From Can the Can to yes, I can
KT Tunstall reveals her inspirational, trail-blazing rock‘n’roll idol
Herlook, attitude and a string of hit singles helped encourage KT Tunstall to pick up her first guitar.
But Suzi Quatro is not only an inspiration, she’s now a colleague.
KT, who released her new album Wax last week, has been working with Suzi Quatro, who had a string of hits in the ’70s including 48 Crash and Can the Can, on new material.
The pair struck up a friendship after meeting at a tribute to Elvis Presley at Hyde Park in 2010.
And KT, from St Andrews, hopes she can be the positive role model to young girls as Suzi was to her.
She said: “I’ve been working with Suzi Quatro on some songs. She was the first female rock ‘n’ roll musician.
“Her dad was a musician and he didn’t treat her like a girl or a guy, she was just his kid. She started out on drums in his band, and then on bass. She said she didn’t even think about it, she just wanted to do it because it’s what her dad did.
“The important thing is young girls see women in these roles. People like Kim Wilde and Madonna were other women I saw when I was growing up in the 1980s.
“Talk doesn’t mean anything, it’s about seeing women do these things, otherwise there’s that potential to get stuck in a rut, to say, ‘girls don’t do that kind of thing’.
“With Suzi, I’d always known who she was, and what she’d done. I watched Happy Days as a kid and the cover of my album Drastic Fantastic was definitely a nod to her.
“But I think why I particularly loved Suzi wasn’t just because she was the first female rock ‘n’ roll star ever. The fact that I’m a woman is secondary to the fact that I am a musician, and although Suzi was feisty and sassy and fiery, it was about her being a great player.
“There was a very strong connection and she was very gracious to me, she said that she felt that with all the new female musicians, that I was the one carrying on the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll musicianship.”
KT and Suzi have plans to record and release an EP of songs following the current album, which sees KT embark on a tour of the UK and Ireland in March.
“We started writing together and are doing an EP. It’ll be a duo thing. She sent me some demos and that woman has not softened with age. Her voice still sounds amazing. She isn’t given the props she deserves. She’s a total pioneer and I’m honoured to be doing things with her.”
KT reckons the experience of spending time with Suzi has influenced the sound on her new LP, including new single The River.
“I got famous on two incredibly jolly rock ‘n’ roll pop songs,” she said. “But I was always fighting to get that rock ‘n’ roll side of me into things. I think there’s more of that in this new record.”
Earlier this year, KT blazed her own trail, right up Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, as the first female Grand Marshal of the Tartan Day Parade.
She lives in California these days, the epicentre of this year’s #metoo movement, which followed in the wake of sex abuse allegations against major stars in the entertainment industry.
It has given her a unique perspective. She said: “I live in Los Angeles, and you can’t behave in a sexually abusive way in Hollywood anymore. People will out you and it will be taken seriously. Whereas three years ago that would not have happened.” As well as working with the likes Suzi Quatro, she also teamed up with former Franz Ferdinand guitarist Nick McCarthy.
And ex-busker KT’s career has taken another unexpected turn, after she earned her stripes as a composer of movie soundtracks.
She trained at George Lucas’ famed Skywalker Ranch in California working with film industry music veterans like Alan Silvestri, who composed classic theme tunes like Back To The Future and Forrest Gump.
She was one of only six people to be accepted on to the composers lab and has worked on a number of short films since.
She said: “I was the only one who hadn’t done any scoring before. There was a real freedom in getting away from my usual framework.
“Only about two to three percent of film scores in Hollywood are composed by women. Young girls and women have to see other women in these roles before they even think about doing them themselves.”
KT Tunstall is back and ready to rock
Rocker Suzi Quatro