The Wild West: KT Tunstall waxes poetic about Tucson

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

When scheduling her latest tour, Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall made sure to include a Tucson gig.

“I basically demanded to my booking agent that I come and play a show in Tucson,” Tunstall says.

The singer, best known for the songs “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and “Suddenly I See,” spent about a month recording 2013’s Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon in Tucson with producer Howe Gelb. She even made a film about the recording, called Tucson Time.

“The cover is literally the desert of Tucson,” she says enthusiastically. “We took a 1969 Barracuda and drove out to the Sonoran Desert and took those pictures. It was a really magical thing. Driving into the desert was one of my favorite things to do. I never saw a Saguaro cactus. They look like a drawing.”

Tunstall returns to Tucson to celebrate the release of her sixth album, Wax, which hit stores October 5. Wax is part of a trilogy, all of which are titled with three letters, about spirit, body and mind.

“It was a super easy record to make, actually,” Tunstall says. “I wanted to make a trilogy. This is part two of a three-part epic collection of music. The first one, Kin, was the spirit record. This is the body record that deals with the complex relationship with physicality. I knew I wanted to center it around the electric guitar, which I hadn’t done before.”

Lead single “The River” is written by Tunstall and Martin Terefe and produced by Franz Ferdinand’s Nick McCarthy, along with Sebastian Kellig and MyRiot.

“It’s about wanting to escape the madness in the world, escaping bad relationships, and wanting to be washed clean – emancipation through nature,” she says.

Tunstall emerged in 2004 with Eye to The Telescope. She has released four critically acclaimed albums since and her songs have been in the opening credits of The Devil Wears Prada and used as Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign theme. Her last album, Kin, released in 2016, debuted at No.7 on the official U.K. album charts.

Recently, Tunstall was awarded the Inspirational Artist prize at the Women in Music Awards. She was chosen as the first grand marshal to lead last spring’s annual New York Tartan Week parade. In May, she and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam released a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” with proceeds going to Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy Foundation.

For Tunstall’s tour, she will be backed by an all-female band: drummer Cat Myers, bassist Cheryl Pinero, pianist Hinako Omori and guitarist Charlotte Hatherley.

“I love the energy of women playing bad-ass rock music,” she says. “I’m so excited about doing that. I want to see that. I just had a word with myself and said, ‘What are you doing? If you want to see it, do it.’”

more info

What: KT Tunstall w/Maddie Ross

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 23

Where: The Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress Street

Cost: $25-$27

Info: 740.1000,