‘LA has a suicidal glamour that David Lynch gets. In the hills you can be 10ft from a superstar or a mountain lion’
KT TUNSTALL might well be a born-again beach babe, with the glamorous strip of sand known as Venice at her front door, but she says she still wears shoes. “Well, sometimes. I am growing my hair really, really long though.” Although the place she calls home currently is Los Angeles, more Scotlandfriendly attire is being packed for two appearances in May, first headlining Oban Live, then heading to Perth Concert Hall as part of the city’s Festival of the Arts.
It’s going to be a busy summer, crisscrossing the Atlantic to play US and European shows, and no-one is more surprised than KT that there is new material to debut. An EP called Golden State will be released mid-June, with her fifth album to follow in September. All of this contrary to her intention to concentrate on what has been a successful transition into writing music for film.
“I honestly didn’t expect to be so excited about making another album,” she says, without any adopted Californian drawl but with a lazy timbre that is indicative of a relaxed state of mind. “The title of the EP reflects a few things. Not everyone knows that California is known as the Golden State, so that’s one thing, but it’s a title that expresses my current mood.”
KT is open about the fact that on the 2013 album, Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon, she was “going through a whole load of sh*t that was happening in my personal life”, referring to the death of her father and break-up of her marriage, which happened in rapid succession.
“After that I sold up everything I owned, moved continents, and made a fresh start. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
She also made a break from the cycle of album/promotion/touring that had become relentless in the preceding 10 years since the release of Eye to the Telescope.
“After having success and touring for such a long time, I found it almost impossible to stop. The most difficult thing is that you enjoy what you’re doing. It’s the studio, it’s a gig, it’s where you want to be, so it can be very difficult to say no. In the end you end up completely battered. You realise that you’re nearly dead.”
Of course that’s a sobering and serious thought but perhaps the pacifying effect of the ocean has got to her as she can also joke about what might have been. “I genuinely think that if I hadn’t done what I’ve done, I’d be locked up somewhere in a white gown talking to a plughole. And that would have created an entirely different album.”
If the last album was a chance to exorcise the loss, then this would appear to be the opposite. “One of the songs is called It took me so long to get here, but here I am. It’s the theme of the record really.”
The decision to relocate to the West Coast came with an opportunity to study feature film composition at the Skywalker Ranch of George Lucas. Since then she has written or co-written songs for films including Disney’s Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast and Million Dollar Arm and soundtracks to Winter’s Tale and About Ray.
The intention, she says, was to stop making albums and focus on composition. To be visible to studios being in LA was necessary. She had visited before and enjoyed it, but LA hadn’t been on the list of places to live.
“But what I found out is that, perhaps more than anywhere else I’ve ever been, LA is made up of wildly different areas. They are so far apart too, so you feel like you’re in a completely different town. I had some work in Santa Monica and cycled down to the boardwalk to Venice Beach and it just blew my mind. I saw f**king dolphins! I didn’t see dolphins f**king but you know what I mean.
“The culture of being a beach bum is completely alive and well here. Even people in the entertainment industry take time off. I thought, ‘god I never have weekends off, never mind a week day’.”
There was a fear that this pace of life would slow down the work, but the surroundings proved to be a catalyst rather than having the feared soporific effect.
“My friend Tim Smit, who was behind the Eden Project, did offer to send me a roller blind with a view of Hackney, so I could block out the sunshine and get down to some work.”
In the end, further exploration of the