Some artists see their careers fade by their late 20s, but that’s when KT Tunstall was just getting started — and what a start. The Scottish singer-songwriter’s debut album Eye to the Telescope found platinum success — riding the strength of the hit single “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” — and led to Tunstall’s 2007 Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Since that time, Tunstall has released a steady output of solo albums in addition to to contributing songs to numerous soundtracks. In 2014, she relocated from London to her current home of Los Angeles. Currently, Tunstall is touring in support of her 2016 release, KIN, and she will perform at WorkPlay on Wednesday, March 8. Kelvin Jones will open the 7:30 p.m. show. Recently, Weld spoke with Tunstall by phone from her home.
Weld: If you will, talk about your decision to relocate from London to L.A.
KT Tunstall: I just packed up and moved shop. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m a sensitive soul — as many musicians are — and as forthright and sassy as I can be I definitely needed sanctuary. I’ve never really found that where I’ve lived in the past and London’s a pretty fast-paced city. I’d been coming to L.A. for years but I had some work in a studio in Santa Monica and I walked out of the hotel room and saw dolphins jumping out of the ocean. I borrowed a bike and rode down to Venice Beach and it was love at first sight. I felt that this is where I want to be.
Weld: For KIN, were the album’s songs older, newer or a combination of both?
Tunstall: It’s a great question because sometimes your album can be made up of sketches from the past as far back as when you started writing songs. This album’s very much a brand new set of songs that I wrote in about six months, which is pretty quick for me to write a record. It was a different approach this time. I wasn’t expecting to write a record.
I was going to take some time off and I was burnt out on making records. I’ve always had one foot in the pop world and one in the more alternative world of music. The pop side of stuff is competitive and you’re forced into a competitive culture and music isn’t a competition. My personal life had gone crazy so I decided to throw everything on there and see what happened. [Laughs] I was driving around L.A. listening to Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac and it was impossible not to be inspired by those muscular pop songs that were written in L.A. I got my nose to the grindstone and wrote exactly what I wanted to say.
Weld: The new album has 11 tracks. How many songs did you take into the studio?
Tunstall: I had about 15 songs but these days you have to have all these extra songs. You need an extra one for iTunes, one for Amazon, one for Japan. They all want bonus tracks, so I find that I don’t have any spares these days. Everything gets eaten up by the extra platforms of music.
Weld: Along the lines of platforms of music, how do you feel about the give-and-take of technology? The accessibility to listeners is great but it seems to bring oversaturation as well.
Tunstall: I believe both of those things and I feel both of things in equal measure. It’s amazing to be in touch with my fans and connect with them in a way I couldn’t before. On the other hand, I can’t tell you the amount of times that I’ve played Chicago, for example, and I have these fans that get online the following week and say, “When are you coming to Chicago?”
It’s so annoying that I can’t get to people because of the saturation level of what’s online. There are so many more bands but people don’t have more money and more time to see these bands and buy albums. Fans have a larger amount of music to choose from that’s increasing every year. Someone that goes to a gig one time a month isn’t going to start going three times a month. It’s hard to get the word out and it’s hard to let people know you’re playing. Personally, I want to go back to an old-school fan club situation.
KT Tunstall will perform at WorkPlay on Wednesday, March 8. Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show are $25 and can be purchased at workplay.com.