Tides of KT Tunstall
Is the multimillionselling, plain-speaking KT Tunstall a prude, or the world’s most refreshing pop star?
It’s a grey, blowy afternoon on the Orkney Islands in scotland and in a drowsy pub, Kt tunstall is talking about shakira’s groin.
“shakira is a very talented, genuine, beautiful and graceful artiste,” the scottish singersongwriter says of the pop-superstar and charity activist, “and I think she’s got a career through talent and hard work. (But) there were a couple of scenes from her She Wolf video that I was quite surprised by ‘cause they were so explicit’.”
tunstall – penniless folky-turned five-million-album-selling Brit Award winner; the earthy, impassioned, eco-minded daughter of thrifty academics; fond of a good expletive and a fine whiskey – laughs her throaty laugh. “And I was surprised that shakira would go that far,” she continues.
“You know, she’s got a lot of young fans. Peaches, Courtney Love – they don’t really have little girls listening to their music. And from a feminist standpoint, I think it’s pretty confusing for a little girl to see that.”
she stops to weigh her words. We are discussing shakira because tunstall recently found herself embroiled in a media/blogosphere storm in a D-cup. A scottish tabloid reported the 35-year-old as “singling out” shakira as “the worst offender” when it came to pop stars exploiting their “sexy image”. the shakira-loving twitter hordes were on her case in a flash, bombarding the “stupid b***h” with abuse.
But tunstall insists she did no such thing. she merely questioned the appropriateness of some of the images in the video to shakira’s She Wolf. to the woman who, on winning her 2006 Brit for British Female solo Artiste, shouted “Ladies! Disregard your limits!”, such media-fomented “b***h fights” are gallingly typical.
“I was really, really angry about how that (story) got twisted. Of course I don’t have a problem with sexy music videos,” she sighs. “I’ve just made a sexy music video, for (her new single) Fade Like A Shadow! I like to think it’s sexy anyway. sexuality is such an important part of music. But what I don’t like – and I’m not talking specifically about shakira here – is when the sexual objectification of the female body is used in a way that overshadows the music and it becomes a shock-factor Youtube moment.”
tunstall could do without that. Her idols are Chrissie Hynde and Patti smith. Her real name is Katie tunstall; she adopted the stage name Kt in homage to another uncompromising heroine, PJ Harvey. these are proper artistes, ones who let their brains and their words – not their hips and hair extensions – do the talking.
this is typical tunstall, the plain-speaking, big-selling pop star for whom every day is dress-down Friday. “Can’t really do hour-long conversations about moisturisers,” she mutters.
this overcast Monday in mid-August, tunstall is at the end of a short tour of the scottish Highlands and Islands. the instantly sold-out performances are in pubs and, here in Kirkwall, in the town’s 19th-century former temperance Hall, with capacity for 316 (and two wheelchairs). the low-key shows are functioning as a gentle run-in to a looming, intensely busy promotional trip to the United states, and the release of her third album, Tiger Suit.
It’s a winning collection of bright, melodic songs, her voice rich and bountiful over sturdily strummed guitar and brisk beats – “Eddie Cochrane meets Leftfield” being her idealised sonic palette. It sounds like the rejuvenation of tunstall after the relative failure of 2007’s Drastic Fantastic, which sold “only” one million copies, a quarter of the sales of her 2004 debut, Eye To The Telescope.
Nonetheless, this tour of her homeland’s farthermost nooks has been a gruelling jaunt. tunstall is suffering from what at first seems like a bad case of ferry-lag, but in fact turns out to be gastroenteritis. Right now, though, in the bar of her hotel, her innate cheeriness is seeing her through. As is, one imagines, the companionship of her drummer Luke Bullen, who doubles up as her musical director and