KT Tunstall — the voice you know and love behind “Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” and “Suddenly I See” — released her fifth studio album KIN, on Sept. 9, complete with 11 tracks influenced by rock, pop and indie.
After taking some time off to enroll in the Sundance Institute’s Film Composer’s Lab (and drive through L.A.’s canyons while listening to the likes of Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac), Tunstall quietly started working on a new album.
“I didn’t tell anyone I had started writing a record, so the record company wasn’t expecting anything from me and I didn’t have management for that year and a half,” Tunstall told The PHOENIX. “[The album] is really just a message about creating oneself, and really about discovering yourself. It’s about being an architect in your own destiny.”
Having written every song on KIN herself (aside from one track, “Two Way,” which was co-written with the ultra-talented James Bay), Tunstall had the freedom necessary to create an album with sounds stemming from seemingly contrasting genres.
The first song on the album, “Hard Girls,” for example, features synth- bass and reminds Tunstall of John Hughes movies — of “that teenage mixture of anxiety and wonder at life,” she said.
In contrast, the final song on the album, “Love is an Ocean,” evokes the “gentle soul and tender rock of the indie grunge in the ‘90s,” in Tunstall’s words.
Tunstall doesn’t mind not knowing precisely which genre best describes her music.
“It’s actually really cool to straddle both [genres], and it’s really cool to not sit neatly into one box … You certainly don’t need to sell out to sell a record. You can sell a record by making good music,” Tunstall said.
With KIN, Tunstall said she hopes to pay homage to artists such as Carole King, Joni Mitchell and REM, who “push boundaries but still deliver pop melodies that make people buy the record and make DJs play them on the radio.”
Although she has come to terms with being considered a “pop” musician and respects the artistry it demands, Tunstall criticized the genre’s “machine-like attitude toward making music.”
“It’s a weird world now where you might have someone win an award, and 15 people go up to get it. It’s quite difficult to achieve depth of emotion when there’s so many people involved in writing a song,” she said.
Tunstall said she feels she’s come full-circle and is finally able to approach music from a place of pure joy.
“Two years of self-reflection really taught me that vulnerability is such an important aspect in this, but the perfect state of being is to be at your strongest as well as your most vulnerable,” she said.
Tunstall is scheduled to perform at the House of Blues (329 N. Dearborn St.) on Sept. 21. Tickets cost $25 and are available at Kttunstall.com/Live.