A Musician Sharing Her Music Globally Through Performance and Film
KT Tunstall is a Scottish musician best known for her 2004 song “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.” Her passion for music began at a young age. Since her first performance of her original song.Tunstall has gone on to become a successful singer. She is currently living in L.A., composing original film scores for movies. Her most recent release is the 2016 album KIN. Seoul Journal’s Executive Editor Anthony Al-Jamie talked with her during a break in her very busy schedule to discuss her career and her origins.
SJ: Can you tell me a little bit about your musical background?
Tunstall: It's slightly unusual in that I didn't go to a musical high school, I am the only person in my family who plays an instrument and I was adopted into the family. At the age of four, my music teacher at school was a piano player and I started begging my parents to get me a piano. By the age of 15, I had learned classical flute as well, but the classical world wasn't where my interests lay. I started to write my own material and that's when I picked up a guitar. I taught myself and realized there wasn't a right or wrong way of doing things. I taught myself those skills and the guitar immediately was the mother ship for me to learn how to write songs.
SJ: Why did you go with the stage name of KT?
Tunstall: I'm a big fan of PJ Harvey, and of course with PJ Harvey, it is just the initials of her name. So since my name is Kate Tunstall, I use my initials in my stage name.
SJ: Have you traveled a lot in your career?
Tunstall: That's a huge part of why I love what I do, and it was definitely something that I always dreamt about before I had my success. In some ways it can be a little disappointing because you are so busy with the traveling, the show, the promotions and the interviews that you completely miss the places you are visiting. But the wonderful thing is that you get the sense of it. You get to know some of the people and you know you can find these places that you want to go back and spend some time in. I've been lucky enough to go back and see some amazing places again and again.
SJ: Have you been to South Korea?
Tunstall:: I have! I played one day for a festival in Seoul, I loved it. It is one of the most surreal things I have ever done. It was so cool and we were able to get out of the stage and it was crazy. It was really interesting and so different than anything I've ever seen before.
SJ: And what about Japan? I heard you love Japan.
Tunstall: I could go to a different planet when I go to Japan. My favorite thing about it is that it's an amazing meeting between ancient and modern in one place. Ancient traditions are respected and go along with very old ways of thinking and behaviors and learning strategies that work in perfect harmony with the most futuristic, modern and inventive culture that you can imagine. It's a really beautiful mix. The thing I love about Japanese people is that I feel that Japanese people are very in touch with their child spirit. There's a real mischievous fun element to even adults in Japanese society.
SJ: So I understand that you're involved in composing musical scores for movies.
Tunstall: Yeah, for sure, it's something that I've wanted to be involved in for a long time, but just never really had the time to focus on it. I managed to find the time for it a couple of years ago with the Sundance Composer's lab, which I had some songs accepted into. It was an incredible experience, but it was a huge learning curve. There is much to learn and it doesn't mean that just because you can write songs that you're able to score a film. It definitely depends on one’s own skill set, but I've really had great experiences writing for film so far.
SJ: And do you see yourself doing a lot more musical scores in the future?
Tunstall: Yeah. Very much so, very much so, especially with now that I live in LA. Partially, it was one of the reasons why I moved here was to start working more deeply within in that world. It was quite liberating and quite challenging. And I think living in LA was important to me together with a few important factors that’s been keeping me from regressing as a musician.