After touring the globe with her last album, Tiger Suit, KT Tunstall is kicking back on home turf this summer at a handful of cool UK festivals. The Brit Award-winning singer tells us about the first ever festival she played at; how she loves playing to a Scottish crowd and just why she loves the Isle of Skye.
You’re performing at lots of quirky, independent festivals this summer including the Secret Garden Party in Cambridgeshire, Purbeck Folk Festival in Dorset and Solfest in Cumbria. What do you like about them?
It’s a different experience to play, a more intimate atmosphere. It’s relatively small groups of people making these festivals happen, so I imagine they’ll feel a bit more hand-knitted than the big ones.
The Secret Garden Party has been described as ‘the most beautiful and magical festival in the land’. You played the very first Secret Garden Party in 2004 – what did you think of it?
I think it was the first festival I ever played as a solo act; it blew me away. It really was very beautiful – dappled sunlight through the trees, people lying around covered in flowers and face paint, like some sexy, hedonistic, pagan 70’s movie. I can’t wait to get back to be honest.
The festival takes place in Abbots Ripton, near Huntingdon on the grounds of a Georgian farm house with its own lake and landscaped gardens – what did you think of the location?
I just remember it being totally idyllic. I don’t think I really saw much of it, but I remember looking at the lake during the day and thinking ‘someone’s going to be well surprised by that later.’
The line-up includes the likes of Orbital, Tim Minchin and Utah Saints – who are you looking forward to seeing?
Orbital, definitely. I’m a big Lamb fan too and can’t wait to see them. Very excited!
What’s the plan for your set list? Can we expect any new stuff?
The good thing about playing solo is being so flexible – I can just go with the flow. I’ll definitely play some new stuff, might try a sneaky cover. I’m bringing my arsenal of gadgetry so it’ll definitely get loud!
When you’re not performing, where can we find you: at the bar, on the dance floor or hanging backstage?
I intend to partake in all of the above.
What’s in your British festival survival kit?
Shades, feathers, hip flask, and no plan.
Will you be tinkering with tent poles or glamping it up in a yurt?
Very sadly, I have to be whisked off at the end of the night to continue with my summer’s engagements, but whisk o’ clock will not be early…
You recently returned from recording with Howe Gelb in Arizona, did you take time out to explore the area?
We didn’t have much time sadly as it was too good being in the studio, but we did drive into the beautiful desert to see the 9m (30ft) saguaro cactus. Thousands of them, they look like giants playing musical statues. There’s a vibe out there, a way of life so totally different to here. Nothing rusts…
You’re also part of the Jools Holland Autumn/Winter Tour – what can fans expect?
I have no idea yet. Mr Holland and I have yet to decide what we’ll play, but I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be pretty different for me to perform with him, and I love opportunities to sing different genres of music.
The tour includes a few gigs in Scotland – is it good to play on home turf? Do you get a different reaction from Scottish crowds?
It’s ace! I’m owned by them and they always let me know! It’s so good to play at home.
You grew up in St Andrews – any favourite haunts or inside info?
My favourite walk is the Elie chain walk, a few miles from St Andrews; amazing coast, it looks like Mars over there…and if you do it at high tide, you’re clinging on to cliff sides by bolted chains with the sea gargling about beneath you.
What is your ultimate place to escape to in Scotland?
Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye. Breathtaking, scary, always makes my life make more sense when I go there. It’s arguably my favourite place on the planet, although I’d miss New York.
I understand you got married on the beautiful Isle of Skye – what do you love about the island?
It’s an amazing mix of soft and hard landscapes; the red and black Cuillin Hills are so dramatic. The people are great; I’ve recorded an album with friends who live there, and we once saw the guy who is entirely (and I mean entirely) tattooed with leopard print at a petrol station. There’s always something new to discover.
After spending a year in good old Blighty, are there any more overseas adventures on the horizon?
My last album, Tiger Suit, was such a crazy schedule – China, Japan, Canada and all over the US, Korea. I’m still loving being at home to be honest! But I know my bag will start calling my name from the cupboard before long…
KT is playing at the Secret Garden Party on 21 July 2012. For details on all gigs for 2012 go to: www.kttunstall.com.