On the cover of Shauna Burns’ critically acclaimed 2005 breakthrough album Every Thought, the dynamic singer, songwriter and pianist looks off into the distance while holding a set of keys in her hand. This was the perfect metaphor for the story she told in her songs, about our unconscious minds coming to consciousness and the potential we all have to take control of our own destiny. They also unlocked the door to an exhilarating career as one of the most promising multi-talents on today’s indie music scene—a spiritually driven journey that blossomed on her breakthrough 2008 recording The Moon and The Fire Circle and continued on her 2009 EP Anamnesis.
The Las Vegas based singer’s blend of ethereal vocals and sweeping piano and percussion driven atmospheres launched her early singles “Pink Girl” and “Petunia” to major success in the Triple AAA radio format. “Pink Girl” was also chosen as the #1 indie single from the MAACP Radio show. Every Thought, which Smother.net declared “a newfangled fusion that will ignite a spark that will be hard to replicate,” was also selected as one of the Top CDs of 2005 by Collected Sounds, a popular taste making website celebrating independent musicians. It was chosen for “Best of the Batch” from the Music Industry News Network and featured on TowerPod.com, Indie-Music.com, Billboard, VH1, Artist Direct, AOL Music and Fox TV, among other outlets.
The Moon and the Fire Circle, a richly thematic and ultimately healing work that offered an emotional bridge between darkness and light, met with similar success. Its first single “Around You” reached #7 on the FMQB AC Chart, was one of WCH Radio’s “Top Songs for 2008” and hit #1 on “Song Vault Radio.” The collection was selected “Best of 2008” by Collected Sounds and The Promise Live. Radio Crystal Blue also chose Burns as one of the “Top Recording Artists of the Year 2008.” Conceived as an extension of the music on The Moon and the Fire Circle, Burns’ follow-up five track EP Anamnesis included songs that relate in some way to each of the five senses (including “Smell”).
Burns describes her latest musical venture, the Celtic flavored A Winter Gathering, as a new journey for her—a collection of newfangled holiday carols and original songs performed by her with her husband, drummer James Clark (who also co-produces) and guest performers Caroline Kemper (Celtic harp), Rick Kemper (Uilleann pipes & pennywhistle), Lindsey Springer (cello), Ryan Whyte Maloney (guitar, backing vocals) and a five piece vocal choir.
Bringing unique new elements and sounds to her trademark style, Burns offers new twists to classic songs like “Carol of the Bells,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and “Silent Night” and includes three short original “breath point” pieces she calls “Songscapes.” She includes “White Christmas” as a tribute to her mother Joyce (who always played and sang it at holiday times when Burns was growing up) and also a compelling rendition of Clark’s favorite song “What A Wonderful World.”
The singer describes the concept this way: “Winter Star,” the first “songscape,” is the star in the East that the shepherds see in “The First Noel”; Burns sings Gaelic words that speak about this bright new presence. The star travels through the other songs starting with “Carol of the Bells,” descends to earth in “White Christmas” through fire and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” through desert. “Luma,” the second songscape, is loosely based on “Ave Maria” and represents the “light” breath. Silent Night” holds the grounding axis of the album with its everlasting melody and frequency. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” holds the place of the strong anchor.
“The Gathering,” the third songscape, “gathers” the songs, family and friends near and leads the listener into “What a Wonderful World,” the resolution. Speaking whimsically, Burns considers the instrumental versions of “Carol of the Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” as the end as “little cherries on top.”
Over the past few years, Burns has enchanted audiences at clubs and Borders Stores across the U.S. and in the U.K. (where she toured early in 2007) with songs from her debut and its follow-up five song EP Desert Tune, which featured songs that overflowed from the first album’s sessions. Her first tour in support of her debut was 40 dates and she embarked on a subsequent jaunt of 20 dates from coast to coast during the summer and fall of 2007. The success of The Moon and the Fire Circle—and its vibe of folk rock with Celtic influences--opened up exciting new opportunities on the festival circuit. She has performed at Renaissance Fairs in Utah and Texas; the Phoenix Faerie Festival; Green Girl Music and Arts Festival in Las Vegas; Celtic Festival in Texas; and Medieval Mayhem in Show Low, Arizona.
“I view these performances as if I’m holding a conversation with the audience,” Burns says. “I’m communicating with whoever chooses to listen in that moment, and like to visualize my music embracing whoever wants to embrace it. Just as it’s a friend to them, music is my friend as well. There’s also a time travel element to the experience as well. A lot of people say my songs remind them of things they haven’t thought about in years. They help them recall the innocence of childhood that they had forgotten about. That’s what music does for me, too. I have a huge respect for the power of music and just how spiritual it can be. That’s why I take it so seriously.”
Burns developed her transcendent vocal style and playing style while growing up in Miami, where she was inspired by her mother’s love for the piano and groundbreaking pop/rock artists like Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Depeche Mode, Bjork and U2--whose landmark The Joshua Tree proved pivotal as Burns cultivated her affinity for thematic recordings. After receiving a Bachelor's degree in anthropology at the University of Utah, she spent a year in Europe preparing her debut album. One of the reviews of Every Thought proved prescient: “Beautiful cascading piano [and] ethereal vocals… a new fangled fusion that will ignite a spark that will be hard to replicate.”
Burns’ music has long been inspired by many cultures and ideas that surround the world as well as the landscape of the deserts and mountains of the Western U.S. Drawing metaphorically upon her passion for anthropology, she sees every phase of her career as a new opportunity to dig into herself to uncover the next musical adventure.
“It’s heartwarming to receive messages from people who discover and connect with my music, she says, “and it’s gratifying to know that what I created in solitude has the ability to touch people emotionally. I use anthropology as a songwriting tool all the time. It’s the study of human development and cultural identity and relationships between people. I feel the need to cultivate and nurture these little seeds of inspiration because they can grow into big ideas if we take care. It makes me question: What’s next for all of us in the world? What is the universe trying to tell us? I’m listening.”