KT Tunstall recorded much of her new album in the Arizona desert.

KT Tunstall recorded much of her new album in the Arizona desert.

New emotional heights for KT Tunstall

Grammy-nominated Scottish folk-rocker KT Tunstall has never really thought of herself as a professional-grade singer, despite songs like the 2006 hit “Suddenly I See,” which found soundtrack life in TV, film and even a Wal-Mart campaign.

“I’ve always seen myself as this kind of rhythm package,” says Tunstall, who appears at the Chapel on Sunday in The City. “I was becoming known for up-tempo, uplifting, knees-up gigs, like, ‘Go see KT Tunstall! You’ll have such a good time!’ But now that I’ve made what is certainly my most emotional record, I’m actually singing, and it feels great.”

Her fifth album, “Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon,” which she recorded and co-produced with Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb in his native Tucson, Ariz., is divided into two aesthetic halves.

The first, “Invisible Empire,” revolves around sparse, acoustic-strummed chords in the melancholy reflections “Made of Glass, How You Kill Me,” and the career-reassessing title track.

The second, “Crescent Moon,” relies on a more loping, Southwestern feel, and rosier lyrics in “Honeydew” and “No Better Shoulder.”

The Londoner met Gelb during a Robyn Hitchcock session they attended, before he invited her to the Arizona desert for experimental recording.

After leaving the Virgin label after her last 2010 effort “Tiger Suit,” she says, “I really needed to do something that wasn’t formulaic, wasn’t planned and wasn’t being analyzed by anyone.” She went to Tucson in April last year, and within a few months, wrote nine songs. Back in Britain, Tunstall penned one new track, “Feel It All,” then returned to Tucson for the more improvised “Crescent” portion.

“I had a pretty crazy summer in 2012,” she says. “I lost my father and my marriage ended — it was a very strange and difficult time. And that’s why I ended up with a record in two halves. The first half was before anything had happened, and weirdly, that half is the more somber, brooding and questioning part. It had a weird precognizant nature.”

Tunstall’s father had been ill for a while, so she felt relieved when he was out of pain. Regarding the split from her husband (and former backing drummer) Luke Bullen, she allows, “Some people don’t pursue happiness and stick with something safe. But that wasn’t the right choice for me.”

Next up: An animated punk-rock movie for which she and “Tiger Suit” producer Jim Abbiss co-wrote a script and electronica soundtrack. “It’s just been such a joy to do something that’s totally free of agenda,” she says.artsHowe GelbInvisible Empire//Crescent MoonKT TunstallPop Music & Jazz

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A sign about proposed development of the bluff at Thornton State Beach in Daly City on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Retreat center proposed at popular state beach

Daly City residents oppose construction on ocean bluffs

Rev. Roland Gordon shows “The Great Cloud of Witnesses” collage mural at the Ingleside Presbyterian Church, which he began building in 1980.<ins> (</ins>
Rev. Roland Gordon preaches love in action

Pastor promotes peace, hope through art and prayer

San Francisco’s Buster Posey was back at the plate after sitting out last season due to the risk of COVID-19. (David Maialetti/Tribune News Service)
Giants struggle against Angels in first game of Spring Training

By Nick Zeller-Singh Nearly 1,000 fans gathered into a breezy Scottsdale Stadium… Continue reading

Basketball (Shutterstock)
SI alum Begovich gets his moment, but Stanford falls on Senior Day

MAPLES PAVILION — Generally speaking, Stanford’s home finale on Saturday afternoon, a… Continue reading

U.S. Attorney David Anderson announces federal firearms charges against two men for their roles in a March 2019 shooting outside the Fillmore Heritage Center in a news conference alongside SFPD staff at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Departing U.S. attorney predicts corruption probe will continue

David Anderson shook up City Hall as top federal prosecutor

Most Read