One week prior to winning three Grammy Awards and delivering an absolutely chilling version of “The Joke”, Brandi Carlile hosted the inaugural Girls Just Wanna Weekend at the Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya, Mexico. This four-night all-inclusive concert vacation featured some of the most incredible women in music today.

According to a report produced by Pitchfork, women make up 19% of festival lineups. A true pioneer of voice, Carlile has set out to change that and was wildly successful – curating a lineup that included Maren Morris, The Indigo Girls, The Secret Sisters, Shawn Colvin, Lucius, Mavis Staples and former touring partner, KT Tunstall.

For Tunstall, the opportunity to partake in such an experience came on the heels of releasing her sixth studio record, Wax (the second of a trilogy) and a month prior to embarking on a 42-date world tour. I had the chance to catch up with Tunstall two days before the Grammy’s to collaborate on a two-part feature. Here, Tunstall shares the power and ripple effect of Girls Just Wanna Weekend.

My Girls Just Wanna Weekend Experience:

This festival was the most phenomenal weekend. Brandi Carlile did something really special – it was both lively incredible and quietly incredibly at the same time. As a musician, you get used to playing festivals, it’s not an usual experience. This one was certainly very special for numerous reasons. It was January, so that was nice, and of course, it was an all-female lineup. Being lucky enough to call myself a friend of Brandi’s, I was able to talk to her beforehand about the struggle and resistance there has been, surprisingly, in terms of a female presence within a lineup.  I was just looking at a British festival bill and there are only four females on it. Just last night I went to Guitar Center to get a gig bag, so I can bring my guitar with me on vacation. There was not a single shot of a woman on the outside of the place. It was all these supposed guitar heroes, but where’s Bonnie Raitt? Where’s Chrissie Hynde? It needs addressing and we are trying to level the playing field.

So, being a part of Girls Just Wanna Weekend was a no-brainer for me. Going and playing the festival was extraordinary. Brandi is one of the best musicians and writers in the country, and she’s a voice of our generation. She brought together this fantastic array of women. We are all so used to being tossed into the same bag.

I love the fact that Brandi called it Girls Just Wanna weekend after the Cyndi Lauper song, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” because it was so much fun. I saw a few comments on Twitter of people saying it was so nice to feel like they were both on stage and in the audience. It was important for those who attended to feel like everything was for them, about them and includes them.

Most Memorable Moments:

One of the highlights of the weekend was the songs in the round experience (photo above) with the Indigo Girls, Maren Morris, Shawn Colvin, Brandi and myself. You had this display of women producing back work from one another. There was no reason for a gender bag, we are all different from each other, as all musicians are, and we were able to feed off that, and really appreciate it. We did what we always do in terms of playing, there wasn’t anything different, but it really highlighted the importance and power of us coming together.

The ladies of the 80’s was total joy. I was talking to Brandi afterwards about growing up in the 80’s and we were discussing how there is no other decade like it in terms of these spectacular pop songs. These are songs you remember after hearing them once. The production was original, but there was something about the mixture in 80’s music where it was very liberated. There was this freedom of expression and imaginationn, combined with a playfulness that made the 80’s very joyful. The 70’s was more emotional and the 90’s become angsty, so we made an effort to celebrate the thrill of the 80’s.

Brandi’s band during this was phenomenal. They re-created every song perfectly. And then to watch each other as friends, taking turns singing these amazing songs with this huge crowd of amazing people – it was the best party ever.

I will also forever be grateful to Brandi for affording me my first ever on-stage costume change. I did a 45 second change from Joan Jett to Pat Benetar, it was hilarious.

What Girls Just Wanna Weekend Means To Me:

As a musician, you are a creator – it’s part of our makeup of human beings. Nothing exists without the thought – it’s the first thing, it’s the idea, and it’s what leads to anything physical and real. That process has always fascinated me. That’s why I love what I do, you create something from nothing. The imagination can be such a powerful tool in our existence and it can make something out of a void. That’s what Brandi has done. I’m sure she will come back and curate it again, but regardless of that, she has created something solid from just an idea. If an idea is really good, you can’t shake it away.

It’s very difficult logistically and from a mental health perspective, to run a festival. It’s like a mega-wedding and you become a mega-wedding planner. Brandi and her team built this thing that has become solid, and that’s really important because you want to have these places where female artists or gay artists can go and celebrate that aspect of your life where everybody is welcome. Until there is an equilibrium where everybody is represented, we need to have these places where we can champion the efforts.

I was so honored to be part of a lineup like that with such a powerful cause. For my upcoming tour, my band consists of just female musicians. We don’t need to shy away from anything, it’s such a killer band. It’s just about visibility. You don’t need to say anything else, it’s as simple as – check out how amazing this is.

~ KT Tunstall

KT Tunstall’s new record, Wax, is out now and available everywhere.

Catch KT Tunstall on tour starting March 4th in Dublin. For tour dates and more information visit:

Check back for part two with KT Tunstall – coming soon on Artist Waves: inside the emotion of Wax.




*all photos taken and permitted by: Dave Vann
courtesy of Girl Just Wanna Weekend