KT TUNSTALL: In the Studio

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

“Do you mind if I put you on hold for one second?”  KT Tunstall asks, via phone, from a London recording studio. She needs to close the studio door to drown out the electric guitars that are being tracked for her upcoming sophomore release, tentatively scheduled for September. “That’s how rockin’ it is,” she quips. “You can hear the guitars through three walls.” Though the sonics might be amped up on the next album to reflect Tunstall’s road-tested, dynamic live band show, her songwriting, she insists, springs from the same place as those quirky emotional vignettes found on her multi-platinum 2006 debut, Eye to the Telescope.“Do you mind if I put you on hold for one second?”  KT Tunstall asks, via phone, from a London recording studio. She needs to close the studio door to drown out the electric guitars that are being tracked for her upcoming sophomore release, tentatively scheduled for September. “That’s how rockin’ it is,” she quips. “You can hear the guitars through three walls.” Though the sonics might be amped up on the next album to reflect Tunstall’s road-tested, dynamic live band show, her songwriting, she insists, springs from the same place as those quirky emotional vignettes found on her multi-platinum 2006 debut, Eye to the Telescope.

A handful of tunes chosen for the offering were actually gleaned from a batch that didn’t make Tunstall’s debut. A packed publicity schedule and constant touring duties stunted Tunstall’s songwriting. With no down time to process the ideas that struck her, “The songs weren’t growing properly,” she explains.

But given a measure of space-albeit small-during her recent recording process with producer Steve Osborne (U2, New Order), Tunstall was back on her game. She revisited a stockpile of song content and melody, and she even began writing a new track or two.

“A friend told me that Radiohead will adapt poems that Thom Yorke wrote when he was 15,” she says. “Artists go back to their sketch books and work on a piece of art for years. This was the answer to my anxiety.”

What emerged are songs that are “more pensive and more uptempo” than her blues/folk/pop fare of days past. Tunstall prefers to call the subject matter “mysterious” and “open to interpretation.” American Songwriter talked with Tunstall about the winding road of her writing life.


Considering how touring cramped your writing process, how do you feel about going out next time?

I love being on the road. If someone told me I couldn’t go…I don’t know if I could be a musician anymore. Showcasing [the music] is the exciting part. It’s been tough though. In the back of my mind, I’m going, “I’m not writing anything.” That’s quite scary.

When do you write?

I might be in a bar in New York City while I am in the middle of a conversation with someone. I don’t have to be in a secluded place. I’ve just got to have some space.

How would you describe yourself as a songwriter?

I used to be prolific. Now I have to say I’m impulsive. I’ve always considered myself a “lightning bolt” songwriter. When I write what I consider to be a good song, the sensation is more like remembering something than actually making it up.  It’s like there are little smoke trails in the air. Some days you can see them-some days you can’t. When you can see them, you just have to pluck it and make sense of it.

What’s your litmus test for a good song?

Not having to write it down. I’ve got

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