By her second and third albums she’d become “standoffish and observational in the way that I wrote,” says Tunstall. “It was less personal because I was feeling vulnerable.” On 2013’s Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon, her music had become very melancholic, quiet, and subdued. She toured that record wearing a tailored Dior suit and tie while performing in seated theaters to static audiences. While she loved rocking the high-end brand, she knew that the vibe of her show was too restrained. “The last album was like the soundtrack to my funeral,” she says. “It feels like something died.”
She was also coping with her dad’s death and the end of her five-year marriage, both of which happened in August of 2012. “My dad dying was a massive wake-up call,” she says. “We were close, but he was a total taskmaster. He’d grown up in the boarding-school system, so affection was conditional to your achievement. I taught him how to hug.”
As a kid, Tunstall spent “every fucking minute” trying to impress her father. “It was all about trying to be liked,” she adds. “I mean, why the fuck do you end up on stage trying to make thousands of people like you? It’s not a normal thing to want to do.” Her parents, who adopted her as an infant, never thought she’d make it as a musician. “I remember them telling me, ‘You don’t get to do what you like for your job. That’s what hobbies are for,’” she says. “I was like, ‘Fuck that!’”
Despite the hustle to become a successful musician, Tunstall had had enough and relocated to California to work on music for movies and attend the Sundance Composers Lab. Breaking into the scoring business didn’t pan out, but she still enjoyed Cali life and would hike and drive along the beach and on Mulholland Drive while listening to Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Tame Impala, Devendra Banhart, and Django Django. She started thinking about riffs and lyrics again, and soon she broke out the looper pedal she’d tucked away. “Evil Eye,” a vengeful jam with a dirty swing beat influenced by African electric guitar players like Tinariwen and Femi and Fela Kuti, was the first track she wrote for her new record.
Dress by Suno, necklace by Luv Aj.