When Scottish singer KT Tunstall decided to call upon her fans to help create the video for the song “Glamour Puss” off her latest album, Tiger Suit, she didn’t know what to expect. Seeking far more than amateur video footage, the so-called “kollaboration” required participants to strap on a pair of headphones and recreate the music, focusing on several key portions, with any instrument or noise-making object of their choice (i.e. a carrot which doubles as a flute), then upload the snippets to Youtube. Once the submissions were in -- and there were over a thousand which came from all over the world -- producer-mixer Tim Brown and Grammy-nominated editor Rupert Style pored through the videos to come up with the finished product: a truly collaborative effort between artist and fan. The only thing left of the original recording? Tunstall's vocal track.
Tunstall, who broke on the U.S. pop charts in 2005 with the hit “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” has long been one step ahead of the technology curb, employing a live loop as a staple of her shows, and this musical experiment, which garnered over 250,000 views in its first two days, is no different. The 35-year-old Edinburgh native talked to THR about the challenges and ultimate triumph that came with creating the “Glamour Puss” clip.
THR: How has the response to the video been and what were your expectations?
KT Tunstall: It was just a throw-it-out-there idea, we really didn't know what would happen. We could have put it out and no one responded, you never know whether people will be open to putting themselves online or if they'd get the idea. And then there was the potential problem that people might record the track with themselves, and we really hoped we could hear what people were playing without any of the original track, so you really are doing a complete remix. The great thing is that they did so well. And it was sheer luck that there were people playing drums and bass all the way through so we didn't need to substitute anything.
THR: Of the submissions, which ones stuck out?
Tunstall: One Japanese guy, who’s actually quite famous on Youtube, makes instruments out of vegetables. So in my invite, I said, "You can even make flutes out of carrots," and lo and behold, there he was playing the whistle part on his carrot. So that was great. But I really liked the foot stompers. There was about eight people sitting in a row of chairs, and they recorded themselves doing a kind of river dance-style tap.
THR: Had you met any of these people before?
Tunstall: A few have come to shows and I've met them afterwards, but on the whole, it's all strangers. And it's so nice, because now they're in touch with each other. One thing about the internet, it can be kind of lonely and quite inhuman -- you haven't got that face-to-face contact -- and one thing that struck me when I saw the video put together was that it's really emotional. It's so personal.
THR: Was the label involved in this idea?
Tunstall: Yeah. Devin in New York suggested it, and my first thought was, "That is complicated -- if people don't get it right, it won't work.” But it did work and it was lovely.
THR: Were you surprised by how diverse your fan base is?
Tunstall: Actually, we were blown away. It is always wonderful for me to know that it’s not a niche market when it comes to my shows. We'll see an Emo 14-year-old boy with his hair dyed black and his black nail polish, who's brought his grandma. We regularly get really young kids, older couples, a really great gay crowd -- it’s always an unusual mix of people who would normally not hang out together and I'm very flattered by that. It can be quite intimidating and inhibiting to be at a gig with a total hipster crowd where no one wants to bust out. I've never had that and I'm pretty grateful.
THR: The concept seems almost Warholian, where everybody can have their 15 minutes. Is that just how it is these days?
Tunstall: It was more about being collaborative and having people be involved proactively -- actually making people feel like they’re a part of it. I didn't get the feeling from anybody that they were auditioning for a part, it looked like people who loved playing music and maybe don't do it for a job and haven't got the opportunity to play often. I wonder if we should do another one because people got a real kick out of it, and I just loved watching it.
THR: Has Youtube changed the music business?
Tunstall: I think it has. Exciting underground stuff is easier to find that than it used to be. You don't have to go to the dive bar in the bad part of town to see a band you would never usually see. And it's great for musicians. My personal experience with it, when I was looking for a new lead guitarist, I was able to stalk guitarists on Youtube. And instead of having a horribly embarrassing auditioning process, I could check out peoples’ playing, see what they've done, what they looked like onstage, because they've put their stuff up on Youtube. In some ways, you go into a record shop and the selection is narrower than it used to be with pop ruling the roost, but if you look, there's so much more to be found.