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Scottish singer's debut gig at prestigious concert venue
KT Tunstall plays Birmingham's Symphony Hall for the first time on November 13. Having previously performed at venues like the city's O2 Academy, the more sophisticated Symphony Hall is probably better suited for the 37-year-old singer's new stripped-back, acoustic songs she'll be playing from her latest album, Invisible Empire// Crescent Moon.
The record contrasts with her previous release, the electronic-tinged Tiger Suit. Following the long tour that accompanied its release KT decided to go back to basics, initially releasing an acoustic EP, The Scarlet Tulip, in 2011. "It was so easy and so relaxed," she admits. "It was great. And that fed into enjoying the idea of stripping back completely. I'd spent six years on a pretty full tilt ride, whilst doing what I was doing within a very pop formula. So while I wasn't always producing typical pop music, the way I was recording it, and the way those albums were getting to people, were in a pretty standard fashion in terms of being a pop artist signed to a major label. I needed things to change."
After scoring a worldwide hit with her debut album Eye To The Telescope in 2005, which sold more than four million copies worldwide, KT released Drastic Fantastic and Tiger Suit in 2007 and 2010 respectively.
Significant encounters: KT Tunstall
Before recording Invisible Empire// Crescent Moon, however, there were a series of encounters that confirmed to KT that she was on the right track with her plans for change. Firstly, she was invited to tour with her friend King Creosote (Kenny Anderson) and his duet partner Jon Hopkins. She says she loved travelling round the UK, experiencing "totally silent and emotional" audiences. "Seeing people really desperate for something meaningful and something beautiful," she elaborates. "And something executed passionately and with real craft. It was just such an antidote to a lot of stuff that's out there at the moment."
Secondly, KT was asked by Jools Holland to join his Big Band. For the first time she began to see herself not as a musician but as a singer. ''So this album is about singing and it's about my voice,'' she states. ''That was what I wanted to be the centrepiece of the album, which I'd not done before."
The third significant event was singer Robyn Hitchcock inviting KT to join a touring show called The Floating Palace alongside fellow musicians Martin and Eliza Carthy, Krystle Warren and Howe Gelb. "Completely opposing musicians," KT smiles, "but we all played as each other's band, and it was great."
New album: KT Tunstall's Invisible Empire// Crescent Moon
She and Howe Gelb hit it off and he suggested she should record in his favourite studio in Tucson, Arizona. The initial sessions lasted just ten days but the result was enough tracks for half the album. Before completing the record KT experienced two major changes in her life which influenced the music on the second half of the LP. Her father, David, died in August 2012 and a month later KT separated from her husband, Luke Bullen, who had been the drummer in her band.
Invisible Empire// Crescent Moon was completed in November 2012 and there's a noticeable difference between the songs recorded in the two sessions. The early tunes are introspective, the later ones more positive as KT finds ways to deal with the extreme emotions experienced over the summer. She says it's demonstrated on the track Feel It All, the album's first single. "It's probably the most personal song for me on the album," she says. "I started that just before dad died and I finished it just after my split. So it was absolutely birthed out of the intensity of those two things happening. It was real medicine for me, that song.''
KT plays the following dates in October/ November, 2013:
31st October – Ulster Hall, Belfast 1st November – Olympia Theatre, Dublin 2nd November – Seapoint, Galway
4th November - St. David's Hall, Cardiff
5th November - Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth
6th November – Derngate, Northampton
9th November - Colston Hall, Bristol
10th November – Dome, Brighton
12th November - York Barbican
13th November - Symphony Hall, Birmingham
14th November - The Anvil, Basingstoke
16th November - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
17th November - Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London
18th November - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
20th November - Sage 1, Gateshead
21st November – Academy, Glasgow
22nd November – Concert Hall, Perth