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Livewire's One on One
By Andy Argyrakis
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KT Tunstall Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall leans in a "nature techno" direction on new disc

January 7, 2011

In the three years since her last studio CD, Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall has been recharging her personal batteries with several very adventurous or eco-friendly environments. For starters, the longtime green activist embarked upon the Cape Farewell project, which was basically a trip to Greenland with a slew of artists and scientists reacting to the evolving climate. From there, she and hubby/drummer Luke Bullen went on several sightseeing adventures, including everything from the Galapagos Islands to Machu Picchu and much of New Zealand, all the while sharpening her songwriting muse. As a result, her third long player Tiger Suit comes off as "nature techno," which is basically a merger of a previous acoustic foundation with an increased dose of electronica.

What inspired this change of stylistic direction on the new album?

KT Tunstall: I had to get head down and dig deep to rediscover what turned me on about music. I wound up rediscovering my passion for dance music after having been a big fan of Left Field, Lamb, DJ Shadow and the Chemical Brothers throughout the '90s. There was actually a time [at the beginning of my career] when I was considering performing live over programmed and electronica beats, but I couldn't afford reliable equipment. This is basically my attempt at trying to keep the soul of the blues and roots influences, but bringing electronica to the table as a guest in the same way Beck did with Odelay, which was a brilliant mix of folk music and electronica. Synths may be less human, but the reason I said this is "nature techno" is because it's boot stomping and has a primal pulse.

How have your fans reacted to your revised sound?

Tunstall: I thought I would lose some fans of what I had done in the past, but it's been amazingly positive and I've already gained fans who weren't that excited about what I did before. KT TunstallOn Facebook, it's been all hardcore cheering with very little negative comments.

Is there any significant meaning behind the Tiger Suit title?

Tunstall: First of all, I had a recurring dream since I was a kid that I was in a garden with a tiger, and I was stroking it. Then I'd go inside and look through the window at the tiger and feel afraid. I always wondered, "Am I disguised as the tiger in the dream?" It reminded me of my approach to life, which is to jump in and think about it later. I go on stage as myself and don't employ a character, but I do have protective armor.

What led you to take all these diverse trips since we last heard from you?

Tunstall: I was on the road solid for about six or seven years, basically from 2004 onward, though I did a lot of gigging myself before that. I don't really write when I'm on tour, which posed a dilemma and made me not have much of a choice but to take time to write new material. At first, I was pretty worried because this industry is like jello and your place molds behind you and then you're gone forever. But this time, I felt there was no point rushing it because the only time you have a long career is when you make something that excites you and you long to play it. My first trip [to Cape Farewell] inspired the first song and that was basically 20 scientists and artists, including Jarvis Cocker, Feist, Martha Wainwright and Vanessa Carlton. It was really intense and felt half brilliant but half awful because I was very aware of the mountain I had to climb to make the new album. I wanted to stay a bit longer, but there were such great friendships that came from the trip. And then from there, I went traveling around South America, India and New Zealand, which was a longtime dream of mine. All of my friends took back packing trips in their twenties, but I concentrated on music and was always traveling with touring, which never lets me see very much.

What is your current involvement with spreading the word about environmental awareness?

Tunstall: I decided the best thing me for me to do was concentrate on my own back yard and what was having the least impact on the environment. I've been thinking of innovative ways to make the life of a touring musician less impactful and am about to start a new website called It's not launched yet, but it's basically a go to resource for anybody in a band to make a green choice. The other thing I've done is moved out of London and I now have a place in the English countryside. I have a solar powered studio, which contrary to popular belief, doesn't mean I can only record for one week in May. I demoed a lot of the album there and recorded it in Berlin.

Do you have any long term career goals or visions?

Tunstall: I've never ever been a person who projects, which is partly why I really love what I do. When I make an album, it takes me out and decides where I go and who I meet. It's weird and wonderful; my only hope is I'm still playing something different!

Related articles:

Artists weigh in on the environment:
Opinions from KT Tunstall, Paolo Nutini, The Academy Is... - November 2007

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