Shortly after entering a bar on Manhattan's West Side, Scottish singer KT Tunstall orders a ''weak beer.'' At least that's what EW (mis)hears. ''I asked for a wheat beer,'' corrects the 30-year-old. ''You're just trying to ruin my reputation!''
Indeed, back home KT a PJ Harvey-inspired retooling of her Christian name, Katie is known for enjoying the odd alcoholic beverage. But her massive U.K. fame has principally been caused by debut album Eye to the Telescope, a hook-filled pop-rock-folk collection that has sold over a million copies there and whose recent release here means that, for Tunstall, free days are now the stuff of sheer fantasy. ''I once wrote a song about being pissed off that I had too much time,'' she muses. ''And, you know, be careful what you wish for, because now I have none.''
Tunstall's crazy schedule, however, turns out to be pretty much the least crazy thing about her...
THE CAMERA MAKES HER DO WEIRD THINGS Two years ago, after Tunstall's first-ever photo session, she noted in her online diary, ''It seems that as soon as I see a camera, I purse my lips up like a cat's arse.'' Time, apparently, hasn't improved matters. ''It happened today,'' she sighs good-naturedly. ''I was going to the photographer, 'Am I getting cat's arse?' And he was like, 'Uh, yeah.'''
DON'T ASK HER TO PLAY ''SMELLY CAT'' Tunstall spent years busking and playing in folk clubs. Eventually, the singer realized that she was in danger of becoming a real-life version of Phoebe from Friends. ''I have nothing against her at all,'' says Tunstall. ''But I don't want to be her, singing 'Smelly Cat' in a café, and I felt like an effort had to be made to avoid that.''
KT HAS NO PROBLEM WITH INTRA-BAND FRATERNIZATION In fact, Tunstall is dating her own drummer. ''You expect people to say, 'He's so lucky, going out with the singer,''' she says. ''But everyone's like, 'You're so lucky you're going out with him he's a great drummer.'''
HER AMBITION IS TO GO MAD While Tunstall's own tunes are decidedly mainstream, her musical taste runs to less radio-friendly artists like Tom Waits and loopy reggae legend Lee ''Scratch'' Perry. ''I need to go a little bit more mad,'' she admits, contemplating her empty glass. ''I might record an album of me just playing on bits of bark.''
AND, OF COURSE, SHE KNOWS HER SPIRITS Tunstall's only diva-ish rider demand is a bottle of good whiskey. Take note, cheapskate venue operators, inferior ''blended'' booze will be rejected. ''But that hasn't happened for months,'' she laughs. ''They know now.''