Herald Angel: Clash Chats Christmas With KT Tunstall
KT Tunstall is working with alacrity.
The Scottish songwriter mains a non-stop schedule, moving from international tour dates through to hectic recording sessions.
New album 'WAX' emerged in 2018, the second part of an ongoing trilogy, but she recently decided to try something completely different.
Out now, new single ‘Hey, Mr Santa!’ is - as its title suggests - a festive single, with KT Tunstall working alongside Hollywood composer Christopher Lennertz.
It's a tongue-in-cheek takedown of the materialistic excess of the festive season, delivered with plenty of Tunstall's trademark panache.
Clash spoke to KT Tunstall as she prepared to wind down her activities for the year, discussing the perfect Christmas, songwriting, and her 2020 plans.
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There’s a rich history of Christmas songs, what made you want to try your hand at this festive genre?
I had been aware of my inner moaning every festive season that Christmas music is way too saccharine and two dimensional for me to actually enjoy, so I decided to stop whining and record a song instead!
My great friend and brilliant Hollywood composer Chris Lennertz has two young daughters, and he was feeling really dismayed at the crassness and completely materialistic nature of some of the messages in these existing songs, so we got to work to put it right!
When did you begin writing it? Was it odd to find yourself focussing on Christmas at another time of the year?
We actually wrote it right before Christmas last year - like, in December!! So we didn’t have time to really put it out last year. It was a genuinely, non-strategic authentic Christmas song, written in actual December!! So we decided to give it a proper send off this year.
Did you do anything festive to get yourself in the mood for writing and recording?
We had both finished busy years of work, and it was so awesome to get in a room and just make ourselves laugh and find the lyrics that brought the real feels. We may have also eaten a mince pie or five.
There’s an anti-materialistic message here, which is brave. Do you feel the commercialism associated with the festive period obscures Christmas?
I think it has entirely become Christmas. Huge sales the day before, the day after, I wouldn’t be surprised if people are now shopping ON Christmas Day! I think it’s a perfect time to remember that being awesome to someone else can make you feel so great. A gift to yourself, as well as to them.
What do you feel the true meaning of Christmas is?
Don’t get me wrong here, I LOVE giving and receiving presents! But it’s not about extravagance for me, I’m happy with socks. Honestly, my favourite part is wrapping. Most people hate it, but I LOVE wrapping stuff up! I like to think that it’s about giving and receiving love. These material things are just an extension of that. And it’s a good time to reflect on gratitude for what you have, and asking yourself if you can share a little more.
You worked with Christopher Lennertz on the track, how was he to collaborate with?
Working with Chris is an abs workout from laughing, there’s always awesome food in there at some point, and with him being a world class composer, I always learn from him.
He is an incredible generous and open collaborator, so we always go in the room never knowing what we might come up with, it’s really exciting working with him. I think the two of us coming from quite different worlds of music makes for an interesting mix.
Max Downey has created the fantastic lyric video – did you have any input? How do you feel it compliments the song?
It’s such a gorgeously cute video! Max is brilliant at putting things like this together, and he always takes a lot of care, so his work always feels personal.
How will you be spending Christmas this year? Do you have any festive traditions of your own?
I insist on spending Christmases in my new home of California now! I’ll be putting on my festive wetsuit and jumping in the Pacific Ocean this Christmas Day.
What’s your own favourite Christmas song?
I recorded a version of Bing Crosby’s Mele Kalikimaka ‘a Hawaiian Christmas’, and it is so brilliant and fun, and I also play my only ever xylophone solo it, so I will have to choose that one.
As a Scot, New Year is obviously a big deal. How will you be ringing in the bells? Are you making any New Year’s resolutions?
I’ll be seeing in New Years Eve, or Hogmanay as we call it in Scotland, in Colorado this year as I have some shows there, so it will be nice to see some snow covered trees and see my breath before the year is out! New Years Resolution is to do more ‘Being’, less ‘Trying’.
What does 2020 hold for you?
Gigs, gigs and more gigs! And also making the final record in the trilogy of albums I’m currently making based on soul, body and mind. The last one is all about the mind, so time to get brainy!
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