I was burnt out on making records says Jimmy’s Farm headliner KT Tunstall

KT Tunstall will close Jimmy's Festival tonight. Photo: Contributed

KT Tunstall will close Jimmy's Festival tonight. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

KT Tunstall, headlining Jimmy’s Festival tonight, talks to entertainment writer Wayne Savage about “breaking up” with making records and starting a new chapter in her life.

Nothing great ever comes from things being easy says the Scottish singer-songwriter, closing Jimmy’s Festival this weekend.

She’s been through a lot of changes. Losing her father and divorcing her husband, Norwich-born drummer Luke Bullen, in 2013 were everything she says.

“I felt like my soul woke up and up until then I had been asleep at the wheel. I’ve grown up a lot, sorted out my priorities, cleared out my contact list in my phone so it’s just people who are good for me and vice verse and I hope I always keep changing. I put it down to making the conscious decision to change things. My music is the soundtrack to all of that.”

Needing a bubble where she could find a balance between working and having time to herself she relocated to Los Angeles’ Venice Beach where she’s found a tranquillity there that she hasn’t experience in any other city.

“I was burnt out on making records and the industry of putting them out, so I moved to the US to make music for film. It took a year of ‘breaking up’ with making records and lots of drives through the LA canyons listening to Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty for the excitement to return.”

The result, last year’s Kin, has seen KT cut herself free from what she’s called a disempowering, disabling search for approval which has been heavy baggage for a long time. The album was a return to innocence, honesty and fun.

“I got to a new place by taking a very long, hard look at myself and my behaviour as well as the choices I had made and got to work on fixing the parts of myself that needed healing and educating myself in the parts of me that needed to grow. It wasn’t easy and it never will be, but nothing great ever comes from things being easy.”

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You can hear the changes in the songs, penned during writing retreats at Joshua Tree where she holed up in a cabin, sitting wrapped in a blanket outside playing new songs to rock formations and stars. She did the same in New Mexico, getting up, chopping wood, building a fire and spending six or seven hours a day just writing while the snow fell.

Returning to LA, she teamed up with powerhouse producer Tony Hoffer - who’s worked with the likes of Beck, Air and The Kooks - where she also drew on her recent experience studying film score composition at the Sundance Film Institute Composers Lab, at Skywalker Ranch, to carve out and create what she feels is her best and most visceral work to date.

“I didn’t used to love the studio, but can’t wait to get in there these days. I am definitely both of those things [a live and studio artist] after many years of experience in how to achieve the things I want in the studio.”

The Suddenly I See singer describes Kin as rambunctious, anti-slick, pro-wild, psychedelic emotional pop, allowing the songs to misbehave while still staying rooted in traditional songwriting.

“I feel like there’s a progression, which I would always need with a new record; but also in many ways this feels like the start of a second chapter of my life. The album was a phoenix out of the ashes of a really hard time in my life and in many ways it feels the closest in spirit to my first record. I think mostly because it is made with carefree creative freedom.

“Most of my fans seem to be loving it, it’s a very joyous yet still deeply emotional album. I love music you can dance and cry to at the same time. I’ve seen online that a few fans feel the new record is a bit polished sounding, but I make different sounding records every time. It’s very important for me that I remember it’s not my job to worry about pleasing everyone, I have to just concentrate on following my heart and making my best work.”

As for what Jimmy’s Festival fans can expect when she takes the main stage at the Wherstead farm at 9.30pm tonight?

“Knees up, hands in the air, you know the words to this one, let me hear you say ‘WOOOO HOOOOOO’.”

• Other highlights today include children’s TV presenters Dick ‘n’ Dom, Great British Bake Off quarter-finalist Martha Collison and X-Factor winner Matt Cardle. Were you at Jimmy’s Festival yesterday? See if you spot yourself in our gallery.