Interview: KT Tunstall talks about her new album ‘Tiger Suit’

10.05.10 8 years ago

Some people ask WWJD–What Would Jesus Do– as a guide to their actions. KT Tunstall has WWPSD and WWCHD? That would be What Would Patti Smith Do and What Would Chrissie Hynde Do?

The rock legends represent her tent poles as to how the Scottish singer/songwriter wants to guide her own career. And it’s serving her just fine so far,TYVM (thank you very much).

Tunstall’s  third album, “Tiger Suit,” come out on Virgin Records today and it’s a Tigger-sized bounce forward for the artist. She combines her largely acoustic instrumentation with dance and electronic textures for a sound she calls “nature techno.” Works for us. Read our review here.

The mainly upbeat album is fronted by first single, “Fade Like a Shadow,” a bouncy uplifting track about a sad subject matter—moving on from a love. It is easily as catchy as her previous hits “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and “Suddenly I See.”

The album title comes from a recurring dream that Tunstall had as a child where she would go outside and fearlessly play with a tiger in her yard. She realized that maybe she was a tiger too. Putting on her “Tiger Suit,” now, as Tunstall puts it, is “about the cojones” to do what you believe.  It also described the “metaphorical suit” she puts on stage.

As she grew more successful–her debut album, “Eye to the Telescope,” sold 1.3 million in the U.S.– Tunstall realized she was wearing the suit all the time, even when she needed to be vulnerable, such as when she was writing. “My psychologist friend calls it ‘zippering up your aura.’ It means you’re not letting anyone damage you, but you’re also not letting too much of yourself let go,” even when you need too. Now, she’s learned to take off her aura and tiger suit and strip herself bare when she’s writing. “That’s done at home with a cardigan with a shot of whiskey,” she says. “I go way Hemingway when I write.”

For “Tiger Suit,” she unzipped herself and wrote songs that had her “fired up,” when it came time to get back into the studio. She also paired with such writers as Linda Perry, best known for her work with Christina Aguilera and Pink, and Greg Kurstin, who was Grammy nominated for his work with Lily Allen. She also worked with past collaborators Martin Terefe and Jimmy Hogarth. “Most of the singles you’ve had in the U.S. are all songs I’ve written on my own,” she says. “I’m very proud of that, but at the same time, I’ve realized the richness of writing with someone else. It really takes you to places you’d never go on your own.”

One place Tunstall will never go–on her own or with others– is to prance around scantily clad like many other female artists. in fact, Tunstall recently found herself embroiled in a mini-scandal when she told Britain’s Daily Record that Shakira’s explicit, sexual video for “She Wolf,” “shocked me and I am not easily shocked…It is shocking, but it seems they need to shock to get attention.”

She plays down the riff a few months later, as she talks to Hitfix. She says she’s never been pushed by her label to sex up her image like it seems so many current female artists are.  “I think they know better than to bother trying,” she says. “They knew what they were getting when they signed me. I was 27 when I was signed. I was less malleable.”
Tunstall followed up “Eye of the Telescope” with 2007’s “Drastic Fantastic,” which failed so capture as large an audience. But Tunstall doesn’t measure her success by album sales. In a statement sure to make her label blanch, she says, “If I never sold another record, but could still play gigs, I’d be happy.”

She goes one step further: “If someone said to me you can make music and record music for as long as you want, but never be able to play music for people again, I don’t know if I’d do it…A song isn’t finished for me until I share it.”


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