"Busking was a hugely significant part of how I discovered who I was as a musician. I remember the first time I ever tried it - I was SO nervous and felt SO stupid! It taught me to embrace a whole new level of confidence in my performance, how to to grab people’s attention and try to keep it, and see which songs made people stop and listen. It’s amazing training and a soulful, old-school transaction between your own creativity and a moving audience."
Photo credit: Piper Ferguson
Born in 1975, Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall (not short for anything, the KT is just an alternate spelling of Katie) comes from the quaint university town of St. Andrews. Due in part by being adopted at birth, her imagination and creative side flourished from early on as she thought about how her life could have gone in any given direction. As she was growing up, her physicist father would take Tunstall and her brothers into the St. Andrews observatory to look at the sky, thus fueling her youthful love for space and sci-fi. It wasn't until discovering hair metal through a brother that music really did start to become important to her, and when it did, her affection for spacy things was reflected in her favorite album, David Bowie's Hunky Dory.
Tunstall picked up playing piano and flute at a young age, learned to sing by listening to Ella Fitzgerald, and began writing her own songs in her mid-teens. At 16, she taught herself the guitar and continued to hone her writing skills with sentimental love songs. A scholarship to the Kent School, a private prep school in Connecticut, brought her experiences outside of St. Andrews and Scotland. She formed her first band there, the Happy Campers, and enjoyed seeing shows by 10,000 Maniacs and the Grateful Dead. Next came a music course at London's Royal Holloway College, before heading back home and immersing herself in the local grassroots scene that birthed bands like the Fence Collective and the Beta Band.
KT returned to London and began writing more songs, many of which would appear on her subsequent album. She entered a backwoods Wiltshire studio with minimal instruments in tow and Steve Osborne (U2, New Order) at the controls. The end result was her glossy debut, Eye to the Telescope, released in the UK in January 2005. Highlighting her soulful voice, sassy attitude, and earthy songwriting approach, comparisons to Dido, Fiona Apple, and Kate Melua soon sparked. Following the record's release, Tunstall hit all over Europe, including shows supporting Joss Stone and singing with Oi Va Voi. Feeling an acoustic guitar was sometimes too limiting, her live show incorporated the use of an Akai Headrush foot pedal that allowed her to spot-record multiple times (loop each section continuously), thus turning Tunstall into her own one-woman backup band.