It's a story that's as old as show business itself. A scheduled performer cancels forcing a show's staff to scurry around looking for a replacement. An unknown is plugged-in and their performance becomes a career defining moment. That's essentially what happened to KT Tunstall when the Edinburgh native appeared on Later With Jools Holland. "Black Horse And The Cherry Tree" got well-deserved exposure leading to the re-release of her debut "Eye To The Telescope" in '06. It became a commercial (peaked at #3 on the U.K. chart) and critical success. With U.K. success in hand it was time for the part Chinese, part Irish singer, who was adopted at birth, to turn her attentions to the U.S.
"Black Horse And The Cherry Tree" was lodged at the #79 slot on the Billboard singles chart. Only songs in the Top 30 are likely garnering significant airplay or selling in any appreciable numbers. After that, there's not much going on. So a song sitting in the 70's is close to being nowhere. That's when the popular FOX TV show American Idol intervened.
American Idol is perverse. In an effort to measure the contestant's musical dexterity the show's producers came up with "theme nights."
On Billboard night (featuring songs on the current Billboard Hot 100) finalist Katherine McPhee chose to perform "Black Horse And The Cherry Tree."
Though Tunstall paid scant attention to American Idol's ilk, she decided to license the song. "No one on that show told Katharine McPhee to sing my song because no one f***ing knew it," said Tunstall, explaining her decision. Turned out to be a good move.
Just as Chris Daughtry's cover of a Fuel's "Hemorrhage (In My Hands)" renewed interest in the band, and even an offer to front the group (as a replacement for the Brent Scallions who'd left), McPhee's take on "Black Horse And The Cherry Tree" gave the song a huge boost, moving it into the Top 30. Cowell, back in his pop comfort zone, was even in an agreeable mood.
"My status as a musician in America is pretty much cemented by Katharine McPhee," said Tunstall. "(It) is really interesting and funny for me because I've never been polite about how I feel about shows like that."
"Acoustic Extravaganza," which was just that, arrived in late '06. The following year Tunstall appeared at Live Earth in New Jersey, had kidney surgery to correct a childhood aliment, and expressed her gratitude to gay and lesbian fans while stating that she has been dating her band's drummer, Luke Bullen, since '03.
'07 saw the full-fledged follow-up to "Eye To The Telescope." While Tunstall's debut cover had a straight on head-shot, the cover of "Drastic Fantastic" had her in a short white skirt playing an electric guitar. Perhaps there was some image modification at work. Tunstall commented that the photograph was influenced by '70s singer Suzi Quatro (whose biggest U.S. hit was the acoustic leaning "Stumblin' In").
In its first week, "Drastic Fantastic" reached #1 on the Scottish Album Charts, #3 on the British Charts, and #9 on the U.S. Billboard Chart. In the U.S., the single "Hold On" had its best showing on the Billboard Adult Top 40 where it peaked at #27.
Tunstall released a Christmas EP through the Target retail chain and worked on Suzanne Vega's '07 album "Beauty & Crime" before recording "Tiger Suit." The album began at Hansa studios in Berlin. The studio, near where the Berlin Wall once stood, was where David Bowie's "Heroes" and U2's "Achtung Baby" were recorded. The '10 set, released in the Chinese Year of the Tiger, was completed in London and followed by "KT Tunstall's Live In London March 2011."
"Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon," which appeared two years later was considered her best by most critics and her most melancholic album to date. "Invisible Empire" dealt with her father's death, the theme of mortality and her divorce from Bullen while "Crescent Moon" featured more ethereal songs. Though the set was a modest commercial success it received the best reviews of any Tunstall effort.
She then decided to leave Edinburgh for L.A. to launch a career as a soundtrack composer. Her compositions were heard in the films Winter's Tale, Million Dollar Arm, Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast and About Ray.
The "Golden State" EP arrived in '16, just before "Kin," Tunstall's first full-length album since moving to SoCal.
2004 Eye To The Telescope
2006 KT Tunstall's Acoustic Extravaganza
2007 Drastic Fantastic
2007 Have Yourself A Very KT Christmas EP
2010 Tiger Suit
2011 KT Tunstall's Live In London March 2011
2013 Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon
2016 Golden State
Uptempo Folk-Rock tunes and the acoustic ballads with airy vocals.