In The Guardian newspaper of February 24, 2006, Tunstall explained: "It's a metaphor for good and evil. One summer, I was traveling in Greece on a little moped and this massive black horse had broken free in an olive grove and was going nuts. It looked apocalyptic: a seed was sown. I wrote the song years later in a tiny studio in Shepherd's Bush. I was about to tour Scottish coffee shops and was worried about coming across like Phoebe from Friends. At the same time I saw a brilliant guy called Son of Dave who looked like a ginger nylon 1980s' Elvis: really raw blues with just voice and effects. I got a pedal and one of my techie friends helped me put myself and my guitar through it. It's probably the most scientific I've been, but the song was written in a 10-minute burst. The lyrics where my 'Heart stops dead' refer to a heart murmur I had as a baby. I got into this fantasy that my heart felt betrayed and had decided to stop working. The song is about having to dig incredibly deep to find out who you wanna be."
Tunstall gained a lot of notoriety when she performed this song on Later with Jools Holland. She got her big break with the rapper Nas, who was scheduled to appear on the show, had to cancel due to a family emergency. After the performance, Eye To The Telescope was re-released and went to #3 on the UK charts. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
For her live performances, Tunstall uses an AKAI E2 headrush loop pedal. This unit basically samples her own live performances and plays it back so she can layer more on top of it. It is not an easy thing to do live, although many performers use loops in the studio. The "woo-hoo" backups are indeed KT.
KT is not an abbreviation, but rather a shorthand spelling for Katie.
In May of 2006 the song was covered twice by Katharine McPhee, a runner-up on Season 5 of the TV series American Idol. It was this performance that kickstarted interest in the song and really propelled it onto the charts.
The song has been used in an advertisement for the TV show Pepper Dennis. It was also used in commercials for Alice ADSL, the commercial name of Telecom Italia France, a European internet service provider. (thanks, Steve - Gaithersburg, MD, for above 4)
The song won the award for Best Single of 2005 in Q magazine. (thanks, Donovan Berry - El Dorado, AR)
KT Tunstall says in You magazine November 4, 2007 about granting Katharine McPhee permission to cover her song on American Idol: "It was a bit of a quandary for me, because I don't like reality pop shows at all. They're great TV, but they're not good for music. When Katharine chose 'Black Horse,' she demonstrated a bit of personality in what's otherwise a puppet show, and that appearance did me a lot of favors."
There's nary a black horse nor a cherry tree to be found in the Sophie Muller-directed music video, which shows Tunstall and her band performing the tune in a dark room. The singer, however, is sporting a black dress and cherry-red lips.