Happy Thursday Friends!
If you can’t tell, I’m in a particularly good mood this sunny Thursday afternoon. I promised you all a post gushing about an amazing female singer-songwriter, KT Tunstall, and here it is. Last night’s show was amazing, a solo show where KT got to play with her “Taiwanese orchestra” of drum pads, guitar pedals, synths, guitars, and a digital piano. I didn’t know it was the case before I entered the venue, having seen KT play with her stellar band last September, but this allowed for some songs we didn’t get to hear with the band last fall and it was a complete blast.
Let me give you all a little background on how I discovered KT and her music eleven years ago and how I got to where I am today as a fan. I was 13 around this time of year, January-February of 2006. Eighth grade certainly had its ups and downs, mostly on personal fronts, but KT’s video for one of her now signature songs, “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” started popping up on VH-1 morning music videos (remember when they actually played them?) and I heard a voice and musical arrangement unlike any other I’d heard before–this raspy yet strongly melodic voice with this rhythmic acoustic guitar part that reminded me of why I initially fell in love with rhythmic female guitar players like Sheryl Crow and Jewel at the age of 4. I would later learn that KT creates a lot of these sounds on her own using a loop pedal, which repeats short samples of sound that can be played live on stage. I soon bought her debut record, Eye to the Telescope, and would listen to it top to bottom at home, on my iPod on the way home from school, anywhere I could. The album’s 12 tracks had/still have a very unified sound, while still having songs distinct from one another, which, in my experience as lifelong music fan, is a hard balance to strike. Everyone of KT’s 5 albums and interspersed EP’s since has managed to do the same.
While we’re on the subject of the albums, one of the other aspects I love about KT’s music is that while each album as its own entity has a unifying sound within itself, each record has a distinct sonic flavor and landscape. 2006’s Eye to the Telescope (which, incidentally was released in the UK in 2004) had lots of acoustic guitars, drums and rhythm, along with a couple of fingerpicked guitar ballads and a piano song. 2007’s follow-up, Drastic Fantastic, continued a similar sound with perhaps more electric guitars and variations in tempo on the songs. A more significant change came with 2010’s Tiger Suit, which incorporated electronic and dance influences into her existing blues-pop-rock established sound. After a divorce and loss of her father, 2013’s Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon was a folk record recorded in Tuscon, AZ, with a palpable southwestern flavor to it and a delightful return to the piano on some songs that we’d only heard bits and pieces of on previous works. Now we get to 2016’s Golden State EP and KIN, which was born out of an originally planned hiatus and a move from London, UK, to Venice Beach, CA, to work on film scoring and composing, but she soon had her pop songs coming back to her that she couldn’t ignore, and KT herself has described KIN as almost the true follow-up to Eye to the Telescope, because it hadn’t been since that the overarching theme was big choruses, melodies, and rhythms. As much as I love Drastic Fantastic, I have to agree with KT on this point.
That brings us back to September 2016, the first time I’d gotten a chance to see KT live. I knew from performance videos and I’d seen and my decade-long following her music and career, but at a standing room gig in a rock club, I got the extra privilege of standing in the row just behind the stage barrier. When KT took the stage, she began her riff of the opening number, “If Only,” she jumped off the mic which was just to my left, and we locked eyes for about 5 seconds or so, and I thought that was going to be the coolest thing that happened that night. It only got better. The entire 17-18 song set was fantastic, and as I exited the venue, I learned that the only place for the bus to drive to retrieve KT, her band and her crew was directly in front of the venue where I’d been waiting for my ride home, and I waited with other loyal fans to say hi and get the set list which I had gotten from the stage autographed–the first photo you’ll see at the end of this post was from that meeting.
Fast forward again to Christmas 2016 and I was alerted by a friend that KT was coming again to Wilmington, DE, for a show in February. Unlike the Philly show however, this would be a seated theater setting. I wasn’t sure where or even if I’d be able to say hello again to KT, but one cool thing about our meeting in September was that she followed me back on Twitter when I posted our picture together, so as a shot in the dark, I sent her a private message on Twitter asking who I could contact to meet the bus after the show. She did me one better, agreeing to meet and chat for a few minutes and get a few pictures back stage after the show. Another funny moment before the show was over, as I stood up to walk back, she saw me and waved and shouted my name into the mic to get the whole room to applaud, making me feel equal parts honored and playfully embarrassed. Let me tell you all a little more about KT just as a human being: You can get a slight sense of how fun and laid-back she is from interviews, but she really is the most caring, unassuming individual you’ll ever meet, completely down to Earth. In our first meeting, she said she would’ve remembered me due to my energy, even if I hadn’t stayed to meet. In last night’s meeting, she even took time to ask how I’d been, where I was from and even about this blog, and told her I’d planned to write this post today and said she’d look forward to me tweeting her once it was finished. Yes, that’s the level of cool KT is, friends.
I’ll conclude with writing a few words directly to you, KT (or Katie, as you lovingly let me call you), since I know this chance comes once in a lifetime where I know you’ll be reading this. Thank you for your music and keeping going. Thank you for being transparent about your life which inspires me to be unafraid to be transparent about mine. Thanks for immortalizing that it’s best to go for your dreams and be unafraid to fall on your ass with your songs “Suddenly I See” and “All or Nothing,” and that sometimes all we need is to embrace our environment and loved ones in “The Healer.” Thanks for reminding me that love is worth waiting for in “Love is an Ocean”–which, by the way, I’d love to hear you play next time we see each other, just a subtle nudge, lol. Thank you for encouraging me to keep writing, both essays like this one and music on which you’ve had a huge influence. Thank you for just being, as you might say in your native Scotland, so fucking cool and a respite from the shite (yes, with an e) that life can bring. Thank you for meeting me, remembering me, and I look forward to many more shows in years to come.
To my readers: If you only know KT from “Black Horse,” “Suddenly I See,” and/or “Hold On,” please check out her beautifully diverse catalog I’ve mentioned in this post. You won’t regret it.
See you all this weekend for thoughts on stress and anxiety management. Katie, thank you again for being amazing and inspiring this post which was a complete joy to write.