Kate Victoria "KT" Tunstall (born 23 June 1975) is a Scottish singer-songwriter and musician. She first gained attention with a 2004 live solo performance of her song "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" on Later... with Jools Holland.
|Birth name||Kate Victoria Tunstall|
|Born||23 June 1975|
The name of her debut album, Eye to the Telescope, was inspired by her childhood experiences at her father's physics laboratory at University of St Andrews. Released in 2004, the album led to her nominations for the Mercury Prize in 2005, a BRIT Award for Best British Live Act and BRIT Award for Best Breakthrough Act in 2006, and a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance nomination in 2007. She won the BRIT Award for Best British Female Artist and the European Border Breakers Award, both in 2006. The single "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" was given the Q Magazine Award for Best Track in 2005, and "Suddenly I See" won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song in 2006. "Suddenly I See" became a popular hit and has been featured in The Devil Wears Prada, Blind Dating, Ugly Betty, Grey's Anatomy and Love, Rosie; Thrillville, and as a campaign song on the Hillary Clinton 2008 presidential campaign.
She has released seven albums internationally: Eye to the Telescope (2004), Drastic Fantastic (2007), Tiger Suit (2010), Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon (2013), Kin (2016), Wax (2018) and Nut (2022). She has also appeared in two episodes of the comedy series This is Jinsy on Sky Atlantic.
Tunstall has written music and songs for film soundtracks including "Boy" for The Kid, "Miracle" for Winter's Tale, "We Could Be Kings" for Million Dollar Arm; "Float", "Strange Sight" and "1000 Years" for Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast; "Fit In" for About Ray; and "Bad Moms (Suite)", "Enough is Enough (Suite)" and "Get Your Tits Up (Suite)" for Bad Moms.
Early life and educationEdit
Tunstall was born to a half-Chinese, half-Scottish mother, Carol Anne (or Carol-Ann), who was from Hong Kong, and an Irish father. Her parents met while her mother was working as a dancer in Penthouse bar in Edinburgh, where her father was a bartender. She never met her biological father. She was born at Edinburgh's Western General Hospital and at 18 days old, was placed for adoption by her mother with a family in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. Her adoptive father, David Tunstall, was a physics lecturer at the University of St Andrews, and her adoptive mother, Rosemarie Tunstall, was a primary school teacher; they already had adopted another child who became her older brother Joe, and went on to have another son, Dan. Tunstall has said: "My earliest memories are Californian", from a sabbatical that her father took at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1979. She was musically oriented and her adoptive parents supported her interest. She recollected that she asked for a piano when she was four.
Tunstall grew up in St Andrews, Fife, attending Lawhead Primary, then Madras College in St. Andrews and the High School of Dundee, but she spent her last year of high school in the United States at the Kent School, a selective boarding school in Kent, Connecticut. She spent time busking on Church Street in Burlington, Vermont, and at a commune in rural Vermont. Tunstall studied at Royal Holloway, University of London. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama & Music in 1996. Royal Holloway conferred an honorary doctorate in science on her in 2011 for her work on environmental issues as a musician.
Throughout Tunstall's twenties, she played in indie music bands including Elia Drew and Tomoko. She focused on songwriting, as well as performing with members of the fledgling Fence Collective. Tunstall had lived with Gordon Anderson (The Beta Band, and The Aliens), whom the song "Funnyman", on the album Drastic Fantastic, is about. She toured with the klezmer band Oi Va Voi, and stayed with them while they were making their album, Laughter Through Tears.
British label Relentless Records put forward an independent offer. However, Tunstall had decided to sign with a US major, and initially passed up the offer. But when that deal did not work out, she decided to go with Relentless. Although Relentless co-founder Shabs Jobanputra recognised the potential in the quality of Tunstall's voice and songs in the early 2000s, his assessment then was that she "wasn't ready yet" and so together with Tunstall's manager, Jobanputra discussed "the process of how we saw her happening and how we would work, why we thought the songs were great, why we thought she was great, and why it could really work if we took enough time."
Eye to the Telescope and Acoustic Extravaganza (2004–2007)Edit
Tunstall's first appearance of note was a solo performance of her folk blues song "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" on Later... with Jools Holland. She had only 24 hours to prepare after scheduled performer Nas cancelled. She performed as a one-person band using a guitar, a tambourine, and a loop pedal.
Shortly after the Later appearance, Eye to the Telescope was re-released and shot up the British charts, peaking at No. 3, and was certified 5× platinum by the BPI.; it was nominated for the 2005 Mercury Music Prize. It was released in the US on 7 February 2006.
On the UK Singles Charts, "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" made No. 28 on the charts and on the US Billboard Hot 100, charted at No. 20. The next release from the album in the United Kingdom was "Other Side of the World" whilst "Suddenly I See" was released in the United States and used in the opening credits of the film The Devil Wears Prada, as well as in Ugly Betty. Further singles released from the album were "Under the Weather" and "Another Place to Fall" which were also successful.
Tunstall released an acoustic collection album on 15 May 2006, KT Tunstall's Acoustic Extravaganza, which was first available only via mail order from her website. The album was re-released in stores worldwide in October 2006.
Tunstall's North American break came when American Idol contestant Katharine McPhee contacted her asking to use "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" as her choice for a Billboard-themed week. At the time, the song was No. 79 on the Billboard charts. Tunstall had not been shy with her opinions regarding shows like Idol, saying "The major problem I have is that it's completely controlled. They're told what to say. They're told how to sing." She chose to license the song as she felt that "no one on that show told Katharine McPhee to sing my song because no one knew it". Tunstall's belief was correct—the song was suggested to McPhee by Billboard columnist and author Fred Bronson.
The song immediately jumped to No. 23 on the Billboard charts the week following McPhee's performance.
Drastic Fantastic and Tiger Suit (2007–2012)Edit
Tunstall's second album, Drastic Fantastic, premiered on 3 September 2007 in Scotland, followed a week later on 10 September 2007 with the London release for Britain and 18 September 2007, in the US. In its first week, Drastic Fantastic reached No. 1 on the Scottish Album Charts, No. 3 on the British Charts, and No. 9 in the American Charts. The album's lead single, "Hold On", was released in the UK in August 2007, débuting at No. 34 there before peaking at No. 21. The song was also very successful in certain European nations peaking at No. 19 in Italy, No. 19 in Norway, No. 26 in Switzerland and No. 39 in Ireland. The album's second single, "Saving My Face", was released in December 2007. The song did not make the UK Top 40 Singles Charts, but however did manage to peak at No. 50 on the UK Singles Charts, managing three weeks on the UK Charts. Despite missing the UK Top 40, the song made the Top 40 in Italy, making No. 23 and in Switzerland peaking at No. 93. The album's third single and final worldwide single, "If Only", was released in March 2008, becoming the second single from the album not to make the UK Top 40, it managed No. 45 in audition.
In the United States, "Hold On" was moderately successful, charting at No. 95 on the US Billboard Pop Chart and No. 27 on the US Billboard Adult Top 40. However, on the main Billboard Hot 100 charts, it stalled, failing to make impact inside the Top 100, causing it to chart at No. 104 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Drastic Fantastic became one of her best charting albums to date, charting at No. 3 on the UK Album Charts, topping the Scottish Album Charts and making the top ten of the US Billboard 200 album charts, charting at No. 9. Further singles released from Drastic Fantastic were "Saving My Face" and "If Only" which were moderately successful, charting at No. 50 and No. 45 on the UK Singles Charts respectively.
On 5 October 2007, the US discount department store chain Target, in association with NBC, released a special KT Tunstall Christmas EP on CD, Sounds of the Season: The KT Tunstall Holiday Collection. On 10 December 2007, it was released in Europe through Relentless under the title Have Yourself a Very KT Christmas.
In 2008, Tunstall recorded a song for the album Songs for Survival, in support of the indigenous rights organisation Survival International. In a video for Survival International, she speaks of music as being a force for good, and about what she has learned about tribal people on this project. She also discusses various issues concerning our culture of consumption and greed, our relation to the earth and the importance of indigenous rights in the world today.
Tunstall also worked with Suzanne Vega on her 2007 album Beauty & Crime, singing backup on songs "Zephyr and I" and "Frank and Ava". It was revealed in the booklet by Vega that the two had never met during the process of making the album.
Over the Christmas holidays in 2008, Tunstall joined Neil Finn's 7 Worlds Collide line-up in Auckland, New Zealand to record a studio charity album for Oxfam. The album was recorded in Finn's New Zealand studio over three weeks and featured all-new material, with singing and songwriting contributions divided amongst the group. Most of the participants from the original 2001 7 Worlds Collide line-up returned, along with several new additions including Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche, John Stirratt and Pat Sansone of Wilco, New Zealand songwriters Don McGlashan and Bic Runga, and Finn's son Elroy Finn. The album, titled The Sun Came Out, was released on 31 August 2009.
On 11 February 2010, the Daily Record reported that Tunstall had recorded her new album in Berlin's Hansa Studios. Located near the former site of the Berlin Wall, the studio was used to make legendary albums including David Bowie's "Heroes" and U2's Achtung Baby. Tunstall said, "I had an amazing three weeks recording in Hansa in Berlin in January and am finishing it all off in London." Her third album, titled Tiger Suit, was released in the United Kingdom on 27 September 2010 and in the United States on 5 October 2010.
Tunstall said that Tiger Suit's title is inspired by a recurring dream she had, before discovering that 2010 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger. The dream is about her, seeing a tiger in her garden and goes outside to stroke it. She returns indoors and is seized by the fear that she could have been killed. Over the years, it has occurred to her that the reason the tiger responds so passively is that she herself is disguised as a tiger, wearing a tiger suit. She said that while writing and recording the album, she experimented with a new sound she called "Nature techno", which mixes organic instrumentation with electronic and dance textures, similar in style to the work of Björk. At a media showcase in London, Tunstall offered an unusual description of the songs from her forthcoming third album: "Like Eddie Cochran working with Leftfield".
Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon and other ventures (2013–2014)Edit
On 20 March 2013, Tunstall announced that her fourth album would be titled Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon, which has since been considered her best by many critics and her most melancholy album to date. The title reflects the two batches of songs she recorded with singer-songwriter and producer Howe Gelb in 2012. Invisible Empire, recorded in April, is the melancholic half that deals with her father's death and the theme of mortality, while Crescent Moon, recorded in November 2012, features songs that are more ethereal. These 13 songs formed an album that Tunstall described as "from the heart," inspired by her divorce from Luke Bullen and her father's passing away.
Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon came out in the United Kingdom on 10 June 2013, while it was released in Germany and Australia on 7 June, in Japan and Canada on 11 June, and 6 August 2013 in the United States. Meanwhile, the lead single, "Feel It All", was released worldwide on 10 June, and its music video premiered on 29 April.
In its first week of release, the album entered the UK charts at No. 14 and it was a modest commercial success in Europe: it peaked at No. 52 in Belgium, No. 84 in the Netherlands, No. 240 in France, No. 7 in Scotland, and No. 56 in Switzerland. On the other hand, the album received the best reviews and ratings Tunstall has ever received.
In 2013, Tunstall team again with Gelb in Tucson, Arizona for his album The Coincidentalist, and they recorded a duet, "The 3 Deaths of Lucky". She appeared on the second episode of This is Jinsy on 5 February 2014, as bearded folk musician Briiian Raggatan.
Over a year after her album's release, Tunstall left Edinburgh to move to Los Angeles and began a new career as a soundtrack composer. She studied at the Skywalker Ranch and subsequently composed and performed the following:
- "Miracle" for the film Winter's Tale, featuring Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, and Will Smith. The song was released on 14 February 2014.
- "We Could Be Kings" written with A. R. Rahman for the Disney movie Million Dollar Arm' and released on 14 May 2014. The song is included on the Million Dollar Arm: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, which also features songs by Iggy Azalea, Sukhwinder Singh and others.
- "Float", "Strange Sight" and a duet with Bleu on "1000 Years", for the UK version of Disney's Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast. It was released on 19 February 2015.
- "Fit It" for the 2015 film About Ray, featuring Naomi Watts, Elle Fanning and Susan Sarandon.
Kin, Wax and Nut album trilogy (2015–present)Edit
From August to September 2015, Tunstall embarked on a small US Tour, made up of eleven dates, playing songs from her various albums and EPs, such as The Scarlet Tulip EP.
On 16 June 2016, Tunstall released the Golden State EP before the album release. It is made of the lead single "Evil Eye" and its remix, and two other tracks: "All or Nothing" taken from the French TV series Sam and "The Healer". Tunstall released her fifth album, Kin, on 9 September 2016. The album was produced by Tony Hoffer, and recorded in Los Angeles. Four singles were released from this album: the lead single "Maybe It's a Good Thing", plus "Hard Girls" in which Melanie C from the Spice Girls made an appearance, "Love Is an Ocean", and "It Took Me So Long to Get Here, But Here I Am"
In 2017, Tunstall announced a trilogy of albums following the themes of soul, body and mind. KIN was the first, with the theme of soul. She released the second, Wax, with the theme of body, on 5 October 2018.
In 2018, Tunstall contributed several songs to the Pete the Cat children's album including "CatGo & the Nine Lives", "Catalina Casesolver", "Let It Slide" and "CatGo's Weird Song". On 29 August 2019, Tunstall opened for Squeeze at Tanglewood.
In March 2020, Tunstall announced she would start recording the third and final album of the trilogy by fall, with the theme of mind. In 2021 she cancelled her summer tour and said she would avoid long runs of performances due to hearing problems. In 2018, she had suffered sudden hearing loss and tinnitus in her left ear. In July 2021, after she started experiencing tinnitus in her right ear, she decided to change her tour schedule to allow for longer periods of rest between performances.
Tunstall announced her seventh studio album, the third and final album on the Soul, Body and Mind trilogy, would be called Nut. The album was released on 9 September 2022. The album's first single, "Canyons", was released on 1 June 2022.
Tunstall has a contralto vocal range. Tunstall is known for her live performances, using an Akai E2 Headrush loop pedal which she affectionately calls "Wee Bastard", in her solo performances and with a full four-piece backing band (Luke Bullen on drums, Arnulf Lindner on bass, Sam Lewis on lead guitar and Kenny Dickenson on keyboards, trumpet, percussion and various other instruments), as well as her two backing singers, Cat Sforza and Ami Richardson.
After her début on the BBC's Later... with Jools Holland, Tunstall performed on various American talk shows, including The Ellen DeGeneres Show on 21 September 2007. She has since performed at many large concerts and festivals such as the Hogmanay Edinburgh Concert in 2005. Tunstall said prior to that performance: "This is the gig of a lifetime... This Hogmanay party is probably the best-known and best-loved in the world, and I've been here a few times over the years dreaming of being the one entertaining the crowds. Until we're on that stage I won't believe we're allowed on it." She has also performed at the Glastonbury Festival several times, from 2005 to 2019; the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, the American leg of Live Earth in 2007, and the Nobel Peace Prize Concert also in 2007.
Tunstall tracked down her biological mother, Carol Anne, located c. 1996–1998, and learned that she was married to cab driver David Orr and had borne three more children. She has been critical of the British National Party. In 2010, she publicly disowned Orr because of his decision to run as a BNP candidate in the general election for Livingston. In 2019, she appeared in Series 9 of Long Lost Family. By that time, the media attention had been too much for Carol Anne, and she was grateful to KT ("She has given me a new lease on life.") for having relocated her somewhere far away, in Southern Spain. She learned that her biological father, John (surname not revealed), had died in 2002 (at age 49), but she was united with two half-sisters, Siobhan and Lesley-Anne, by John's second marriage.
Tunstall's first name is Kate, but she chooses to use her initials KT (pronounced "Katie") instead, saying "[Kate] just makes me think of a buxom lass baking bread for her man working in the fields. I have no problem with that, but it's just not really how I pictured being a rock star." The spelling KT, as opposed to Katie, also differentiates Tunstall from fellow singer Katie Melua. She also said that she derived "KT" from K–T impact, the name of a geological event that caused the extinction of dinosaurs.
Her father, David Tunstall, was a lecturer in physics at St Andrews University. The title of her debut album, Eye to the Telescope, alludes to her experiences with scientific equipment at her father's laboratory.
Relationships and marriageEdit
In 2003, Tunstall began dating Luke Bullen, the drummer in her band. On Christmas Day, 2007, Bullen proposed to her at her parents' home in St Andrews, Scotland, and the couple were married in September 2008. They divorced in May 2013, after separating the year before.
Tunstall sparked some controversy in 2005 when she publicly criticised singer-songwriter Dido, stating that the artist "can't fucking sing" after several fans compared the two musically. Tunstall later apologised, stating that she did not want to be involved in a public feud.
In 2007, Tunstall joined the Disko Bay Cape Farewell expedition to the West Coast of Greenland in September 2008. Cape Farewell is a British-based arts organisation that brings artists, scientists and communicators together to instigate a cultural response to climate change.
In April 2007, Tunstall underwent surgery to correct an undersized kidney, a problem caused by a childhood infection.
In 2008, Tunstall started experiencing problems with the hearing in her left ear. Hearing problems have always been a worry to her; a brother of hers was profoundly deaf since birth. By 2018, the problem had progressed to full left-ear hearing loss and balance problems. In July 2021, she announced that she was having to pull out of her summer tour dates and permanently avoid lengthy runs of closely consecutive performances, citing issues with her right ear which were "exactly how the breakdown of my left ear began". She did perform some solo shows in early summer, including the Spring Hill Arts Gathering (SHAG) in June in Washington Depot, Connecticut.
Awards and nominationsEdit
In Tunstall's breakthrough year, 2005, she received a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize, which eventually went to Antony and the Johnsons; and she won the Best Track of the year award from Q magazine for "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree".
In January 2006, she received three BRIT nominations—best British Live Act, best British Breakthrough Act, and best British Female Solo Artist—eventually gaining the award for best British Female Solo Artist, remarking that she wished to share it with fellow nominee Kate Bush. Later the same month she was given a European Border Breakers Award, which recognises the top-selling European Union artists outside their home country. Also in 2006, she won the Ivor Novello Best Song Musically and Lyrically for "Suddenly I See", along with Scottish Style Awards "Most Stylish Band or Musician".
She gained more nominations in 2007 and 2008: a 2007 Grammy Award nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" (the award went to Christina Aguilera for "Ain't No Other Man"), and another BRIT nomination for British Female Solo Artist, the award she had won in 2006.
List of awards and nominationsEdit
|2005||Q Awards||Best Track||"Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"||Won|
|BBC Sound of 2005||Sound of 2005 (Sixth)||Herself||Nominated|
|Mercury Music Prize||Album of the Year||Eye to the Telescope|
|2006||European Border Breakers Awards||UK||Won|
|Ivor Novello Awards||Best Song Musically and Lyrically||"Suddenly I See"|
|Scottish Style Awards||Most Stylish Band or Musician||Herself|
|Brit Awards||Best British Female Artist|
|Best British Breakthrough||Nominated|
|Best British Live Act|
|World Music Awards||World's Best New Artist|
|World's Best Pop/Rock Artist|
|2007||Grammy Awards||Best Female Pop Vocal Performance||"Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"|
|BMI London Awards||Pop Award||Won|
|"Suddenly I See"|
|"Other Side of the World"|
|Brit Awards||Best British Female Artist||Herself||Nominated|
|UK Music Video Awards||Best Telecine||"If Only"||Won|
|2016||Music Week Awards||Inspirational Artist of the Year||Herself|
|2017||Hollywood Music in Media Awards||Original Song – Animated Film||"You Will Always Find Me in Your Heart"||Nominated|
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