Q&A With KT Tunstall

OMC ONLINE EXTRA by TATIANA BAEZ

UK singer songriter KT Tunstall is in SA to perform at the Parklife series of events. ONE MUSIC CITY asked her a few questions about her career, music and life in general.

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“I have always felt passionate about the protection of natural environment, and I also feel that the safety, education and support of kids is of the utmost importance for a happier world.”

OMC: People recall your live performance on “Later with Jools Holland”, which was praised and quickly launched you into the public eye. How did it feel to have that moment, especially on a show that has such a legacy tied to it?

KT: Although I had been trying to get somewhere as a musician for 10 years by that point, it really did feel like overnight success. Getting on that show is such a gift, so it was incredibly exciting. I only had 24 hours to prepare for it as Nas the rapper had pulled out. I’m actually really glad of that as I would have been a lot more nervous if I had known for weeks! As it was, I just got in there and did my thing without thinking too much.

Can you describe what dictates the direction of the albums you’ve recorded?  … moments that trigger direction or inspiration?

KT: I’ve always been influenced by whatever is turning me on at the time. With my first record it was Carol King, old anonymous blues music, and ‘Hunky Dory’ by Bowie. The second album was all about the excitement of playing with a larger band, experimenting with electric guitar sounds, and embracing my music becoming a bigger thing. The 3rd record, Tiger Suit, I was all about my old 90’s dance & electronica music collection; Leftfield, The Cocteau Twins, DJ Shadow, Vangelis. I wanted to make music I could dance to. And this new record, I wanted to be all about singing. The songs are gentler and more subtle, so the vocals can breathe and take over. I love landscape and it always plays an important part in my writing. The Arizonan desert was an amazing place to be.

With so much going on in the world today, what are the kinds of social issues that concern you? Is it ever reflected in your music?

KT: I don’t often find myself writing political or protest songs, I am more inspired by personal relationships. It does happen though; ‘Under the Weather’ was written after 9/11 when a writer friend of mine and I had talked about there perhaps being a responsibility upon artists to respond to what happened. ‘Hidden Heart’ is a song on an EP I released which is about humanity’s blindness and stupidity in the face of a poisoned planet. I have always felt passionate about the protection of natural environment, and I also feel that the safety, education and support of kids is of the utmost importance for a happier world.

Leading on from the above – It’s a big year for Scotland with the referendum and the Commonwealth Games. Do you feel very connected with issues relating to Scotland?

KT: I haven’t lived in Scotland for nearly 15 years, so I don’t feel a need to be involved in that debate. I also really don’t know enough about the pros and cons of the situation to comment. However, I would support and understand anyone who wants change from the current government and governing system in the UK; corrupt agendas and corporate business interests seem more and more prevalent in decision-making.

If you didn’t have a musical bone in your body, what career path do you think you might have chosen?

KT: I think I would still have to ‘make’ something. I would also definitely struggle working for a boss no matter what I did! I always fancied making furniture, or chandeliers. So maybe a joiner, or a jeweller…

Over the past few years of your career, a lot has changed. Was there a pivotal moment or experience that shifted your musical direction?

KT: On this last record, meeting Howe Gelb (of the band Giant Sand) who I made the record with was a big influence on the album. I went to Tucson to work with him and the landscape and slower vibe out there made a big difference to what I ended up making. Also, massive personal upheaval in my life led to a whole new level of honesty, which is always good for music.

What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?

KT: Keep on keepin’ on…and…once you have a bit of power, never do anything any other way than what feels right.

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