Scottish artist KT Tunstall has commented in the past that she likes getting lost. The avid hiker was referring to her fearless geographic travels, but she could have been referring to her music too, which has charted her emergence from emotional labyrinths.
Her innate restlessness was obvious when she burst out of rural St. Andrews on the North Sea coast in 2004 with a last-minute solo performance of “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” on BBC Two’s “Later…With Jools Holland.” (There’s a solid argument to be made that Tunstall’s creative deployment of her ever-present loop pedal subsequently inspired legions of singer-songwriters to incorporate one into their own stage setups.) The song was from her breakthrough album “Eye to the Telescope”; it propelled her into a series of world tours and albums that reached for pop chart success.
(Also from that album: the Ivor Novello Award-winning hit “Suddenly I See,” which French astronaut Thomas Pesquet recently tweeted from the International Space Station, prompting Tunstall to gush with gratitude on Twitter and Facebook.)
After 2013’s warmly ruminative “Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon,” informed by her father’s death and her divorce from drummer Luke Bella, Tunstall escaped urban London for new digs in Venice Beach. The artistic community’s boho vibe seems to have provided respite from emotional and creative burnout. Initially focused on composing for film (she contributed songs to “Winter’s Tale,” “Million Dollar Arm” and “About Ray”), she gradually started writing songs for a new album.
“Kin,” released in September, sounds at once relaxed and reinvigorated as it trades the Americana textures of “Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon” for hook-laden pop. With its giddy synths and bursts of electronic percussion, it’s easy to envision “Hard Girls” as a backing soundtrack for bicyclists and bladers along Venice Boardwalk, or to imagine listening to “Turned a Light On” while tooling around Laurel Canyon with the windows rolled down. Kiss-off rocker “Run on Home” disses an ex-lover (“You can preach these lessons/ While you suck your thumb like a baby/ You can run on home/ And the only thing I’ve noticed / Is that I’ve been feeling happier lately”), but the prevailing mood is notably hopeful, boosted by cheery songs like “It Took Me So Long to Get Here, But Here I Am” and the dreamy title track (“Thankfully/ I’m not alone, no, I’m never alone”).
Glossy production on her albums, including “Kin,” has often overshadowed her strengths as a songwriter and performer. Onstage, with her distinctive guitar style and blues-cut, throaty contralto, Tunstall is an ebullient, commanding presence. Now back in her “new homeland” after recording a live album at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire theater, she brings her band to One Colorado this Saturday for what promises to be an uplifting performance for pop fans.
KCRW presents KT Tunstall and DJ Jason Bentley at One Colorado, 41 Hugus Alley, Old Pasadena, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10; free admission. Info: (626) 564-1066. kttunstall.com, onecolorado.com, kcrw.com