As Kristy Krüger stood wrapped in an American flag at her brother's gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery, she was inspired by the exuberant way he lived life. A true solider with aspirations to become a general, Lt. Col. Eric John Krüger had been on his third tour of duty in the Middle East. He was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb on Nov. 2, 2006. It was only his second day there.
"My brother was one of the most charismatic people I've ever met," says Krüger. "He was very funny and charming. ... I realized what a passionate man he was. He wanted to be a soldier and went after it with full force."
Krüger recalls finding a copy of "The Infantryman's Creed" in her brother's attic. He had written it down on paper while in boot camp more than 20 years ago. Quoting the last lines of the poem: "I am the Infantry. Follow me!" Krüger says her brother inspired her as an artist.
Krüger began studying classical piano at age 5. At 17, she won numerous musical awards in Texas and received scholarships to several music schools. During her schooling at the University of Southern California, she released her debut album in 1998. She has since released three additional albums, all independently. In 2006, she received the Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Female Vocalist. Her last album, Songs From a Dead Man's Couch, was named one of the top 10 local releases of 2006 by the Dallas Morning News.
At the time of her brother's death, Krüger was at a crossroads in her musical career. Working a dead-end job and facing the inevitable life questions of a 30-year-old single woman, she questioned if music was in her future. She had been touring on the road for the better part of seven years. But her confusion ended when her brother died.
"I feel I couldn't make any excuses not to live my life to the absolute fullest. ... The most disrespectful thing I could do is not go for what I wanted." Music has always been her dream.
This year, Krüger plans to perform in her brother's honor in every state of the union. She started in December and hopes to complete the tour in her brother's hometown of Dallas on Jan. 12, 2008--what would have been his 42nd birthday. But she is open to the idea of it taking longer than one year.
"I want to know America. I want to see what he died for. I don't want to zip in and out of the states."
Kristy Krüger performs in Tucson from 8 to 10 p.m., Monday, March 5, at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. Leslie Stevens of Leslie and the Badgers will also perform. In lieu of a cover charge, donations to a memorial fund for her brother's four children will be accepted. Call The Hut at 623-3200. For more information, visit www.kristykruger.com.
Krüger's music has been compared to that of Tom Waits. She fuses Americana with folk, country and jazz. Krüger sings in a soulful style beyond her years. Her lyrics show a gentle wisdom and thoughtfulness.
The song "The Night You Never Came to Meet Me," off Songs From a Dead Man's Couch, describes a stunning starry night where the singer laments not having anyone there to share it with. Krüger paints a beautiful picture with her words. Clouds are described as cotton candy, the moon as a "soft beam shown on a stage that is still."
Krüger says she wrote the song during a long drive from Kansas City to New Mexico. "It was the most beautiful night. It was pitch black but lit by the moon. Nothing was moving. ... It was like a painting. I was wishing someone else was there with me to appreciate it."
Long drives are old hat for Krüger. She suggests her latest album is "best enjoyed at night when you are driving alone on a long stretch of highway. ... Certain records are nocturnal. This is the ideal setting. There is so much contemplation when driving alone."
On her long drives during her memorial tour, Krüger will undoubtedly think about the brother she lost. She remembers his sense of humor and storytelling finesse. Her intention is that her show not be depressing for people. It is a celebration of her brother's life and spirit. "Now I have an opportunity to make people laugh through his stories," she says.
Krüger has a gentle laugh and seems to smile at her brother's memory. She is looking forward to meeting people along her journey and hearing their stories. Traveling the country is something her brother wanted to do. Now she will do it for him.
"When a solider dies, there is an article in the paper, and that's that. This is not just a blurb in the paper. This is a pilgrimage for me."