KT Tunstall – A Kindred Spirit 

Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist KT Tunstall is an extremely busy woman. She has just released her new studio album ‘KIN’, she’s been touring Europe with Simple Minds and she will be embarking on her own headline UK Tour in May before a summer flurry of festivals. 

She very kindly sat down with JLTT for an exclusive interview and here are her responses. Enjoy…

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Please tell us about your slightly gaudy silver guitar?

K: The cheek!! If you’re referring to the one that was on the cover of my Drastic Fantastic album cover, then alright, I’ll let you have that as it was literally made out of MDF and disco ball tiles. However, if you’re referring to my 1964 Gretsch silver jet, we may have a fight.

What two things have you learned NEVER to do on stage?

Don’t apologise, and don’t let a f*ck up get in the way of a great gig. The crowd love a good f*ck up.
Who is in your current touring ensemble and what do they play?

I’m currently touring a solo show, but will be touring with the band this summer for the festivals. I have three players on stage with me; Denny on the drums, Rej on electric and synthesizer bass, and Hinako on a gaggle of amazing keyboards.

 

David Sylvian and Suzanne Vega are in the studio, about to record one of your songs – which song? And as bandleader who do you have in for the session?

‘KIN’. They are recutting the song as an electronic, orchestral Odyssey with Asian percussion section and a massive harp. Tuvian throat singers. And Peter Gabriel.

Which song of your own do you find yourself explaining the most? And why do you think this might be?

I think probably ‘Black Horse & The Cherry Tree’. I’m sure it’s because the lyrics don’t make a whole lot of sense, but this song is more about a feeling, like a dream state, rather than anything literal. It’s basically a devil-at-the-crossroads blues tune.

Is touring – specifically travelling – a bore or a boost?

Travelling is still my absolute favourite thing to do in the world. I don’t think I’ll ever, ever get tired of it. Sharing my music live will always feel like a very intrinsic part of my experience on Planet Earth, but touring can certainly be gruelling at times. However, I’m definitely not quite ready for the pipe and slippers yet…
You were an early user of loops – do they still figure in your stage shows?

Absolutely, I’m still using the same Looper pedal that I used on Jools Holland. It’s important to me that it doesn’t become a crutch; it’s best to always use these things to enhance your basic craft rather than them defining it. But they can be very exciting additions to whatever sound you’re making. I’m pretty proud of myself that I came up with the idea on my own to bash the shit out of my guitar to use it as a drum kit.

What guitar tunings do you favour? For recording or playing live?

I almost never use alternate tunings. This is mostly just a practicality as it’s so annoying to have to deal with different tunings in a live show. And I do love to still sit with a regular tuned guitar and come up with a new idea. A couple of new songs I’ve written I’m tuning the whole guitar down to D; it hugely changes the nature of the sound of the guitar.

We were at the charity show at The Jazz Café with Jamie Cullum. You appeared to be enjoying it, but what memories do you have of that?

It was an incredibly memorable night for me. It was deeply inspiring being part of something to raise money for the Help Refugees UK charity. It is a brilliant charity run by brilliant people, and there was just a fantastic positive energy in the room with all these people coming together trying to help. I hadn’t seen Jamie play live before he completely blew me away, such a massive talent.

Some recordings seem to fade too early – I had a great conversation about Polk Salad Annie with Tony Joe White, on this – for you, do any come to mind? By any artist?

I don’t know that one I’ll have to check out, case in point I guess. I tend not to focus that much on how much traffic an album is getting, I just get completely absorbed in it and listen to it over and over again. ‘Diamond Mine’ by King creosote Jon Hopkins is one of my all time favourite albums, and is definitely the one that I’ll rant on about if someone hasn’t heard it.

Name an album you can listen to in sequence and still enjoy (artist/title) – and any favourite tracks?

My God, there are so many! I particularly like ‘Illinois’ by Sufjan Stevens, ‘Mutations’ by Beck, ‘Blue’ by Joni Mitchell, ‘Mala’ by Devendra Banheart, but the all time classic every-track-is-classic for me is Hunky Dory by Bowie.

When our Glenn reviewed your current album, he singled out Evil Eye for praise – can you tell us about that number?

That was the first track I started working on for this album, and came from really wanting to engage with my loop pedal again. I just had that riff going round and round in my head. It made me want to dance. It had some kind of West African vibe about it with the slap back reverb and distortion on the guitar. It took a while to finish because I couldn’t quite work out the bridge section for a long time. When it came along, I loved that had this weird jazz-like chord progression and melody, and went somewhere more emotional. It’s was also the first music video I directed myself which was fun.

Stagewear – what do you favour and why, these days?

I’m currently in a phase of just wanting to wear the same thing every single night, it’s kind of liberating. Funny that you should mention the Help Refugees gig earlier, as I’m pretty much wearing their Katherine Hamnett T-shirt every night that says ‘CHOOSE LOVE’ – I have about 10 of them in black and white. With all the shit that’s going on in the world, it’s quite nice to make a simple political statement with your t-shirt rather than ranting on about anything.
Do you ever paint? Watercolours/whatever rather than ceilings! We ask because some of your songs are very pastoral…

Thank you, that’s a nice compliment. Landscape has always been an enormous source of inspiration for me in my songwriting. When I moved out to Venice Beach, California, I finally start started taking a life drawing class again which I loved. I definitely don’t feel like I’ve reached my full potential as a visual artist, and would love to spend some more time on it. I like using pen or charcoal.

I often find two unfinished song fragments become one cohesive song….just me?

No, I have that happen too. Particularly on this last album, it was a strange feeling that I was solving a puzzle all the time. Many of the songs would weave into each other, bridges swapped over, choruses became verses of other songs, it was incredibly confusing for a long time and I worried that so much cross-pollination might harm the individuality of the songs, but right before recording, they all suddenly fell into place.

Bonnie Raitt or Joni Mitchell? By all means say something about both artists

I adore Bonnie Raitt, she is a seminal artist and a formidable musician. But Joni Mitchell was such an important touchstone for me when I first started writing songs, and remains an endless source of inspiration. She is an absolute genius. Both of those women are just incredible guitarists, writers, and singers.

It seems now that by chart quirks, one artist can fill up the Top Twenty – any thoughts?

I don’t pay any attention to the charts any more. I do miss the days of Top of the Pops when you had this really diverse array of different sounding music filling up the top 20, but it just isn’t music I relate to for the mostpart anymore. I think the whole industry of chart-topping pop music has become pretty frighteningly controlled, were even the tempos of songs are dictated by what certain radio stations want to play. There are still great pop songs; Beyoncé, Rhianna, Sia, Katy Perry, Lorde, I feel like they all keep pushing themselves to craft interesting pop music. But a lot of the radio playlists sound totally interchangeable to me.

Do you pronounce Scotland with an R, like Nicola Sturgeon?

Yup. And I still love fish and chips.

Pete Sargeant

(Many thanks to KT, Gordon at APB PR and Ellie at G Live, Guildford)

KT Tunstall
KT Tunstall


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KT Tunstall’s new studio album ‘KIN’ is out now on Virgin/EMI Records.

You can read our full review of ‘KIN’ here: http://bit.ly/2k0Dnd2

For more information visit her official website here: http://bit.ly/2jzJ453

In addition, KT Tunstall will be touring the UK in May 2017 at the following venues:

KT Tunstall

Friday 19th May 2017 – Queens Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2qwHN1A

Saturday 20th May 2017 – Derngate, Northampton, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2a3MSbN

Monday 22nd May 2017 – Barbican, London, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2rwv3po

Tuesday 23rd May 2017 – G Live, Guildford, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2hxNhSe

Wednesday 24th May 2017 –  Baths Hall, Scunthorpe, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2nUO0ob

Friday 26th May 2017 – Parr Hall, Warrington, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2rwFpFx

Saturday 27th May 2017 – Arts Centre, Warwick, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2haamO1

Sunday 28th May 2017 –  Venue Cymru Theatre, Llandudno, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/29HJY7V