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KT Tunstall

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KT Tunstall


KT Tunstall was born just knowing she was meant for big things. The adopted child of two academics, born in the college town-cum-golf Mecca of St. Andrews, Scotland, the singer first tried her hand at children's theater, constructing dioramas. While she insists that she only showed marginal musical talent, she's forged a career as a recording artist out of a fierce determination, an engaging but offbeat personality, a knack for spotting telling moments in fractured relationships and then writing about them, and a great love for eccentric music. Tunstall, who was born Kate Victoria (the KT is both an affectation to hide her gender and a homage to PJ Harvey), taught herself guitar from a busker's book at the age of 16, when she spent a year abroad attending high school in Connecticut. Earning pocket change singing on the streets, she knew that her life would never be the same. "I never had a backup plan, nor did I want one," she insists in an exclusive interview with Rhapsody. Returning home to Scotland, she enrolled in the Royal Holloway College, where she studied music by day and listened to the seditious music of Lou Reed, the dark sadness of Billie Holiday, and the proud idiosyncratic rhythms of Tom Waits. She convinced a friend who played mandolin to enter a battle of the bands, and the duo won to everyone's surprise but her own. "I've always thought I was the golden child," she claims with only a little bit of irony, and much humor.

Now everyone agrees. Teaming up with noted producer Steve Osborne, who has been behind the boards with such notable talents as U2, Suede, New Order and Shaun Ryder, she crafted an album, Eye to the Telescope, that was both introspective and feral; a love letter to her physics professor father and a deconstruction of the small, telling moments in human relationships. "My lyrics look closely at relationships, what goes on when to people are sitting close together when no one is watching," she explains. But now everyone seems to be watching. Prominent fans like Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne and the Cure's Robert Smith extol her talents and regularly attend her shows. She has been nominated for Britain's coveted Mercury Prize and a Brit Award for Best Female Solo Artist, but the real accolade is how a song like "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" sticks in the listener's mind. "Our producer Steve Osborne said he didn't get much sleep making this record -- not because we worked such long hours, but because he said he couldn't get my songs out of his head," she says. Now that's a real barometer.
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