On a sunny lunchtime on Sunday 9 September 2018, I found myself located on the ground floor of DC Thomson‘s building speaking with one of Scotland’s most well known music artists.
KT Tunstall was in Dundee hours before performing in front of thousands of people, alongside Simple Minds and The Pretenders, in the city’s Slessor Gardens. The event there was the final stop of for all three of their 2018 Grandslam Summer Tour which has visited various places within much of the UK since August.
In an interview for Wave FM News, she told me about her time at the High School of Dundee, her gig later that night in the city centre and her forthcoming involvement with Social Bite’s Sleep In The Park, which is taking place this December across Scotland’s four main cities, including Dundee, with the aim to raise £4 million to help the homeless. 8,000 people took part last year in Edinburgh.
You can listen to my interview with KT Tunstall. Also, below, is a transcribed version of what was said between us both.
My special thanks goes out to her for giving up some of her important time to talk and to everyone else involved in making this interview happen – you all know who you are!
Finally, without me sounding far too excited, I’ve never felt so delighted, grateful and humbled not just to be handed such a major interview opportunity in what is the early days of my broadcast journalism career, but to also spend some time with such a genuinely great person. For me, journalism, and life, should be all about people. We human beings are all social beings after all.
Anas Hassan: “I don’t need to give you an introduction if…
[KT Tunstall starts to laugh]
Anas Hassan: “…we all know who you are…”
KT Tunstall: “Hello!”
Anas Hassan: “Hello K T Tunstall! How are you getting on today?”
KT Tunstall: “Fantastic!
“It’s a beautiful day in Dundee. The sun is blazing and it’s just looking so good. Dundee’s looking great. It’s lovely to see it feeling so vibrant and the V&A looks amazing so it’s just lovely to be home.”
Anas Hassan: “Yeah absolutely…”
KT Tunstall: “I can see, I’m sitting here and looking at the High School…”
Anas Hassan: “Oh yes!”
KT Tunstall: “…where I remember very vividly graduating from on my 17th birthday on those very steps, wearing a stupid hat!”
Anas Hassan: “Was it a graduation style hat?”
KT Tunstall: “I was in a graduation outfit and it’s just one of of those, you know, mistakes that you make when you’re 17!”
[KT Tunstall laughs at this point]
Anas Hassan: “Ah right ok!”
KT Tunstall: “All good though!”
Anas Hassan: “It’s no different to the ones you get at uni though, I suppose.”
KT Tunstall: “Exactly. Well, no, it was like you could dress up. We were wearing fancy outfits and I chose badly that day.
“But it was a very happy day, regardless.”
Anas Hassan: “Yeah, I bet it was.”
KT Tunstall: “I was really excited to get off and out into the world, but that was where I learnt guitar – at Dundee High.
“It was in the Music Department, which is next to the building as you look at the High School to the right, and I used to go and grab a guitar and just taught myself. That’s where I started writing songs.”
Anas Hassan: “Magnificent, fantastic. It’s a very special place for you then obviously.”
KT Tunstall: “It is, definitely.
“Always being back up in this part of the world where I grew up, it’s that thing where you know all the pavements and you know the street and you know where the trees are and you know all your little corners and it’s just an amazing feeling being that familiar with somewhere and travelling the world and coming back and having that relationship with somewhere.”
Anas Hassan: “So tonight then must be very especially special for you, because given the fact that the waterfront – you talked about the V&A. [And there’s] the Slessor Gardens coming to fruition. Does this add an extra dynamic to tonight’s gig? Because I know you’ve been on tour UK wide.”
KT Tunstall: “Oh, I mean, can you imagine what’s going to happen tonight when Simple Minds play waterfront?
“It’s going to be so cool.
“But this tour in general, just being on tour with Simple Minds and The Pretenders as well, Chrissie Hynde being really a number one inspiration for me for years and years and Jim and Charlie are just family now – they’re the most generous, hilarious, good time creative people I’ve ever met and they’ve really supported me a lot over the last couple of years, since meeting them.
“And I’m just so glad that the tour is finishing here in Dundee and there’s I think basically a sold out show, 10,000 people – just absolutely magic. It’s a real celebration and The Pretenders have just to wish that they were Scottish tonight, I think.”
[KT Tunstall and I laugh]
Anas Hassan: “Well I suppose anybody that comes here, people feel Scottish instantaneously – even Dundonian as well, given the unique character of this place.
“Now tell me a wee bit about the Big Sleep Out, because I know that’s three months away, but you’re obviously taking part – is this the first time you’ve taken part in an event [like this one]?”
KT Tunstall: “It’s the first time I’ve been involved with it.
“I was aware of it through Amy [Macdonald] last year when she was talking about it and I agree with what she’s said about it.
“It’s embarrassing in 2018 that we even have this problem of people not being supported in society. Society can afford it. It’s just about organising a situation where people are given an opportunity to thrive in their life and it’s a very complicated issue [homelessness].
“It’s much more than not just having somewhere to sleep, although that’s a very important and life threatening part of it.
“But these are people who’ve come through often very, very difficult circumstances and backgrounds and as a society, we are always going to have those people and those people always deserve to be helped, through that, for us to prosper as a society as a whole.
“When you go on a hike in the mountains, you’re only as fast as the slowest person in your group and so the best thing for the group is to help that person and support them and you’ll be more successful as a group and that’s just a microcosm of how I feel that a healthy society should work – is you look after the people who need looking after and they can go on to do the most incredible things, because they know what it’s like to be in that situation of desperation.
“It’s an amazing organisation to be doing some work with – I’m really glad to be involved.”
Anas Hassan: “Absolutely and given the fact that there’s going to be 12,000 people taking part in this…”
KT Tunstall: “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
Anas Hassan: “Absolutely huge! Do you think that vast number is really going to bring home the cold reality that too many people face in this country every night?”
KT Tunstall: “I think with homelessness and with social issues that lead to homelessness and perpetuate homelessness, a really important part of it is just making sure people are reminded that it’s existing, because it’s really easy to just go home to your house and watch the telly and go to bed with your hot chocolate and forget.
“Just that awareness raising of being reminded what the numbers are of the people who are having to deal with that is really important.”
Anas Hassan: “And you’re going to all four of Scotland’s main cities as well [including Dundee]?”
KT Tunstall: “I know, in one night! It’s like Live Aid!”
Anas Hassan: “Have you ever done that before?”
KT Tunstall: “No, never ever have I attempted that before!
“It’s a technical, logistical – it’s going to take some wizardry. I’ve got my big loop pedal set up and it takes a minute.
“We’re coming up with a plan, but so excited to be jumping in a donated helicopter to go and do this.
“And I think that’s an important thing too – it’s just making sure it’s fun. When you’re talking about these serious issues, it’s also coming together and celebrating what a positive group of people can do about a situation and the first thing you’ve got to do is make them feel positive so I think that’s important.”
Anas Hassan: “The last question I’ll ask you, because I know you’ve got a busy schedule this afternoon, is what would you say to anyone in this country who has never done such a thing as a Sleep Out, as 12,000 people are going to do, because I know they’re looking for people to take part – what one message would you give to anyone to take part in this event on the 8 December?”
KT Tunstall: “Well my experience of showing up for social issues, I suppose the first time I vividly remember, it was going on the march against the Iraq war in London – it was a million people. I recently went on the Women’s March in [Washington] DC in 2017.
“There is something personal that is offered by showing up and taking part in these things where you look back across your life and you look back at the things you’ve done and the choices that you’ve made and there’s an enormous deep pride in taking part and being there for these events that are incredibly special.
“It’s not to be taken lightly when 12,000 people come together to do something and it’s quite an extreme thing to do to stay out all night and sleep on the street. And I would say that doing something like that will stay with you for the rest of your life and you’ll be really glad that you did it. And you’ll meet people. And you’ll learn stuff. And you’ll look at the positive effects of that and you’ll say to yourself, ‘I’m part of why that happened’ – and there’s a lot of fulfilment in that.
“I would say that there’s just a lot of power in showing up and a lot of personal fulfilment and it ultimately, I think, with an issue like this leads to a lot of gratitude for what you’ve got in your life and that’s a really key ingredient of personal happiness – of being grateful for what you’ve got.
“I think it’s all round just a life enriching thing to do with your time.”
Anas Hassan: “Absolutely. Well good luck, and I’m sure it’s going to be a very powerful event.”
KT Tunstall: “Cheers, thank you.”
Anas Hassan: “No problem and good luck tonight as well!”
KT Tunstall: “Cheers! Really looking forward to it all!”