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Thompson Square Tour U.S. Navy Bases In the Pacific (2014)

Originally published under the title, “Thompson Square Route” in the April 28, 2014 issue of Country Weekly magazine featuring Keith Urban on the cover. 

Tokyo, Okinawa, Guam, Hawaii. No, that’s not the dream tour itinerary for some well-heeled globe-trotter’s next excursion. Those are actually some of the stops that Thompson Square’s Shawna and Keifer Thompson made on their Navy Entertainment tour. But they also did a little shopping. “We had to get some souvenirs for family and stuff like that,” Shawna admits coyly before she also reveals that she scored a deal on some designer handbags. 

But international bargains weren’t the motive for this long-awaited tour. “We’ve been trying to play for our guys and girls for years and it never quite worked out for one reason or another, so when Navy Entertainment approached us with this, we hopped on it,” Keifer, 38, tells NASH, of the U.S. military shows. “We were actually set to go on a couple of other tours this year . . . but they were going out in the middle of this. We thought at some point we just have to say no and we’re doing this military tour with Navy Entertainment and that’s it. So, we took the whole month of March off and blocked it out. It’s one of those things that you do it because it’s the right thing, and it really has been amazing.”

The emotion in Keifer’s voice is palpable as he discusses the tour with his singing partner, best friend and wife, Shawna, 35. “There’s something about being in another country and being surrounded by a bunch of Americans who are literally putting their lives on the line. And it’s really cool to see the reverence to our flag and the pride they have. We saw everyone saluting the front of the ship every time they walk on or off. It just makes you feel really proud to be an American,” he says. Another source of both his and Shawna’s pride is born from the fact that both of their fathers served in the military. And for Shawna, who lost her father (a helicopter mechanic) two years ago, touring the hangar was poignant. “That whole day after they took us to tour the helicopters was pretty intense for me,” she says. “It kind of made it feel like Daddy was there with me. It was a cool moment to see what he actually did.” 

As excited as the CMA and ACM Award-winning vocal duo was to be on the tour, the thousands of soldiers they visited matched their excitement, which was humbling for the couple.

Keifer says, “The amount of gratitude they showed us for coming over and playing is kind of embarrassing, because you’re like, ‘We’re just playing music. You guys are in the trenches and living in these small quarters and on a submarine for three months at a time and we’re just over here playing music for you. We’re doing what we do in the States.’ We stayed after every show and signed for the entire crowd until they were gone and got to meet a lot of people and hear a lot of stories and see a lot of tears, and we actually had a couple get engaged onstage twice, so that was pretty amazing.”

One show in particular stands out for Shawna. “It was Okinawa,” she recalls. “It was cold and rainy, but it didn’t matter. It was the biggest crowd of the whole tour and they rocked out with us in the cold and rain.” Guam also provided the couple with breathtaking memories of the island’s beauty. “It was gorgeous, it was so pretty there,” Shawna gushes. “And the people were so sweet, but they were sweet everywhere.”

This was Thompson Square’s first tour of overseas military bases, and it definitely won’t be the last. Keifer says they are already discussing another visit in November, but before that, they’re embarking on their own tour. Keifer is careful to point out that this isn’t a headlining tour, however. “We don’t really consider it a headlining tour, we just consider it doing shows. Hopefully, we’ll get to the place where we’ll have a headlining tour and bring out acts and that sort of thing, but we just didn’t want that pressure,” he says.

Previously, he and Shawna have opened for country superstars like Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum, which, while great opportunities, has limited the amount of time they can perform. With five hit singles now under their belts and a new single, “Test the Water,” showing signs of following the same path to success, the pair can easily command their own 90-minute slot. 

Keifer laughs and says, “With the way I like to talk and Shawna, too, 90 minutes go by so fast.” He adds that they want to play their whole new album, Just Feels Good, in the show, along with hits like “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not,” “I Got You” and “Glass” from their self-titled debut. But they also throw in a couple of fun covers. “We just kind of wanted to relax a little bit and do our own shows, and play it for Thompson Square fans that know all the music and have bought all the music. It’s really, really cool. It’s on a smaller scale than what we did last year, but for us, it’s more fun in a way.”

But don’t interpret that to mean the Thompsons won’t hit the road with some of their country music friends in the future. Keifer concedes, “We’re going to play that by ear. We have a couple of plans and it just depends on how everything pans out this year. Honestly, we’re having a blast, so we might continue that on, we might take somebody with us, we might jump on a tour. We’re not sure yet.” 

On the other hand, they will likely take new tour companions Etta and Barkley—their fur babies—with them. Shawna and Keifer spent over five weeks away from their half-pint-sized pups while on the Navy Entertainment tour, but they’ll be in tow for their solo tour. “They’re small. Etta is 15 pounds and Barkley is 7, so they’re the perfect size to fit under the seat of a plane and they love to fly and are easy to transport,” says Keifer, laughing.

Between all the guitars and pups, T2 may well have their hands full. 

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