British invasion: Scottish chanteuse mixes brains, craft

As much as KT Tunstall has been part of the musical fabric of 2006 in America, she received a considerable head start across the Atlantic.

Tunstall, 30, who played sidewalks and small clubs for a decade in the U.K., was already turning heads there last year via tours, TV and radio appearances and the release of her debut album, “Eye to the Telescope” (Virgin), which has sold more than 1 million copies. The record didn’t appear Stateside until February and has sold 600,000 copies since in the U.S.; it remains in the top 50, selling about 20,000 copies per week.

Since then, it seems as if the Scottish singer-songwriter has shined in every platform in which music plays an integral role: Her LP’s lead single, “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” appeared in the finales of “Will & Grace” and “American Idol,” while another tune from the LP, “Suddenly I See,” is played over the opening credits to the hit summer movie “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Appearances on Leno and Letterman have solidified Tunstall’s rep as the real thing, combining spunky stage presence, chart-friendly songcraft and a highly personal aesthetic.

Even prior to the album’s U.S. rollout, Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” was already a radio hit; her performance of the song on the “Today” show was made available on iTunes (a first for the NBC talkshow); she was one of a handful of artists included in the Mercedes-Benz/AOL Music “On Our Radar” program; and she was part of Yahoo! Music’s “Who’s Next?” program. Also, VH1 highlighted Tunstall as one of the network’s “You Oughta Know” rising artists.

She won the Brit Award for British female solo artist this year and is expected to be a contender in several Grammy categories later this year. She’ll do an 18-city headlining club tour beginning next month that coincides with the release of her single “Suddenly I See.”

“My songs,” she explains, “are kitchen-table songs, like a conversation between me and one other person.” She told Yahoo! Music that her music’s goal is to somehow blend Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” and Tom Waits’ “Bone Machine.”

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