By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
The Women’s World Cup is returning to Killington, Nov. 24-25. Besides top skiers, you also get four top music acts. KT Tunstall is playing Saturday in between runs. She is currently in the midst of a U.S. tour.
Tunstall is looking forward to returning to Vermont. She spent time in Burlington and used to play on Church Street. She explained “One of my most prized pieces of paper is the ‘Busking Permit for Life’ I got from the city of Burlington. I’m allowed to busk for free anytime I like. Vermont’s a very special place in my heart. It’s very similar to Scotland so it felt a lot like home.”
Tunstall (43) grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland, and got a late start in the music business. “I thought I’d go to college in London, find a band, get a record deal. I was content on remaining an independent musician. I didn’t want to sign a record deal, it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. It felt like selling out.”
After 10 years of trying, she decided she needed to speak to record labels. She didn’t sign her deal until she was 28 and then she moved to London. Her song, “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” is kind of what opened the doors for her. In 2004 she sang that song on “Later… with Jools Holland,” an English music television show. “Nas the rapper pulled out and for some reason they thought I was a natural replacement,” Tunstall said. They’ll always have a complete unknown perform.
“It was cool. That was my time. I was able to grab the spotlight,” she said.
She was on the show with Anita Baker, The Cure and Jackson Browne.
“It blew me away. I was just excited to be on. I had no idea what was going to happen.”
A similar thing happened a year later, with “The Today Show.” Usually they book a month in advance, but she was there in the office of the guy who books the acts and ended up getting on. In 2006, Katherine McPhee sang her song on the finale of “American Idol.” “Usually the contestants play well known songs, but people didn’t know that song. It was a bold choice which I thought was really cool. Next, ‘Suddenly I See’ was in ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’”
As things were moving forward in America, she performed at 2007’s Live Earth Concert. It was a global event and she was the first performer. “That was insane. Someone said I should get the crowd to do the wave. I can’t just wave – nobody knows who I am yet. As soon as I go on I shout, ‘Let’s do a wave.’ It was the coolest thing ever, there were 65,000 people there.”
The last few years, she’s been doing solo tours, which she’s bringing to Killington. “I can make the noise of a band even on my own.”
She’s excited about her new record, “Wax.”
“I found myself complaining there weren’t enough women in rock music playing instruments. I’m an employer, so that’s on me as well.” All the women on the touring side of this album will be female musicians.
“Wax” is her sixth studio album and second in the “soul, body and mind” trilogy. She wanted to make a harder rock record and explore electric guitar. One of her favorite songs is “The Mountain.” “It’s a really interesting song for me. Usually my slower songs are folk driven with sick guitar, but this is much more of a soul, funk vibe.” She also likes “Human Being” which is a harder, heavier song.
Tunstall’s looking forward to World Cup. “I cannot wait. I’m an extremely keen skier and have been since [age] 4. I’m so excited to be a part of it. I’m happy just to be there, just to watch,” she said.
Her parents got her skiing when she was young. “I think it’s such a blessing to start when you’re tiny-tiny. If you can ski Scotland, you can ski anywhere.” That’s similar to the East’s saying. She added, “Scotland is even more East than Vermont is. It’s pretty brutal. You have to wear a little extra padding. There’s a lot more rocks and fences.”
Tunstall didn’t pick up guitar until age 16, but started on the piano when she was 4. “I saw my kindergarten teacher playing it so I forced my parents to get me a secondhand piano. It helped me a lot because now I do song composing and score composition for movies. I think classical training is really helpful for that stuff.” For guitar and voice she never had a lesson and just taught herself.
Her main musical influence is rare – I’ve never had someone tell me this: “I really love the music for ‘Sesame Street.’ The songwriting is excellent. It’s really brilliantly crafted songs and lyrics. It’s absolutely the same standard of any songwriter that you’ll hear. They’re really clever songs,” Tunstall said.
With playing, she loves the circuit that gets closed when she communicates with the audience and the audience communicates back to her. Tunstall explained: “You close both ends of the circuit and you get this crazy electricity with a bunch of strangers who will never be together ever again. It’s a completely unique experience being able to elevate people’s moods and emotions just for that couple hours that you got with them. I’m really grateful I get to do that.”