KT Tunstall burst onto the music scene with her 2004 multi-platinum debut, Eye to the Telescope, which spawned the global hits “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and “Suddenly I See.” These songs established Tunstall as a captivating, must-see performer, as well as a songwriter with a singular knack for balancing introspective folk and propulsive rock. “I feel there are two immediate, recognizable pillars of my style,” she says. “I have this troubadour, acoustic guitar-driven emotional side. Then there’s definitely a rocker side of me with sharper teeth.”
In the last few years, the Grammy-nominated Scottish musician has expanded on these musical selves by focusing on a trilogy of records, where each album zeroes in on a single concept: soul, body and mind. The first, 2016’s KIN, was the soul record; 2018’s WAX was the body record, and the new NUT is the mind record.
Produced by Martin Terefe, who co-wrote her 2005 global hit “Other Side of the World,” NUT draws on Tunstall’s love of percussive West African grooves as a metaphor for the learning patterns of the mind, and is an eclectic album that seamlessly weaves together disparate styles. She found her writing mojo thanks to “Canyons,” a song propelled by a grimy, heavy rock riff. In keeping with NUT’s theme, the song’s lyrics are about the canyon-like physiology of the brain, and explore the parallels between humans developing unique identities and the way nature evolves and is shaped over time. Elsewhere, NUT’s lyrics and sound delve into KT’s own personal evolution, and the way we all evolve through the repetition of behaviors and our reactions to life experiences. “Private Eyes” grew out of Tunstall’s brush with the vampiric downside of fame, while “Three” summarizes the arc of the trilogy, inspired by a journal practice where she would write multiple entries on one topic from the different perspectives of mind, body and soul.
“It was necessary in the circumstances to make NUT completely differently from any other record I’ve made,” Tunstall says. “But I was excited and ready for that. The reason I pursued music was because I had to avoid a repetitive job. I need to feel a constant sense of exploration in life. I’ve realized you can easily fall into repetition even in this job. And so for NUT, I was like, ‘Come on, let’s do what we said we were going to do. Let’s push into something new.’ What’s always most important is making an exciting, meaningful record that I love, and to have fun while I’m doing it.”