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KT Tunstall — Glasgow Walking Tour Blog

Here at Glasgow Music City Tours, we have been known to share with our guests the tale of KT Tunstall’s big break on Later with Jools Holland (there is a Glasgow connection) in late 2005.

Fifteen years on, she remains one of Scotland’s most respected, engaging and resourceful musicians, who always has an interesting, eloquent perspective on life.

Tunstall has been based in Los Angeles for the last seven years, and we were delighted to catch up with her, via Zoom, from her brand new home in Topanga Canyon, with her rescue dog Mini (“as in Mini Cooper”) at her side, to hear her thoughts on this most turbulent year.

In the first instalment of our two-part interview, Tunstall talks about how the pandemic has forced musicians to have a creative rethink and how she’s been raving with her fans on membership platform Patreon. But we begin with Tunstall on the last flight out of Heathrow as lockdown descended in March…

I was heading back to America to tour the f*** out of 2020. It was probably my busiest gigging year since the early days. So it got completely decimated. And it’s a bit scary.

But I think it’s really good in that it’s forced me to look at what I’m doing. My business model is not particularly strong as a touring musician. I was working as hard as I’ve ever worked and really not seeing a return that matches what I was putting in. The one thing that I suspected but I wasn’t sure about is that I don’t miss touring, and I thought that I would really hanker after it.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying having time at home. I’ve just spent the last decade and a half on the road. I’m not in my bed more than I am, I travel all over the world with guys and girls that I see more than their husbands and wives do. It’s just such a bizarre existence and it’s really nice to find myself living a really small, simple life for a bit.

I’m a big believer that limitation breeds creativity and as a musician we all have to get incredibly creative right now to work out what the hell we can do to all keep doing what we love doing. I certainly have been through some really revealing periods of reflection during this time. My experience is of a revelatory shift into being very directly in touch with fans, realising that the power of sharing your experiences and sharing who you are is extremely powerful for other people’s wellbeing.

For a long time I’ve really loved the idea of having a more old school fanclub. I really believe if streaming disappeared overnight musicians would be a lot less well known and they’d be a lot better off, and you’d just have a more localised, old school connection with people who like what you do and they’ll pay for it. And that’s basically what Patreon is.

All my fans are so creative. I do a rave every week, so I play remixes and we all dance together – and they’re all turning their rooms into nightclubs and making their own outfits. And that got me thinking everyone’s got something to offer, so we started doing tutorials. We’ve had a samba tutorial, we’re doing a collage class together, another girl is teaching us how to knit. It’s turning into this really cool community hub where I’m the reason everyone’s coming to that specific place but everybody’s got something to offer.

I’ve just had absolutely amazing messages from people since launching it, just saying that it’s provided them with joy and peace and friendship – they’ve all made friends with each other, people from Dunfermline are making friends with people from Sao Paolo. It’s a really beautiful thing to see. I would really encourage any new artist to use it because it’s cultivating a fanbase that is invested in you making work for them.