KT Tunstall gave up on music two years ago. “I had checked all these boxes to have a happy life, and it hadn’t worked,” she told me on the phone last week. Her father had died, her marriage had fallen apart, and suddenly the thing that used to give her an identity—her music—just didn’t seem to matter anymore. “So, I just threw everything into the fire—my life, my work, my habits, everything.” She planned to take three, or five, or maybe even 10 years away from writing albums.
But then the songs were just there. In the middle of the night, the choruses woke her up. She’d never been the main writer on one of her albums and suddenly, here she was in the middle of her “break from music,” accidentally creating a pop album. Kin, Tunstall’s sixth studio album, came out on Friday.
“I feel like it’s taken me four records to write my second album. I think I’ve done some great work,” Tunstall told me. “But this is the first time since the first record that I’ve felt un-self-conscious.”
For a moment in the mid-2000s, KT Tunstall was one of the most popular names in music. Her debut album, Eye to the Telescope, came out in 2004, and firmly planted her into a mid-aughts fame that made her famous hits karaoke classics. Her album was nominated for the Mercury Prize, a BRIT Award (which she won), and a Grammy. Her hit single “Suddenly I See” became a kind of girl-power mantra that graced The Devil Wears Prada, Ugly Betty, and even Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign for president. But like many stars that shine fast and bright, when her moment in the spotlight ended, the public lost her.