were Navy bases and some were Marine bases, but Japan is full of these bases. What was great is that they are joint bases. The Japanese military isn’t allowed to have a military. They can have a defense force. The gates were open to everyone and the culture is so combined. This is a great way for artists to go and perform. For a lot of people that are on deployment, they get to hear music from home. But at the same time, it’s the window into Japanese culture and their window into ours. You are simply trying to help American soldiers feel less lonely. And, you’re trying to communicate with people who don’t speak English.”
“I had no idea that everyone was so young and so in charge and so responsible. The commanders are 42 and 43 years old, and the junior officers are 25. I’m like, ‘Tell me about your life.’ And they’re like, ‘We try to help 18-year-old kids figure out how to do things.’ The people at the show, they were like, ‘Man, (Sugarland hit) “Baby Girl” was my favorite song when I was 8, and (Bush hit) “Trailer Hitch” is my favorite song right now.’ I was like, ‘You’re my people.’ “
“I think it’s the responsibility of every artist to go play for the troops. In my book, you do it like doctors do it. They have to do a rotation before they get to be doctors. You get a hit or two under you and then you go on the road once a year for a week.”
“I really enjoy culture because I come from the mountains, and it’s hard sometimes to even bring someone home because you’re not quite sure how they’re going to react when you get them far enough up into where the dulcimers are. So I’m very aware when I travel to other cultures that I’m in another culture and that if you stay on the main street, there’s joy in that. But as soon as you get out of Times Square, things become New York. Tokyo becomes Tokyo. And Okinawa becomes Okinawa. There are such fantastic things and fantastic people going on in this world at the same time, that it makes me want to play music everywhere.”
Bush’s new single “Light Me Up” from “Southern Gravity” is now on country radio. Catch him live when he plays the “Grand Ole Opry” July 24. Carrie Underwood is also scheduled to perform. Details: www.opry.com.