KT Tunstall, Allison Ponthier (JBE Free Outdoor Stage)
Triple A SummitFest
Be sure to check out all JBE Triple A SummitFest shows!
Fox Theatre Stage
Night 1 - 8/3: Charley Crockett, Sam Fender, Nikki Lane
Night 2 - 8/4: Matt Maeson, Delta Spirit, Myron Elkins
JBE Free Outdoor Stage
Night 1 - 8/3: Illiterate Light, Ceramic Animal
Night 2 - 8/4: KT Tunstall, Allison Ponthier
KT Tunstall burst onto the music scene with her 2004 multi-platinum debut, Eye to the Telescope, which spawned the global hits "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" and "Suddenly I See." These songs established Tunstall as a captivating, must-see performer, as well as a Songwriter with a singular knack for balancing introspective folk and propulsive rock. "I feel there are two immediate, recognizable pillars of my style," she says. "I have this troubadour, acoustic guitar-driven emotional side. Then there's definitely a rocker side of me with sharper teeth."
In the last few years, the Grammy-nominated Scottish Musician has expanded on these musical selves by focusing on a trilogy of records, where each album zeroes in on a single concept: soul, body and mind. The first, 2016's KIN, was the soul record; 2018's WAX was the body record, and the new NUT is the mind record.
Produced by Martin Terefe, who co-wrote her 2005 global hit "Other Side of the World," NUT draws on Tunstall's love of percussive West African grooves as a metaphor for the learning patterns of the mind, and is an eclectic album that seamlessly weaves together disparate styles. She found her writing mojo thanks to "Canyons," a song propelled by a grimy, heavy rock riff. In keeping with NUT’s theme, the song's lyrics are about the canyon-like physiology of the brain, and explore the parallels between humans developing unique identities and the way nature evolves and is shaped over time. Elsewhere, NUT’s lyrics and sound delve into KT’s own personal evolution, and the way we all evolve through the repetition of behaviors and our reactions to life experiences. "Private Eyes" grew out of Tunstall's brush with the vampiric downside of fame, while "Three," summarizes the arc of the trilogy, inspired by a journal practice where she would write multiple entries on one topic from the different perspectives of mind, body and soul.
"It was necessary in the circumstances to make NUT completely differently from any other record I’ve made," Tunstall says. "But I was excited and ready for that. The reason I pursued music was because I had to avoid a repetitive job. I need to feel a constant sense of exploration in life. I've realized you can easily fall into repetition even in this job. And so for NUT, I was like, 'Come on, let's do what we said we were going to do. Let's push into something new.' What’s always most important is making an exciting, meaningful record that I love, and to have fun while I’m doing it."
Allison Ponthier is always searching for something new. The Texas-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter has already seen success, thanks to her sincere, curious, and witty guitar-pop songs. Since the 2021 release of her debut project Faking My Own Death, she’s toured with Bleachers, collaborated with chilled-out indie rockers Lord Huron on the emotional single “I Lied,” and then joined them on the road—making a stop on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. She’s even played festivals like BottleRock and Austin City Limits. But she knows there's a whole world out there—and more inside herself that she can share with it. And so on her second EP, Shaking Hands with Elvis, the 26-year-old is consciously pushing her songwriting and sound to new places.
"I want to always feel like I can grow, and this project reflects that,” she says. “I know who I am and what I want so much more fully."
One of the ways she’s grown on Shaking Hands With Elvis is by redoubling her efforts to share even her most uncomfortable feelings. Being an emotion-forward person isn't always easy in the epicenter of cool that is Brooklyn. Ponthier dug into how that affected her on the gentle, yet tough-as-nails 2022 single "Hardcore," which opens with a flashy drum solo before transforming into a gorgeous swirl of mandolin strumming and dreamy feedback. "If you don't feel, then what the hell is a heart for?" she ponders in the chorus. On “Hollywood Forever Cemetery,” Ponthier uses glittering country-pop as the backdrop for a meditation on death, celebrity, and what we leave behind when we depart from this mortal coil. These songs feel vulnerable and new, but also a natural outgrowth of the sort of rich tracks she’s been writing for years.
Raised in the suburbs of Dallas, Ponthier studied jazz vocal at the University of North Texas for a year and a half before decamping to Brooklyn. That was the first step in a personal and artistic journey that led to her coming out as queer, signing to Interscope, and finding her songwriting voice. Faking My Own Death, released in the summer of 2021, examined her coming-out story, and allowed her to indulge her macabre side through folk-tinged pop songs that placed her lithe soprano front and center.
Making "Hardcore" was another big step. Working with producer and songwriter Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, Haim) made Ponthier think about how to present her songs in new ways. Her decision to layer feedback on the track's sweet folk-pop base was one of the lightbulb moments that make Shaking Hands With Elvis a sensory delight. Take the plush "Autopilot." On its surface, it's about Ponthier not being able to get behind the wheel of a car. "It's literally just a song about how I can't drive, and I'm frustrated about it," she laughs. "But it's also about that numb feeling you get where you're paralyzed by fear—maybe it's a fear of driving, or maybe it's a fear of something else."
That idea of "something else" lurking beneath ties into how Ponthier's coming out still affects the way she sees the world. "Not to plug the name of my own song, but I did feel like I was on autopilot for a long time," she says of the period when she was still closeted. "Therapists often say that if you turn off one emotion, you're at risk of turning off many others. And that's definitely what happened to me."
On Shaking Hands with Elvis, Ponthier digs deep, resisting easy answers in favor of precise details and singular metaphors. She penned the meditative title track after the loss of a friend a year ago; its lyrics contemplate the details of where souls go after death, while its glowing outro offers a ray of hope. "Whether or not there's an afterlife, I want to believe that he is not by himself," she says. "The end of the song feels like a goodbye—but only for now."
Ponthier's musical growth over the last year is reflected in the songwriting and production on Shaking Hands with Elvis, which includes collaborations with Mike Del Rio (LP, Selena Gomez) and Ethan Gruska (Phoebe Bridgers, Flock of Dimes). “The exciting part of this job is that you get to do something new every day,” she says. “So I was excited to make harder rock songs, songs that sound like they came straight out of the '70s, songs that are sensitive but that have guitar feedback all over them."
At the same time, Ponthier has become more comfortable displaying her full self in her songwriting, whether she’s indulging her long-brewing obsession with a storied Los Angeles resting place on the moonlit "Hollywood Forever Cemetery" or detailing the realities of living with ADHD on the slow-blooming "Chasing a Feeling." Her frequent work in support of the Dallas LGBTQ youth charity Dallas Hope Center shows she's still deeply connected to her Texas roots, while her relationship with her quickly growing fanbase demonstrates how her music bridges the gap between her past and her future.
"The magic of making an EP is piecing things together in ways that show where you are right now," Ponthier says. "These songs are super representative of this time in my life and what I'm going through, which involves accepting my flaws and celebrating the weirdness of who I am."