Last week a dream of mine came true. I sat in a darkened, Seattle theater, three rows from the stage; a stage which used to house a large projector screen and a heavy damask curtain, but now was strewn with guitars and speakers. The Neptune Theatre had been renovated a year after I graduated college, transforming it into a live performance venue rather than the old movie palace it had been for years.
I was there that night to hear a different kind of story; one without dramatic close-ups, pithy dialogue, or mood lighting. That night I was there to watch KT Tunstall, one of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time, play and sing.
I discovered her much at the same time as the rest of the world, when the single from her debut album, “Eye to the Telescope”, exploded onto the music scene. I loved the mix of pop and folk styles her songs embodied, loved the deepness of her clear voice, loved the energy and the life that was inseparable from her work. I was fourteen at the time and, like most teenagers of that age, listened to music like it was my private diary, using the lyrics and sounds to say something about myself rather than think about the rest of the world.
It wasn’t until my father purchased her second album, “KT Tunstall’s Acoustic Extravaganza” that I truly fell in love. It was a collection of older songs, songs that she’d released on demo albums, on promotional singles, even covers. I was immediately entranced with the honesty in the songs. They weaved stories which did not just resonate with me personally, but whose fingers I could feel drifting through the collective consciousness of humanity. The DVD included with the album documented the recording process. KT spoke of her drive to create, of the need to connect with the music as a way of connecting with others and as a way for her to understand life and the world around her. It was if someone was speaking words aloud I had heard only in a half-imagined dream. That was what I wanted to do. Connect. Learn. Understand.
As I began my writing career, I played all of the KT Tunstall albums I had repeatedly. Her songs, her words, her sounds were my creative companions and inspirations. They calmed me, they directed me, they suggested new avenues of thoughts and feelings I would not have explored otherwise. “Drastic Fantastic” spurned me on through late nights with its more classic rock tones and “Tiger Suit”, a dance album with funky electronic beats backing up impossibly catchy lyrics, reminded me in my more melancholy moments that if I wasn’t writing because it made me happy, I shouldn’t be doing it at all.
Her latest album, “Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon”, is a deeply personal one. Recorded during a time of tribulation in her private life, it’s much more ‘stripped down’ than her previous two records. It deals with themes and topics she had shied away from before: death, violence, depression. But it’s not a sad album; not really. It’s honest, open, like a hand reaching out from the darkness saying “It’s alright, I feel that too. I feel it all.”
And that’s exactly what KT Tunstall did that night. Not only was I lucky enough to catch one of her guitar picks (a memento I will cherish with perhaps more reverence than it is due), I was one of the lucky few people at the front of the stage to shake her hand when her show was over. I felt that connection as I had during every one of her songs that night and I was reminded that, for me, that was the point of my writing: to connect; to tell others who I might never meet that they weren’t alone. No one is alone.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.