While American audiences are still discovering KT Tunstall's 2007 LP, Drastic Fantastic, the Scottish singer/songwriter says she isn't going to wait around for everyone else to catch up.
She has already started writing songs for her next record, and she'll be previewing one of them — a track inspired by a popular children's book — during her next U.S. headlining tour, which gets under way next month.
"It's called 'The Hidden Heart,' and it's basically about a tree that really doesn't like people," Tunstall told MTV News recently. "[It was inspired by] this brilliant kids' book that my [goddaughter's] got called 'The Giving Tree.' "
Written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein, the 1964 tome centers on the relationship a young boy shares with a tree in the forest. The pair become best friends, and the tree constantly provides the boy with what he wants and needs in life: branches to swing from, shade to sit under, apples to snack on and branches to build a house.
"The boy just takes bits from the tree to make himself happy, and finally, the tree's just an old stump, and the boy's now a man, sitting on a stump, and he's still not happy," Tunstall explained. "And the tree's like, 'Well, mate, I did my best — I've got no more to give.' The song's about people being ignorant, really."
Unfortunately, "The Hidden Heart" is the only new song Tunstall will be playing on her upcoming tour — which will be plugged-in, unlike her acoustic U.S. jaunt in May — because it's the only song she's come up with for the follow-up to Drastic Fantastic, which to date has sold 215,000 copies in the States.
"I'll be touring South America in October, and after that, I'll take some time off to travel," Tunstall said. "I never did the backpacking thing when I was younger, so I'm just going to disappear, travel for a few months and write some music. I can't wait to write the next record, though, to be honest. I won't be in the studio until next year."
She said she wants her next one to be "very rhythm-based" and promises her record will give "some big props to [the late] Bo Diddley, may his soul rest in peace."
Until then, her latest single, "Little Favors," is getting major radio airplay nationwide, introducing KT's sound to more potential American fans.
"It's a song on the album that I really had a good attachment with," she explained. "I think it's a signature tune off the album. I started writing it when I was 17, and it basically took me some years to get it to its current state. It's basically about teenage sex — when you meet that special someone, and there's that magical little space before you actually touch each other."
While she's not a huge name here in the U.S., Tunstall does have a big fan in Tibet: the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people. Tunstall will be meeting "His Holiness" soon, she said, and she's excited about the encounter, to say the least.
"I've been invited to go meet him in Philly, and it's one of the biggest deals in my life so far," she said. "I'm absolutely delighted to be meeting him. Obviously, it's a very poignant time, with the Olympics coming up. I believe someone's making a documentary about what's going on, to educate people about his stance with Tibet, because I think the 'Free Tibet' stuff can be a little misleading and makes his life very difficult. He's being accused of being a separatist all the time, but he just wants to see peace between Tibet and China."