Entertainment & Arts

Comeback? Don't call it that, says KT Tunstall

Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall has returned with a new record and fresh sound. Just don't call it a comeback, she says.

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Media captionKT Tunstall performs a track from her new album on The Andrew Marr Show

"I thought it was brilliant," says KT Tunstall of the 'meat dress' Lady Gaga wore at the MTV Video Music Awards earlier this month.

"I love people who confuse and shock whilst being a positive force, and I think she is a positive force.

"She has provoked an awful lot of conversation with that dress, and I really appreciate what she has to say," she continues.

"She's an exciting, provocative presence in music. You'd really have to refrigerate it, though!"

The 35-year-old singer is not here to discuss the sartorial choices of America's most photographed pop star.

Confidence crash

But a clothes-based connection can certainly be made with Tiger Suit, the title of the Edinburgh-born performer's third album.

Named after a recurring dream involving a tiger in her garden, the album marks KT's return to the limelight after a year spent touring and two years writing.

Image caption Tunstall's song Suddenly I See featured in The Devil Wears Prada

That extended hiatus has led many to see this as a new beginning - a notion she both entertains and resists.

"The word comeback has definitely been bandied around. I don't know what that means," she shrugs.

"I would have thought that was what Kate Bush did when she came back with Aerial after 12 years. But no, apparently 24 months is a comeback period."

However, she does concede that her third record - after Eye to the Telescope in 2004 and 2007's Drastic Fantastic - sees her expanding her sound into previously unexplored areas.

"Yes, I think it warrants a new direction sticker," she nods of a record which sees her customary guitar-based pop fused with elements of electronica and dance music.

"Mine is a traditional form of songwriting," she says. "I come from a folk background so it's not a very expected mash-up.

"I've certainly always been rather suspicious and quite frightened of repeating myself with albums. It's not something that appeals.

"With this one it was a case of digging down deep and finding out what is turning me on now, six years after the first album and three years on from the second."

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Media captionKT Tunstall on travelling, singing and why she loves the music of Elvis Presley

Citing LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip as influences, Tunstall also says a trip to the Arctic Circle in 2008 was a major turning point.

"I had a huge confidence crash while I was there and I decided I wanted to stay," she smiles.

Her memories of that visit informed Uummannaq Song, the driving opening track on Tiger Suit and one that takes its name from a remote village in Greenland.

"It was a big deal to me that it was the first track," she says. "Chronologically, it's a gateway into the album."

The music industry is not short of female singer-songwriters, with rising US star Lissie or Celtic balladeer Amy McDonald with whom KT is often confused.

Did Tunstall fear that in taking a break from what she calls "the crazy hamster wheel of success", there might not be a place for her when she chose to return?

"It is a very gelatinous business," she agrees. "You take a step away from your space and it moulds behind you.

Image caption Lady Gaga's meat dress was the talk of the MTV Video Music Awards

"But as soon as I stopped worrying I found it enormously liberating and realised how much I needed a break from all the madness.

"I'm a feral person to start with, and all the success had made me feel quite caged and enclosed," she continues.

"I'm sure I'll lose some fans with the new album, but I've experienced making some new ones already in people who like its more experimental nature."

The reviews have so far been positive, with Uncut magazine applauding "a sonically adventurous effort" and Q celebrating its "emotional rawness and sense of purpose".

No matter how her new record is received, Tunstall knows she can always count on a dedicated live following.

"A very nice effect of having success is there is a live audience out there," she says from behind a fetching set of pink-framed spectacles.

"I think that's available to me, regardless of who else is out there making music and playing the same kind of thing."

Tiger Suit by KT Tunstall is released on 27 September.

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