Singer KT Tunstall, who is coming to Holmfirth, talks about the brother who inspired her to raise awareness of hearing loss, how she's developed tinnitus and coping with showbusiness
THE road to fame is seldom smooth and it required all of singer KT Tunstall’s gritty determination to carry her through 10 years of playing in obscure locations and humble venues before she won acclaim.
A solo performance of her song Black Horse And The Cherry Tree on Jools Holland’s BBC show in 2004 brought her to public attention and transformed her career.
But three best-selling albums, a Brit Award, a Grammy nomination and an Ivor Novello award later, she reveals that success has come at a price.
She suffers from tinnitus – often characterised by a whining or buzzing sound in the ear and affecting around 10% of people in the UK.
Tunstall has just confirmed a new solo tour and it will bring her to Holmfirth Picturedrome in November.
The news has delighted venue owner Peter Carr, who said: “It’s fantastic.
“We were just told to keep the date open and didn’t know who the artist was until later.
“Even my kids are delighted by this one; they say many of the acts we get are obscure bands they have never heard of.
“KT Tunstall is perfect for us and I am sure she will go down very well with both fans here and from all over the UK”.
The singer’s hearing problems can be caused by subjecting the ears to excessive levels of noise, with the number of young people developing it increasing as it’s believed to be linked to prolonged exposure to noisy decibels in clubs and discos.
“It was awful when it first happened to me, very hard to accept and really frightening,” recalls Tunstall, 35, who believes her years performing live next to sound systems in noisy venues may have been a factor in causing the distressing problem which developed in 2008.
“It started after I’d gone to a Spice Girls concert and got great seats but unfortunately they were also pretty close to the huge speakers. After that evening I had this incessant high pitched whine in my left ear.
“I didn’t know what it was and at first just hoped it would go away, but it didn’t and it started to drive me mad.
“It got very bad at one point in those early months and I was struggling on stage because it really affected my hearing certain tones. It can affect the top frequency of that ear’s hearing when it’s very loud.”
Tunstall is due at Holmfirth Picturedrome on November 7 as part of a major UK tour.
The singer has always been acutely aware of hearing problems – her youngest brother, Daniel, was born profoundly deaf.
That personal experience of his ultimately successful battle to overcome his disability – coupled with her own condition – has led to her involvement in a campaign, Hear The World.
It’s a global initiative to raise awareness about hearing loss, estimated to effect around 8.5 million people in the UK.
“As a musician your hearing is such a precious thing,” she said. “I’ve always thought it would be so frightening not to be in touch with your vocation and lose that relationship with sound and not be able to hear the music you’re writing.”