by Winston "Stone" Ford
Kimbra’s name may not yet be on the tip of your tongue yet, but trust me it will be soon. The 22 year old New Zealand born singer has won several awards (and platinum plaques) Down Under, and is now featured on Goyte’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” which has already become a hit in The States. But it’s her album Vows (releasing in the US via Warner Brothers) that will really put her on the map. Her mix of R&B, indie, pop, and soul music.
2012 finds the Australian-based singer in the United States, supporting Goyte on tour as well as a string of SXSW performances. Kimbra’s Settle Down EP is available now via iTunes.
I hear a lot of varied influences in your music. “Call Me,” is more of a traditional R&B song, while “Settle Down” and “Cameo Lover” are more pop. Who are some of the artists who have influenced you?
I first gravitated to soul and R&B as a kid, I also enjoyed musical theatre which probably provoked my love of string arrangements and theatrical songwriting. I also love progressive bands like The Mars Volta and Battles for their use of interesting rhythms and genre-bending musical styles. My influences nowadays range from Bilal to Prince to The Dirty Projectors and Rufus Wainwright. I try to listen to as much as possible so as to draw from as many different sounds.
Vows accomplishes a lot of emotions in one project, from “Cameo Lover” to “Good Intent”. What was your writing process behind the album?
It varied so much, some of the songs on that album I wrote when I was 16 on guitar but later I became more fascinated in production and worked more on Protools and guitar/keyboards. Often my lyrics would respond to a musical idea, but other times the lyric would come first – that is the beautiful mystery of songwriting, you never quite know how a song will manifest itself.
One of the more interesting and quirky tracks on the album is the track “Settle Down.” What types of emotions were you?going through when recording that song?
I wrote that song when I was 16 on a little 8 track I borrowed from the school music room. This was the first time I experimented with vocal layers and harmony which was very exciting. At first the lyric didn’t really mean anything, it was just a fun little parody of “Stepford Wives” type characters trying to manipulate their men into domesticity. But as I grew with song and continued to work on it, it started to mean more. I drew inspiration from the film A Place Under The Sun and started to resonate with the song more as I grew up. It’s really an observation on the various ideals we grow up with as children about married life and the ‘perfect future’. I wanted to challenge that and provoke thought on it all.
What was your motivation to cover Nina Simone’s “Plain Gold Ring”?
My producer at the time, Francois Tetaz suggested the song to me as a song that I should cover, I hadn’t actually heard Nina’s version of it although I was already a big fan of her work. I found the song so mesmerising and immediately a connection to it. It also felt very in line with a lot of the themes I was already touching on throughout Vows so it just felt right to include it on the record.
Vows has had a phenomenal success Down Under. How do you?plan to take that success to The States?
I just plan on doing what I’ve always been doing. Delivering the songs with conviction and energy, we’ll be touring lots and hopefully creating an exciting experience for people to come and share.
Do you find it more difficult to promote in the US versus other countries?
I haven’t really started my real promo in America yet but I know that a lot of people say it can be difficult, but I’m very lucky to have had support early on from blogs and other artists in America which I think can help to introduce into the market. We’ll see! I try not to have huge expectations, I’m just excited to take the music to a new territory.
You’re going on a US tour with Goyte as well as SXSW. What should we expect from your live show?
I tour with a live band who are really great, it’s a lot more aggressive and shows a more theatrical side to the songs than perhaps is heard on record. We like to recreate the songs live so that it’s a very different experience for our audience. It’s a bit more guitar driven and we also do a lot of vocal sampling live. Plus my drummer has a flat-top that would give the Fresh Prince of Bel Air a run for his money!
Kimbra’s Top Five
The Top Five songs she’s listening to right now.
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