KT Tunstall: 'I find Burns Night's always an excuse to get together with any Scottish friends you have, no matter where you are'
- David Pollock
- 21 December 2018
Scottish singer discusses the Bard of Ayrshire's influence ahead of her headline slot at the Big Burns Supper
'Being Scottish, I find Burns Night's always an excuse to have a whisky and a good meal and to get together with any Scottish friends you have, no matter where you are,' says KT Tunstall, the headlining artist at the eighth edition of Big Burns Supper, the winter festival which looks to honour the Bard of Ayrshire Robert Burns in the area where he spent the final years of his life in the late 18th century. The festival's bill also includes music from Frank Turner, Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5, Tide Lines, Craig Charles' Funk and Soul Club and more, with comedy from Ed Byrne, an LGBT disco performance party at Queer Haggis, and much more.
Tunstall has memories of a Burns supper in recent years at a restaurant in Los Angeles, where she now lives. 'Just stabbing this massive haggis with a knife and a bunch of American people being completely horrified and backing away,' she laughs. 'This is the first year for a while that I've been in the UK for Burns Night, just seeing sunshine in winter was part of why I moved to LA, as I'm sure you can imagine. I usually try and make sure I'm over there at the end of January, but this time I'm in the UK and when the organisers (of Big Burns Supper) sent an invitation, it seemed like a really good fun thing to do.'
How much does she know Burns' work herself? 'I've just grown up knowing it,' she says. 'I mean, you hear varying reports of what kind of man he was … But he certainly left this legacy on Scottish poetry, and I do enjoy "Ode to a Haggis". I've read it at all sorts of Burns nights, from an event with Ewan McGregor and Sharleen Spiteri, to doing it at a pal's house in London just before I got my record deal. We sat about on the living room floor with a bunch of people from all over the world and we all took a stab at reading it, it was ridiculous.
'I remember studying "Tam O'Shanter" at school and thinking it was like Shakespeare, in that it's more fun to do it in that academic way so you understand what's being said. I don't know what half the words mean, so I really enjoyed doing it that way … and I found it's quite a nice poem, actually.' Does she ever dip into the rest of Burns' canon on Burns Night? 'I don't think anyone can be arsed with anything else, after reading all that! It's time to have a drink, you've gotten warmed up for it.'
Immediately after the Big Burns Supper, Tunstall is heading to Mexico for Brandi Carlisle's all-female Girls Just Wanna weekend festival, then after that she'll be playing her headline UK tour, visiting venues like Glasgow's Barrowlands and Dunfermline's Alhambra, with an all-female band which includes sometime Honeyblood and Mogwai drummer Cat Myers. 'Then there's a bit more US touring, a bunch of festivals in the summer,' she says, 'and after that I'm going to try and concentrate on finally getting the new album done.'