KT Tunstall slips into a new Tiger Suit, a new tour and a new attitude. Windy City Times talked to the singer just before the album dropped.
WCT: (Windy City Times) Good afternoon, KT. Where are you at right now?
KTT: (KT Tunstall) I am at a hotel in L.A. We're very excited because we had breakfast with Mr. Big this morning. Not like with him, but in the same breakfast room. It was Mr. Big and his mother.
WCT: Are you talking about Sex and the City Mr. Big?
WCT: Of course, wow. That's so surreal, there are lots of celebrities out there.
KTT: You got to love LA.
WCT: So, what are you doing? Are you performing?
KTT: I have a show here tonight. And it is my first show, with new material, here in the United States, which is very exciting. Have you heard anything?
WCT: Yeah. I listened to the whole album.
KTT: Perfect. It's taken quite a different turn for me. It's been a real fulfilling time out from the madness hamster wheel of touring, promotion, and all of that. I really just took some time off. I went traveling. I went and saw different sites around America to India to New Zealand. I drove around New Zealand in a camper van with my husband. I bagged the drummer. The worst band crime. I married my drummer.
WCT: People have done that before; Sarah McLachlan did.
KTT: I know; it's high on the illegal list of things to do when in a band. We just really had this fantastic time where we traveled. It was kind of just a wild trip.
WCT: Do you live in England?
KTT: Actually, I don't live in London. I live just right outside London. We managed to get ourselves a place in the countryside and built a solar powered studio, which is so exciting. We have ourselves a place with no neighbors so we can make a massive racket any time of the night. We put bunch of solar powered panels in so it's good karma.
WCT: So, you made the album there?
KTT: I didn't actually end up making the album there. I recorded most of the demos there and we recorded the album in Berlin.
WCT: Oh yeah, where you two did stuff.
KTT: Yes, Hansa Studios where Bowie did Heroes and Achtung Baby by U2 was made. It's a very legendary studio. Berlin is such a buzzing hot place. There are more artists per capita than any other place in the world. It's very fresh out there because it's very cheap to live there still. So, you have this amazing array of artists and you also have this huge audience who is ready for new art. So, there is really a lack of self-conciseness, where people are just doing what they are doing and there's a real celebration of that freedom and it's really an incredible and inspiring place. Because there is this dance influence on this new record it's also a birthplace of electronica. So, we have a complete one night of clubbing out there and it was just so great and it really helped me reach in there for my passion for dancing.
WCT: Oh, wow. Good.
KTT: I used to go clubbing all the time when I was a student. I really enjoyed it and I was felt like dance music made me feel in a way that other music didn't. It's just so primal and a physical thing. I find it very difficult not to dance and it just takes you. One of my favorite albums is Leftism by Leftfield.
WCT: I was going to ask you who you are listening to these days.
KTT: The new Black Keys album. There's a band called Fuck Button that my husband is just completely obsessed with. What else have I been enjoying? This is like going into a record store and you can't remember what you want to buy.
WCT: I like your song, "Come On, Get In."
KTT: Thank you!
WCT: That one's fun. On the "(Still A) Weirdo" song, I wanted to ask you what were you describing with that song?
KTT: I think it's just one of those rare moments when you get an objective view of yourself. You look upon yourself in a your situation, your age, and your where you are life. I guess that's what kind of happened to me when I wrote that song. I always thought as a young adult in my twenties I kind of always had this underlying feeling that you just became more knowledgeable as you got older. I just realized that it is all bullshit and it doesn't work like that. I think it's very easy to become stupider as you become older. I just felt so weird for thinking that that was true. My parents are pretty amazing people. My mom can name any flower I point to and my dad is a physicist. They are people who are very absorbed by knowledge.
WCT: And you're adopted, too, just like I am.
KTT: I am adopted, too, and it does make you feel like you're a weirdo. You're adopted, also?
WCT: Yes; I found my birth mother. I definitely had abandonment issues and things like that.
KTT: I think I had that more recently actually. It is a strange ordeal because you'll never get questions answered that you want to. I always felt really disengaged from anybody else. As close as I am to my family I never felt blood related. When I was a kid I was always into nomadic people. I read stuff about Eskimos. I think it wasn't surprising that I lived with a bag on a bus.
WCT: I think your album will sound really great live. Are you coming to Chicago?
KTT: Oh yes, yes, damn yes. I have a godson in Chicago and some really good friends of mine, so there's always this great pleasure of coming to Chicago. It's also a great city as well. It's one of the best. So, I believe we're playing a show in Chicago in November.
WCT: Oh, perfect. I just wanted say you have a lot of gay and lesbian fans.
KTT: I know. I'm really proud of that, too. Because it's such a music loving crowd and I think any group of people who goes through some shit in their life and unfortunately gay people still do, which I find unbelievable. It's always an honor for people who go through stuff like that are into what you're doing. I think it's a good sign for me.
WCT: How do you feel like music business right now?
KTT: I actually have mixed feelings about it because, you know, I'm signed to a major label. That can be great because I'm here in the States and that can be very difficult to make happen, especially if you're not with a major label. Obviously, it can happen. EMI and Virgin have all of these major people to help you and have success in different parts of the world. I think also of the internet it has also had a major effect on the music industry.
The labels are also in a precarious situation where people really aren't buying records anymore. I heard the statistic that selling 1 million records is the equivalent of selling 5 million records a year ago because so many people are managing to get a hold of it for nothing. So, it's really changing and I think it's very sad that people feel like they shouldn't have to pay for it because it takes so much effort to make it. I put a year in a half and I've written 75 songs to make this album. It's so much work and that's partly what you're paying for when you buy a record. On the other hand, on a more positive note the internet has made it so exciting because the cheapness of technology anyone can make an album.
WCT: That's true.
KTT: The ability to get music out there is so much available than before. I think a really good example is that in the UK people got really pissed off with the X Factor pop-idol thing that Rage Against the Machine got a number-one Christmas single. I don't know if you knew about that.
WCT: No, I didn't.
KTT: Simon Cowell runs the same thing as American Idol here but it's called X Factor. Basically, since that thing has been going, there's been so much money that's been going into the promotion of the winner of X Factor that they're guaranteed the number one spot in the Christmas Charts. People just got really pissed off with that there was this Facebook movement saying let's not let the X Factor winner get the number one spot and Rage Against the Machine is re-releasing Killing In The Name Of, let's get it to number one and they did it. That was such an amazing display of the power of the Internet and music.
WCT: They do. Facebook has some power. Are you on Facebook?
KTT: I only just started. I'm completely suspicious of getting involved in the Facebook and Twatter world. [Note: This is actually what Tunstall said, although there is a website similar to Twitter called Twatter.]
WCT: I understand.
KTT: EMI said I needed to come in and learn how to use this stuff. I told them I didn't want to. They said Kylie said the same thing and now she's addicted.
WCT: That's hilarious.
KTT: Well, I said if Kylie can do it I can do it. So, I went in and they said look your web guy in America set you up a Facebook page about four years ago and all you have is a photograph and they brought it up and I had 60,000 people signed up to my photograph. I was like, "They're fucking freaks, what do they want?" They were like, "They're not freaks. Write something and see what happens." So, I write, "Testing. Testing. 1-2-3. Can anyone hear me," and I literally got pissed on with love from all over the world. People were saying, "I can hear you!" So, it kind of occurred to me that it's up to you on how you want that experience to be. I will always do it myself and I will not have anyone else doing it because that's the part I find frightening, when it's corporate.
WCT: Oh, yeah—when it's someone else. That's kind of weird.
KTT: Guaranteed it will always be me but you get these doubters. You'll put a photograph of yourself and people will be like that totally not her. I have to put comments on these people's posts saying good luck finding the real me out there. I hope you find me. I was really frightened that I was going to turn into my mother when I was 12 unable to record a television program on the VCR. I was like I can't be her I have to learn. I will not let the legacy continue.
WCT: Great. So people can find more about you on your website?
KTT: Website, Twitter, Facebook. I actually really enjoy Twitter because there's something really mystifying and carefree about it because you have that small space to use and I like that fact people send me the people that I follow. I'm really enjoying. It's good fun.
KT turns it out at the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield, on Sunday, Nov. 21. For tickets and information, visit www.kttunstall.com.