KT Tunstall walked onto the stage wearing the same hat she dons on the cover of her new album – the two-titled “Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon”.
On the cover, she is looking contemplatively into the Arizona desert.
On stage, in front of a small invited crowd of fans at Apogee Studio, she displayed the same charm, irreverence and pure confidence we’ve come to expect from the Scottish singer, as she performed a solo acoustic set of songs about love and death.
As host Jason Bentley said during the interview, the album sounds like a “deep exhale”.
KT agreed and said it is both a return to her roots and a real progression.
It was written in two sessions. The first group of songs “just fell out”, including “Carried”, a contemplative reflection on mortality that preceded the unexpected death of her father, and the melancholic show opener “Invisible Empire”, which was one of the highlights of the night.
After the loss of her father, which was followed by the end of her marriage, she said she entered the second recording session, with producer Howie Gelb, as “almost a different person.”
The Crescent Moon is a symbol of rebirth and songs written during that time were unabashedly about love. She described her song “Honeydew” as super cheesy, saying her internal “cheese alert” was flashing and making noises but she ignored it and wrote the track anyway. It begins with the line “all I want is to be everything to you.”
She told stories about almost every song for a rapt audience and it’s clear she’s was excited to play her new tracks live in LA for the first time.
One of my favorites was “Yellow Flower”, which was written as a poem and then set to music. She sat down at the keyboard and told the crowd about how she took piano lessons for many years but has only written two songs on the instrument – “the most expensive songs you’ll ever hear.”
She ended the session with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” and then joked about being lynched if she didn’t play the big hit that helped her sell millions of records – “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree”.
I remember when I saw someone cover that song on American Idol and suddenly this singer-songwriter I held close to my heart like a secret was on a world stage I had never expected.
I’m not sure she expected that level of fame either but she is clearly happy to be right where she is at this very moment — no longer on a major label, writing songs outside of anyone’s expectations and judgment, and “listening for feel” instead of technical perfection.
Her newfound creative freedom is all over “Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon”, out today on Blue Note records. Tune in on August 15 to hear the session, recorded by producer Bob Clearmountain, live on Morning Becomes Eclectic.
KT TUNSTALL LIVE ON KCRW SET LIST
WAITING ON THE HEART
OLD MAN SONG
FEEL IT ALL
MADE OF GLASS
BLACK HORSE AND THE CHERRY TREE