KT Tunstall’s Guest Editor’s Note in May/June Issue

I recall my head tilting to the side and my mouth dropping open the moment someone
broke down the word ‘Universe’ for me.

Videos by American Songwriter

Uni ~ one : single
Verse ~ a poem

But of course as a songwriter, the ‘verse’, that stanza-shaped adventure that is able to
burrow into the mysterious before the chorus hits, had me thinking of one, huge cosmic
sing-a-long. Now, isn’t that a great thought in times like these?

I often think about countries who embrace songs in English where my language is not
widely spoken. Even when the lyrics aren’t understood, songs still bring forth such deep
passion in people. Like subconscious body language, the emotion of the song stil
communicates. Music as a universal language we are all fluent in. Even babies understand
it. Talk about cosmic energy.

My very first memory of songwriting was ‘The Elements’, a Masterclass in rhythm, rhyme
and humor from the brilliant musician (and mathematician), Tom Lehrer. My Dad, a Doctor
of Physics, had a cassette tape collection of about, hmm, maybe 6 C90 tapes?! And this
one, me at age 4, wearing red plastic welly boots and not much else, was my favorite to
dance to.

That passion for form, exacting rhythm and rhyme never left me. I graduated to reading
Roald Dahl, and gravitated towards songwriters like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, drawn in
by the craft and perfect puzzle pieces of their melodies, mood and lyrics.

As I progressed as a songwriter, still making my own records but also branching out into
film composition, song commissions for end-of-film credits, and most recently music and
lyrics for a stage musical, I’ve been increasingly struck by the power of atmosphere; using
the instrumentation to transport the heart and head as much as a lyric can. The opening
bars can whisk you off to anywhere you choose. If you really get it right, a whole new

These new areas of writing, a silver lining that this pandemic has afforded me time to
explore, allow for much freedom stylistically, but still always benefit from that traditional
songwriting craft and form. I’ve heard it said many times and it will always be true; a good
song is a good song, no matter how you dress it.

‘One song’. Our Universe. Our experience of it filled with this innate force of nature that
regardless of where on this beautiful planet we were born, we are all drawn to it; music.

Whether it be on screen, on stage, or straight into your ears, I hope you keep making it,
keep getting excited by it, and keep on exploring.

Love and Peace,
KT x

KT Tunstall

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