Piper Ferguson

KT Tunstall – Exclusive GIGsoup Interview

 GIGsoup are delighted to bring you this special interview with the one and only KT Tunstall.

KT Tunstall brilliantly converts her truth and experience into heartfelt, melodic songs that resonate with us both as individuals and as members of the wider world. Her flair, skill, humour and talent has made her one of the UK’s foremost singer songwriters.

It’s hard to believe that fifteen years have passed since we first saw KT sing ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree’ on Later …. with Jools Holland. Since then she has released several albums and EPs, had her songs included in film soundtracks and she has toured extensively.

KT recently recorded a cover of ‘Hymn to Her’ for the ‘Good Night Songs for Rebel Girls’ project.   We caught up with the singer/songwriter to talk about that, virtual gigs and much more …

Welcome and thanks for taking the time out to talk with us today.

Let’s start with how are you feeling about the year so far?

I’m well. I’ve been obviously touring for many, many years, it’s been 15 years and I had 200 shows this year, I think I was going to be at home for about three weeks.  It was five months on the road opening up for Hall and Oates. I was opening up for Rick Astley, had tons of headline shows. I was going to Hawaii for the first time. There were real firsts in there and suddenly to have that rug taken from under your feet and you just find yourself at home.

I think like many, many other people during this time, it’s just been a period of reflection and it’s been absolutely amazing to actually just spend some time at home. I got a little dog  called Mini. I rescued her in April. You know, I’ve really not had home life for a very long time. As much as I loved touring, it’s actually been such a gift to not just be at home, but also to kind of really sit down and think about what do I want my future to look like? I don’t want to live my life on a tour bus for the rest of my life. So what does that look like as a musician? What am I going to do? How am I going to use my creativity? Answering those questions has been really rewarding.

One big change for 2020 is the move to online gigs. How have you found that, especially the Royal Albert Hall session, which was great?

Thank you so much. That was great, I really loved doing that. I’ve got a very deep love for the Royal Albert Hall, what they do and their support of the arts. It was really interesting that gig, actually, because that was kind of the first time I recorded something online for a full show. I filmed it on my phone and recorded the audio on my laptop using a music program. All of us musicians have had to kind of really push ourselves to become decent engineers at the same time, so we can actually deliver reasonable quality recordings.

I’d just moved into my new house and all I had was a couch.  I didn’t have any carpets or furniture or anything. So there was an amazing natural reverb in my living room, where anything in there soaked up the sound. And it actually sounded really good. And I think I just lucked out with it, looking great with the light and everything. And so I really enjoyed that.

I did another show from my home, which was great. It was like a massive Zoom concert where I got a big projector screen, so all the people watching were actually on the screen in front of me and I could see everyone and that was really cool. I can sort of make out what people were wearing or if their dog was with them or stuff like that. So there was a nice interaction.

Then I did another stream show from the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, which was with no audience but cameras. It was a really beautiful production, very high end.

Now, I’ve got an upcoming gig, which I’m really excited by at the Whisky A Go Go!  Where The Doors became  The Doors! No audience just filmed. But the cool thing about that is I’m going to have a screen at my feet with a live feed of comments from people watching. So it’ll basically be like the front row heckling me and I’ll be able to respond. That will be really fun.

You have a wealth of songs/back catalogue to choose from. How do you pick your set list?

It’s really funny for me because, you know, I’m on album seven now, but I do find myself going, wish I had some more hits! I’ve got ‘Suddenly I See’,  ‘Other Side of the World’ and the others, I’m like, do you guys know this one? When it comes to my fans, most of my fans will tell me that their favourite song actually isn’t one of the better known ones. It’s one of the deep cuts.  I love that people form those relationships with album tracks that aren’t as well known over time.

Which is the one they most request?

Everyone loves a song called ‘Heal Over’. It’s the song off the first album that wasn’t a single, but it’s a song about reaching out to friends and being there for them and giving someone your love and support. I get a lot of messages about that song. How it’s helped them through situations, it was a soundtrack during incredibly difficult times. I think especially with what is going on at the moment, you know, it’s a reminder that one song can get you through the most difficult situation.

Talking about one particular song, you are part of the Good Night Songs for Rebel Girls Project. (A collection of songs inspired by the books). What influenced your choice of ‘Hymn to Her?’

So it was kind of always going to be a Chrissie Hynde song. She’s my absolute number one music inspiration, really. Just her writing, her delivery, her singing ability, the way she looks, the way she’s conducted herself all of  these years. I was lucky enough to actually open up for  The Pretenders on tour a couple of years ago. It was me, The Pretenders and Simple Minds.

It’s was an amazing tour. I would watch her every night. When she sang ‘Hymn to Her’, it was just this extraordinary moment in the set.  She would sing just completely stripped back with just the organ, no guitar. It just floored me every single night. I just wanted to kind of pay homage to how special that version was that she sang.

Rebel Girls aims to inspire young girls to become empowered women of all ages. So, if you were to go back in a time machine and talk to your teenage self, five things you would say to yourself might include …

1 I think most importantly, I would say to my younger self, not everyone is going to like you – deal with it. It’s not a requirement for life. You don’t need to please everyone and be liked by everyone.

2 You need to work out who leaves you feeling good and walk towards those people and turn your back on the people that don’t do that for you, because not everyone is there to be your friend. It’s a waste of time and energy to appease those people or to care what those people think of you. That’s none of your business. Your business is to be your best self. The way that you do that is you walk towards the people who help you become that and make you feel that. And that would have saved me a lot of wasted energy as a kid. I got bullied at school a bit and it was just devastating. It all stems from wanting to be liked by these people who are being nasty to you, which is literally insane. It’s a total waste of time

3 I would also say to my younger self, you’re perfect as you are. You’re enough. You don’t need to be good at everything. Just be good at the stuff you’re good at. As an older woman, I can appreciate the things that I’m good at and just accept that I’m not going to be good at everything. When you get to that point of acceptance, you can really enjoy other people being good at what they’re good at without feeling jealous or envious. You don’t have that pain of not being good at everything.

4 I think a little competitiveness growing up can be really good for you. It can really help you push yourself to get better. But there’s a line at which competitiveness becomes quite destructive. It just takes a bit of experience to work out where that line is and where it’s actually not serving you.

5 I would say, Kate, you look great. No matter what you do, you look great. If you’re worrying about how you look, you’re probably just looking in the mirror too much. Just go out and enjoy yourself.

What still excites you about song writing?

I think what excites me most (and it’s really more about creating rather than specifically song writing ) is I love the idea that you make something that didn’t exist. It’s like a miracle, understanding that there isn’t a finite amount of space for things to exist in the world, that the universe literally expands to accommodate anything you dream up, anything that you make, there’s space for it. Space is created by creation.

You could start the day with a cup of coffee and then come up with an idea, something that you wanted to write about, how you felt or relationship that you had or something that you’d read about, something you’d seen that interested you, that moved you and you want to share it. You write the song that day and you record it. And by the end of the day, you’re holding a CD with a song on it that never existed before. And I think it’s just that fulfillment of making something and I don’t think it matters what it is, it’s  just that human beings are creative beings. Just to make stuff is, I think, a really important part of our well being, actually.

Quick Fire Questions

If you had to choose, would you pick

Fire or ice? – Fire. I hate being cold!

Trust or truth? – I can’t work out how you separate those…Trust.

Hat or scarf? – Hat. Just stick a hat on and you look great.

Shortbread or choc-chip cookie? – Shortbread. I’m Scottish

Kate Hudson or Kate Winslet? – Winslet. She is straight talking and so funny.

(Good Night Songs for Rebel Girls’ is out on Decca Records on 27th November)


You can find more information about KT Tunstall at...