KT Tunstall - Biography

KT TunstallKate "KT" Tunstall (born June 23rd 1975) is a singer-songwriter from St Andrews, Fife, Scotland.

Personal life

Tunstall was born in Edinburgh, and was subsequently adopted. Her father is a physicist, and her mother is a school teacher. Tunstall also has an older brother named Jo and a younger brother named Daniel, who has a hearing impairment; the Tunstalls brought up their children in a home without a television or stereo, as the devices interfered with Daniel's hearing aid. (Not being a television fan, Tunstall did not know that Katharine McPhee sang "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" on American Idol until later on when somebody else notified her).

In her twenties, Tunstall met her biological mother, who told her that her biological father was a folk musician.

She spent time performing on the famous Church Street in Burlington, Vermont and at a commune in rural Vermont.

Tunstall is currently dating drummer Luke Bullen (The Mescaleros, John Squire). She has indicated her intention to live in Edinburgh with Bullen.


Tunstall studied at the High School of Dundee; Madras College in St Andrews; Kent School, Connecticut; and at Royal Holloway. Throughout her twenties she mostly played in independent bands including Elia Drew and Tomoko, and focused on songwriting. Her debut album, Eye to the Telescope, was released in late 2004. Tunstall's style of music varies from folk to pop. In Edinburgh and St Andrews she played in a band called Red Light Stylus who were regarded as one of the better bands to emerge from the limited Fife scene.

Tunstall's first appearance of note was a solo performance of "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" on Later with Jools Holland. The performance was notable as she had only twenty-four hours to prepare after scheduled performer Nas cancelled due to his father's ill health. Her performance caught the eye of many viewers, upstaging more established acts such as The Cure, Embrace, and The Futureheads, and she then went on to top the post-show poll on the website for that episode.

Shortly after the "Later" appearance, Eye to the Telescope was rereleased, and shot up the UK charts, eventually peaking at three (on its first release it had entered at seventy-three); it was nominated for the 2005 Mercury Music Prize. It was released in the U.S. on February 7 2006.

Tunstall released a new acoustic album in May 2006, KT Tunstall's Acoustic Extravaganza, which is only available as a CD from her website, although downloadable versions are available from online music shops.

Tunstall is currently working with Scottish band Travis on their newest album, due for release in 2006.

Live performances

Tunstall is known for her live performances in which she becomes a one-woman band. She has toured extensively since and plans to tour after the release of her next album, which is to be recorded in late 2006.

Since her debut appearance on Later with Jools Holland, she has returned to the show to perform "Suddenly I See", "Under the Weather", "Tangled up in Blue" (she performed the same song, as well as "Simple Twist of Fate" and "This Wheel's on Fire" on a BBC 4 Bob Dylan tribute) and an Ella Fitzgerald song ("Ain't Misbehavin'" by Fats Waller) with Jools Holland on piano.

She ended 2005 on New Year's Eve by performing at Edinburgh's Concert in the Gardens alongside Scottish band Texas.

During her concerts, Tunstall uses an AKAI E2 headrush loop pedal on stage, which she affectionately calls "Wee Bastard".


In addition to the Mercury Music Prize nomination, Tunstall received three Brit award nominations when they were announced on 11 January 2006. Tunstall was nominated for Best British Live Act, British Breakthrough Act, and British Female Solo Artist. At the ceremony on 15 February 2006, Tunstall performed "Suddenly I See" and won the award for Best British Female Solo Artist, remarking that she wished to share it with fellow nominee Kate Bush.

Other credits

Tunstall also appears on the Sophie Solomon song "Lazarus", on the album Poison Sweet Madeira, and provided guest vocals for three tracks, "Ladino Song", "Refugee", and "Yesterday's Mistake", on the Oi Va Voi album Laughter Through Tears (2003). She has also performed "Get Ur Freak On" by Missy Elliott and "High and Dry" by Radiohead at Live Lounge. Tunstall's seventh single, "Another Place to Fall", featured a cover of Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees". She appears in the last album of the japanese singer YUKI, where she wrote "Yume Miteitai" and "Birthday".

During her early songwriting career, Tunstall has also written and performed music for children's television shows, but remains secretive as to which shows in particular.


When asked about her nickname, "KT", by Ken Bruce on BBC Radio 2 in a pre-BRIT Awards 2006 interview, she said that it is just an abbreviation of the initials of her name, Kate Tunstall. While a student at Royal Holloway, University of London she performed on an acoustic guitar in a student bar, under the name "Katie". She was also known as the Princes Street Busker, and headlined the 2006 Edinburgh's Hogmanay Celebration.

In an interview on XM Satellite Radio (Hear Music, Channel 75) in 2006 she said that PJ Harvey was the inspiration for her abbreviating her name.


  • Tunstall sparked some controversy in 2005 when she publicly bashed singer/songwriter Dido, stating that the artist "can't fucking sing" after several fans compared the two musically. Tunstall later apologized, stating that she did not want to be involved in a public feud.
  • Due to some of her songs containing ambiguous lyrics, some fans (especially lesbians) were interested to know whether she is also gay, but she has stated that she is not. The lesbian rumours were fuelled by a demo version of "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" which surfaced on the Internet in April 2005. It has different backing vocals to the released version, with the phrase "pubes in the teeth" being chanted between the "woo hoo" refrain. Tunstall told lesbian magazine Diva in June that the recording had been made as a joke during some drunken hijinks at a recording session and was later leaked without her knowledge.
  • In May 2006, "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" was covered twice by Katharine McPhee on American Idol, as well as young Croatian singer, Nika Turkovic.
  • "Suddenly I See" was used during the opening credits of the Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway film The Devil Wears Prada, as well as the farewell music for female contestants eliminated from the television show So You Think You Can Dance.
  • "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" is used in the trailer for Men in Trees, due to its boost popularity from Katharine McPhee's performance on American Idol.
  • Some critics believe that Black Horse and the Cherry Tree's "woo hoo" refrain was similar (or copied) from The Pointer Sisters song "Neutron Dance."

KT Tunstall Official Website

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