KT Tunstall thought she was done with music. Not done as in she’d never again play guitar or sing, but done playing professionally, at least for the foreseeable future. “As an artist I feel like I died,” she says. “I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
It had been ten years since she’d released her multi-platinum debut, Eye To The Telescope (2004), and twenty-some years since she started playing gigs as a teenager back home in St. Andrews, Scotland. She’d lived a decade in obscurity and a decade in the brightest of limelights, releasing three more critically acclaimed albums – Drastic Fantastic (2007,) Tiger Suit (2010,) and Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon (2013) – and playing everywhere from the rooftops of splashy Las Vegas hotels to Giant’s Stadium. She’d been nominated for a Grammy, won a BRIT and the Ivor Novello, and seen her songs used everywhere from opening credits of The Devil Wears Prada to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign theme. She’d had a good run, Tunstall thought, but it was time to take a serious time out. “I was utterly burnt out,” she says.
So the singer put her stuff in storage, sold all of her property in the UK, and started again, at what felt like the ends of an entirely different earth, in a little house in Venice Beach, California. She lived a quiet life for the better part of a year, until, like a little imp waiting in the wings for Tunstall to get really comfortable in her state of blissed out California calm, one day the urge to rock began to return. And once it took hold, it just wouldn’t let go. “My physical body was telling me that what I should be doing is sweating onstage,” she says. “It turns out, if I can’t do that then I’m just a racehorse in a stable.” Almost against her own will, Tunstall found herself picking up her guitar and writing riffs. And they came, one after another after another after another.
The music that Tunstall has written since moving to California is, she says, the most impassioned and inspired of her life; these songs were fueled by the openness of desert spaces and wild ocean cliffs, the intimacy of being snowbound in Taos, New Mexico during winter writing retreats, and the freedom and mystery of driving too fast on canyon roads late at night listening to Neil Young and Tame Impala at top volume.
2016's Kin shows the results of an artistic recharge for Tunstall. Envisioned as the first of a trilogy of new records, a follow-up - due out in fall of 2018 - carries forward with reinvigorated musical spirit. “Getting to know myself these last few years and getting to know what my own mind is capable of and what my soul is capable of and what my spirit is capable of - reading and learning and reaching out to new people and gleaning new information about what’s possible as a human, it has all made me want to ask the same questions of myself as a musician: how much can I expand?! Where can I go from here?!” Tunstall enthuses, nearly out of breath. “This feels like the beginning of the second chapter of my career.”