Recorded in the Arizona desert, Tunstall teamed up with local Tucson resident Howe Gelb, from the alt-rock band Giant Sand. The Scottish singer felt he could help her expand the pop sound that she had become known for, since her debut single “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” became a hit in 2006. “He’s this Maverick desert punk, non-conformist and I come from a very formulaic pop song background, and it was such an interesting meeting of minds,” she told Radio.com.
“The idea was to go over there and record straight over an old tape machine and just do live performances and see what happened,” Tunstall continued. Feeling inspired, what happened was that she knocked a number of songs in a short burst of time.
“Suddenly we had this half an album’s worth of material that I really felt confident about,” she said. “It wasn’t just material spilling out that was varied quality for me, it felt like it was strong material.”
That material, however, embodies two distinct feelings, like side A and side B of a record (hence the split title). The first half takes on the laid-back atmosphere and ambiance that Gelb created in his desert studio, while the second half was penned after a tumultuous summer in which Tunstall’s father passed away and her marriage of five years (to her drummer Luke Bullen) dissolved.
“Everything changed for me,” she said. “I was almost a different person by the time I went out to do the second half.”