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
. Around this time, KT was also listening to a lot of Billie Holiday
, Lou Reed
, and James Brown
, among others, and soon formed a group with the Fence Collective's Pip Dylan.
Fast forward a few years. 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 U.K. in January 2005 on Relentless
. 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 toured 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 her into her own one-woman backup band.
Early 2006 continued to be bright for Tunstall as Telescope was released in the United States that February, and she won Best British Female Solo Artist at the Brits. Meanwhile, her first single, "Black Horse & the Cherry Tree," continued to do very well on American adult alternative radio. KT Tunstall's Acoustic Extravaganza was issued that fall; it included acoustic tracks (both new and old) recorded the previous Christmas along with a bonus making-of DVD. In 2007, Tunstall returned to the scene with her poppier Drastic Fantastic. Three years later, she recorded her third album, Tiger Suit, at Berlin's Hansa studio, the same place where Bowie
recorded Heroes. The album appeared in the fall of 2010. She followed the set with Live in London, March 2011, and later in the year with an EP titled The Scarlet Tulip, which was recorded in her home studio with co-producer Luke Bullen.
After a break from touring, Tunstall reentered the studio in late 2012 and recorded her fifth album, Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon, which appeared in June of 2013. The album, inspired both by the death of her father and the dissolution of her four-year marriage, marked an inward turn for Tunstall, comprising mainly acoustic and lo-fi numbers. Her second live album, Live Islington Assembly Hall, was recorded on the June 20, 2013 stop of the supporting tour and included a cover of Don Henley
's "Boys of Summer" and a rare deep cut, "Alchemy," from the Scarlet Tulip EP. In June 2016, Tunstall released the four-song Golden State EP, an upbeat affair that included the single "Evil Eye." It was the precursor to that September's KIN, a bright, colorful album produced by Tony Hoffer. ~ Corey Apar, Rovi