When KT Tunstall Climbed The West Port

I first saw KT Tunstall play in 2005 at Shepherd’s Bush Empire with two friends and my boyfriend at the time. It was a memorable experience, not only because we were the youngest people in the audience, but because we snuck in some McDonalds chips for our dinner and accidently knocked the remainders over the edge of the balcony, and they landed on someone's head. Luckily, the angry security guard believed us when we sat there, shaking our heads guiltily at the crumpled chip box being waved in front of us.

Seven years later, and I’ve come to watch KT Tunstall play once more, this time in the front row at Younger Hall and luckily with no chips in hand. It’s the Eye O’ The Dug festival, the hall is filled with hot bearded guys in beanies and KT Tunstall is back playing in her hometown, with three Brit Awards and an Ivor Novello under her belt. After being introduced by a great band called Diagrams, Tunstall came on stage, guitar in hand, and played tune after tune of unreleased songs that she’d been working on over the past few months.

Few people realise that Tunstall is a St Andrews native. Her dad was a physics lecturer for the University, and her mum was a school teacher, whilst she attended Madras College. She spent her last year of school in New England, busked for commuters in Vermont and eventually ended up on Later… with Jools Holland in 2004, where her career took off and she became the Fife legend that she is today.

Owl Eyes got the chance to meet Tunstall and ask her a few questions about her time as a rebel teenager in St Andrews and tales of climbing the West Port…

Where did you used to play gigs in St Andrews?
My first ever gig was at the Vic, then I played at the West Port Bar A LOT! And I'd occasionally join the Fence guys at Aikman’s Cellar Bar.

Are any of your songs specifically about St Andrews?
Actually, one kind of is! A new one called 'Hallowed Ground', which is partly about being freaked out that people were hung from the castle windows and women were burnt at the stake for being witches all in and around St Andrews.

What was your opinion of St Andrews students when you were living here?
I made some very dear friends with students when I was living & gigging there, mostly Americans. They were always up the front when I played. I had some amusing experiences working in Luvians Wine Shop; a guy who was a prince, and it actually said that on his credit card, spent over £40 on a bottle of white wine, just to cook with.

What has changed the most since you've left?
My lifestyle I suppose; I was totally skint and living in cottages on the outskirts of town with no heating, and trying to get my music off the ground. My life is so busy now and I can treat myself to more than just pasta!

On stage, you mentioned climbing the West Port and breaking your ribs! How did this happen? What other youthful antics are you known for around town?
Whisky. I'd spent the summer playing open mic nights in Chicago and a friend had shown me how to roof-hop across fire escapes so you could get these amazing views. I came home and wanted to climb something. We did have a good Star Wars house party once where my housemate nearly got arrested on a child's tricycle dressed as Obi Wan. I was Darth Vader in case you were wondering.

Where do you call home now?
I have a solar-powered home & studio in West Berkshire.

What was the most unusual gig you've ever played?
On the very edge of the overhanging rooftop of a hotel in Singapore called The Marina Bay Sands. Google it, it's mental! Playing a tiny island in South Korea was pretty mad. And in the Alps in March at a cowboy-themed party. There's a few to choose from…

Your new songs sounded fantastic on stage. When will they be released for us to listen to?
Thank you! I have no idea, but I'm off to Arizona for 3 weeks to work with a fantastic artist called Howe Gelb to see what I can do about that.
Main image sourced from Something For Kate.