There’s only one week to go until Grandslam 2018 brings Simple Minds, The Pretenders and KT Tunstall to Ardingly.
The concert takes place at the South of England Event Centre on Saturday, September 1, presenting world-class pop and rock from three iconic acts in the heart of Sussex.
This tour is the first time Simple Minds and The Pretenders have shared a stage since Live Aid and it offers fans a unique opportunity to see them together as they travel across the UK.
For KT Tunstall, Grandslam 2018 offers something special too.
“It’s like going to school as a musician being on tour with artists like that,” says the 43-year-old Scottish star.
“They’re not only amazing performers and total masters of the craft, they’re both bands that are still making really exciting new music. They’re both interested in making new albums and continuing to push themselves.”
KT rose to fame in 2004 with the release of her debut album Eye to the Telescope. This spawned the international hits ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree’ and ‘Suddenly I See’, which won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song in 2006. That same year she won her first BRIT Award for Best British Female Artist and, to date, she has released five studio albums.
But Grandslam 2018 is still teaching her new things about music.
“It’s very inspiring for me,” says KT, talking about her time on the road with two very well established bands. “As a younger performer than them you just don’t know what the road ahead looks like. It’s a weird job where there are no rules and everyone’s experiences are very individual.
“So it’s fantastic seeing these bands that I’ve grown up with, that I have such huge respect and passion for, and seeing how it’s played out for them.”
“I vividly remember listening to ‘Belfast Child’ when I was in school,” she says. “And also The Breakfast Club was one of my favourite films growing up.”
As for The Pretenders, KT says they were simply part of her “audio vernacular” because their songs were so omnipresent and instantly memorable.
“Chrissie Hynde’s voice, there’s just absolutely nothing like it,” KT marvels, explaining that she watches the singer work her magic on every crowd.
So how did this whole tour come about? KT says that its origins go back to a chance meeting with Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill at a charity event a couple of years ago.
“We just got on absolutely brilliantly,” she explains. “They’re hilarious, very open and mischievous and we just sat and had a brilliant laugh.”
Jim and Charlie were talking about their 2016 Acoustic record and asked KT to work with them on ‘Promised You A Miracle’.
Naturally, she leapt at the chance but admits she might have been a bit too enthusiastic.
“They always laugh at me because I basically went to the studio and became this total bossy b**** and just took over,” she laughs.
“I said ‘you’ve got to do this, this and this and I’m going to play the bass and then I’m going to play the guitar’...and they’re just looking at me with wide eyes.”
But, the musicians really hit it off and KT ended up joining Simple Minds on a European tour in 2017.
“By the end of that tour we were family,” says KT, so it’s no surprise she’s joined them again this year.
Touring aside, KT has also been hard at work on her sixth studio album. Titled Wax, it’s the second in a trilogy that began with Kin in 2016 and is set for release on October 5.
“It was time to make a rock album,” KT explains, when asked what she wanted to do with the record. “It’s the thing I think everybody would love to hear me do and I haven’t quite done yet.”
Over the years KT noticed that fans loved the energy and impact of her live performances, but realised that this hadn’t been fully expressed in her studio recordings.
“I’m sure other musicians would feel the same. It’s really hard to capture who you are live onto a record because the circumstances and the ingredients are so different when you’re in a studio.”
So, with Wax KT has tried to present that live spirit as much as possible, recording the whole thing ‘live’ with a three-piece band – KT on guitar and vocals, Denny Weston Jr on drums and Nick McCarthy (formerly of Franz Ferdinand) on bass.
“We’re just in Nick’s kind of garage studio and it’s very simple,” says KT. “But for me the guitar bone is connected to the throat bone and I just can’t seem to sing in the same way as I’m playing at the same time. It’s a total nightmare for recording but it’s worth it because you get that fire of playing live.”
“I decided the trilogy would be soul, body and mind. Kin was the soul record and this is the body record and this needed to be sensual and sexy and visceral and have some bite.”
And what about KT’s favourite tracks?
“It’s a toss up between the most rocking track and the least rocking track,” she says. “The track called The Mountain is basically a slow jam soul song. In the past my ballads have always relied on picked guitar and this one is just kicking back groove and really cool sounds. It’s a new way of making ballads for me, which is really exciting.”
The song ‘Human Being’, on the other hand, is a blistering rock number: “It’s got a great guitar riff in it, which is something I’m really excited about exploring these days, and it’s kind of the mission statement of the record. It’s about the flaws of it, it’s about the vulnerability and about being scared to show someone the full spectrum of who you are. It’s quite an emotional song wrapped up in a very punky exterior.”
Recently, KT has been living between LA and London but she’s looking forward to seeing the more rural south of England again.
As she explains, she’s fairly familiar with the West Sussex landscape, having previously had a boyfriend from the area.
“We used to go out in Shoreham and have a knees-up,” she laughs. “It’s a beautiful part of the world and it will be nostalgic and lovely to see it again.”
Tickets are on sale now. Visit www.southofenglandeventcentre.co.uk to find out more.
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