KT Tunstall brings music career back to life


Courtesy Tom Oxley

KT Tunstall is set to perform at The House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., on Sept. 21, touring her first pop-rock record ‘KIN.’ 


After two years off the radar and changing career paths to write film scores, Scottish musician KT Tunstall found her way back to recording music, unable to let the scene go. But, as her new single suggests, “Maybe It’s a Good Thing.”

The single, from Tunstall’s fifth album KIN released Sept. 9, was released July 15.

Tunstall is known for her hit singles “Suddenly I See” and “Black Horse and The Cherry Tree” from Eye to The Telescope, her 2004 multiplatinum debut album. After her 2013 album Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon, the brunette said goodbye to her solo music career because she felt as if she had “died” as an artist. Now, she is making a leap into the pop music world and will play in Chicago touring KIN at The House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., on Sept. 21.

The Chronicle spoke with Tunstall about returning to recording, her new album and the songs that made her famous.

THE CHRONICLE: Why did you stop making music two years ago?

KT TUNSTALL: I had started to feel quite stagnant and [reluctant] to keep going with the process of making records, promoting and releasing them and going on tour. One of the reasons I wanted to be a musician was not knowing what was going to happen. There is a certain amount of unpredictability, and somehow I lost that. I went through a couple of huge personal shifts—literally right in the middle of making the last record. My father passed away and very soon after my marriage broke up. Songs can be fortune tellers sometimes. The title track of that last record—“Invisible Empire”—says, “Whoa, I wanna burn this house / I know I wanna jump into the fire,” and that is exactly what happened. I decided to completely rip up and start again. I sold everything I owned and moved to California—best thing I ever did.

What brought you back into music?

I was listening to Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and Neil Young—seminal classics, pop rock that was made in [Venice Beach], and it soaked into my bloodstream. I started writing these really deep choruses. My mind and body were screaming, “No.” I did not want to do it but in the end I said, “This is good stuff, and I’d be an idiot to ignore it.” One thing I learned through the last few years is just concentrate on it, focus on it, and if you want it, then go for it. I am so pleased with the result—it is probably my favorite record. I feel creatively very free from interference and expectations. I feel aware of who I am, and there is definitely a mojo present that I have not had before.

How has pop writing been different compared with your past records?

I have always had a foot in the pop, commercial camp and another foot in the indie, alternative craftsmanship camp. It has made me slightly difficult to categorize, and I now realize that is great. I am really proud that I am not fitting neatly into a box and that people have to come up with some other explanation of what I am doing. I am a firm believer in really thought out authentic pop music—music that is very meaningful and retains integrity but still makes you want to dance like a maniac. In the past I think I have been slightly worried about completely embracing that because it does propel me towards a more commercial stand, and I just do not give a sh-tanymore. It is what I write. If it garners a commercial element, then great, because I think I have written a really positive record.

How do you feel listening back on your popular songs, “Suddenly I See,” and “Black Horse and The Cherry Tree”?

I am so proud of them. I see the energy that is transferred from the songs to the people in the crowd, and there is something very magical about creating that joyful experience and whipping up that electricity when you are playing. I cannot imagine ever getting tired of [them]. The songs transcend barriers, like playing at the Nobel Peace Prize [Concert] or playing at a stadium for Live Earth or these crazy TV shows.