Finishing my cup of coffee excitedly on a Wednesday afternoon, I had worked out all the kinks and was finally prepared to interview one of my favorite artists of all time. Having followed her career for a decade, I was more than ready to delve into the ins and outs of her brand new era. I told myself I didn’t need to be nervous as I was preparing to speak with one of the most down-to-Earth and kind individuals in the pop-rock world.
It might have been a while since you last heard the name of the dynamic, chocked-full-of-life musician, KT Tunstall. Her debut hits “Suddenly I See” (“This is whaaat I wanna be!”) and “Black Horse & the Cherry Tree” took the world by storm in the mid-2000s, but her rock goddess energy has never ceased. Hailing originally from Scotland, Ms. Tunstall has embarked on a soul-searching journey since the understated, desert-themed Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon (2013). KT pulls out all the stops on her newest studio album, Kin, much to the delight of critics and fans alike: the album takes a journey through the highs and lows, showcased through a filter of sunshine and a bright glow never before seen from the star.
I had the honor of speaking to KT about her album, tour, and even dream collaborators.
What elements of Kin are most new for you? What are its biggest musical influences?
KT TUNSTALL: The biggest change for me has been personal. I’ve done lots of self-reflection since my last record, and everything has changed. From my marriage having fallen apart, my move to California, and losing my father… making music has been an amazing sanctuary for me through it all. I had no attraction to making records for a long time. In fact, I thought a longer hiatus was happening. I wanted to dabble in new things, which I got to do [in the form of] a little bit of film writing. (KT has recently written for the films Winter’s Tale and Million Dollar Arm.)
As far as influences go, landscapes are one of the hugest things for me. Driving through canyons in L.A. and Mulholland Drive always inspire me. We also went to Joshua Tree National Park for a writing retreat, as well as a trip to New Mexico. These things are hugely influential to my state of mind; they give me a sort of fleeting liberation. While making Kin, I’ve been listening to a lot of Tom Petty, Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac which come out in many songs. I felt the material was strong enough, too strong to keep to myself and to stay on a hiatus.
For me, it feels like a full circle has been reached. I’ve experienced unfettered writing for the first time in what seems like a while. Now, I’m not so bothered by what people will think. I feel with this record, I’ve broken free of expectations and pressure.
About your new single, ‘Hard Girls’— what’s up with the power tools in the new music video?
KT: ‘Hard Girls’ is probably my favorite video I’ve ever done. It was huge to work with a Spice Girl, Mel C, in the video. I wanted to make a song for girls that brings them together, rather than making it about being competitive.
I haven’t gotten to see you live yet, after many years of being a fan. What does this new tour have in store for me and other long-time fans? Tell us a little bit about the tour you’re currently on.
KT: This tour and album in general has been a rebirth. It’s a very special time in my career. It feels like the beginning of part two. In many ways, it feels like my ‘real’ second album. It almost seems best that you’ve waited all this time to see me—I’m in what feels like one of the highlights of my career, the stage production is a ton of fun and I’m having a great time with the new material.
That being said, what are your favorite songs to perform live, and least favorite? Are the old hits like ‘Suddenly I See’ ever boring to keep performing?
KT: The more famous songs are so much fun to perform because of the huge reactions in crowd. I never get tired of people feeding off of that energy. It’s always positive for me. For this tour and in general, my favorite ones to perform are always the newest. I’d say my favorite song on the record in general is ‘It Took Me So Long to Get Here, But Here I Am,’ which reflects the mood and energy of the Kin album in one of the best ways.
What have been the most memorable takeaways from touring/visiting the Midwest or Wisconsin specifically?
KT: Touring in America as a whole for me is a deep joy. I’m so proud to have a fan base that takes me through the heartlands. It’s upsetting that some of my fellow Brits dislike America. It feels much more emotionally open in America; people are often much more appreciative of live performances.
Where’s your favorite place to tour or travel in general?
KT: Greenland. And South America has got to be the zenith of music fans. They’re always super excited! Many years after, people still want me to come back. More so than North America, they’re incredibly emotionally intelligent people, very open. It’s weird in Britain if people want to hug you, but not in South America!
What did you grow up listening to?
KT: Strangely enough, nothing! I did not start listening to music until I was 15. The first album I ever got was a gift from my father from a sort of British Walgreens, called Boots. It was a mix CD entitled The Boot Walk Collection, with all sorts of music like The Stranglers, 10 CC, T Rex, Blondie, Pat Benatar and my personal favorite, Beck.
There’s a James Bay collaboration on Kin. What other artists would you love to collaborate with? Beck, perhaps?
KT: A Beck collaboration is the dream. David Bowie has also always been a dream collaboration of mine. The first day he passed away was the first studio day for Kin. We all listened to ‘Life on Mars’ in silence. Prince, too— it’s been a wild year.
Catch KT Tunstall’s new album, Kin, out now. Check her out at the Barrymore Theater on Sept. 23, as well— it’s bound to be triumphant.