"I get more nervous with things like this, when I'm playing to just a few people and it's cameras and interviewers," genre-bending artist Kimbra admitted to me when we sat down for a chat. She stopped by for a Baeble session earlier this year and what it resulted in was - dare I say it - one of our most moody sessions yet. Blue lights, Kimbra's reverb-drenched effects, and her witchy presence all come together for one spine-tingling show. She started with a stripped rendition of "Version Of Me," a new song off her forthcoming album Primal Heart. After that she went into the album's lead single "Everybody Knows," confidently showing off her production skills and adding in little flourishes but ultimately letting her dynamic voice take the spotlight.
It's clear that there are sounds that are only to be heard in Kimbra's mind. As she performs, her brain is constantly working and fixating on every little detail. She added new melodies to songs we originally loved and made them even more interesting. Her performances of "Human" and "Past Love" really proved this. "Human" saw wild vocal experimentations and chord changes, while "Past Love" inspired Kimbra to grab the guitar - and what followed was pure magic.
"Getting up in front of a crowd and performing for people that have come to see the work - I don't get nervous for that. That just feels like where I'm most free," Kimbra continued at the beginning of our conversation. It makes sense, after all, you can't really pin Kimbra's work to one thing. She's a true genre-bending artist at heart, and it deserves a certain appreciation. I can vouch for everyone who stood in the room during this session, because it was unlike anything else. See it for yourself and make sure to get Primal Heart this Friday, April 20th.
Mm… Mm, hmm… Mm… Mm, hmm… Mm… Mm, hmm… I know what I know While I know what I know before playing shows? like this, you know, where I'm playing to just a few people and it's, like, cameras, and, like, you know, interviewers and unh. But getting up in front of the crowd and performing for people that have come to see the work, I don't get nervous for that. I just...I don't know, that feels like where I'm most free. Next time, I'll be kinder with you There's just this habit that I have I throw my words around like fire They catch on your good heart and your peace of mind (Mind, mind, mind, mind, mind, mind) Next time, I'll be kinder If I learn to take it lighter when you Tell me there's something that I lack Would that make you change my mind? Would that make it better and buy me some time? 'Cause I'm damned if I do And I'm damned if I don't Every time you swear I will I say that I won't But there's a better version of me So stay for the person I'll be If there's a next time I'll fight harder for you See, I won't take for granted what we had I wake with you in mind but I'm tired, yeah, of all our different phases Are all these faults of mine? 'Cause I'm damned if I'm true And I'm damned if I'm not Every time you swear I'll lose I swear that I'm tryin' But there's a better version of me Would you stay for the person I'll be? - Where and how did you learn to sing like that and play every instrument ever? - Thank you. I'm definitely a bit of a geek when it comes to gadgets so that's some of the, you know, things that you saw on stage, these are manipulators that I can use to kind of sculpt the sound. The voice, I guess, you know, I've been singing all my life. I remember it being in my life for a long time and it kind of feels like a language for me, like a way that I can express, these very soulful expressions. Money moans and it calls you home Vacant eyes, they won't tell a soul You fooled me once Now I'm twice as old Hey, see, I ain't gonna lie But I ain't gonna phone you I ain't gonna try to forget what I gone through Got a little box, yeah That I'm gonna open So take your promises 'Cause they've all've been broken Everybody knows 'bout what you do Everybody saw and sold the truth I was young and gullible But baby, I grew (I grew, I grew, I grew, I grew) Now the whole world's watchin' you My hands to the bone, hey And my hands to the heart Bodies alone, yeah They hide in the dark But is it a fight worth fightin' for? Ooh… See, I ain't gonna lie, hey, but I ain't gonna hold back Or try to deny You turned a damn good heart black I've got a little box, yeah That I'm gonna take back Don't make your promises 'Cause I'm finished with all that Everybody knows 'bout what you do Everybody saw and sold the truth I was young and gullible But baby, I grew And now the whole world's watchin' you Everybody knows about what you do (Do, do) Everybody saw and sold the truth (Truth) I was young and gullible But baby, I grew, yeah Now the whole world's watchin' you Bah, bah Yeah, baby Da, da, da, da, ah… Bah, bah, bah, bah... Ooh… Ooh… There was a time when I was low So low, so low - All the singles that you've released so far have such an empowering kind of tone to them, like as if you're sort of growing up. Are all those songs sort of about the one same thing or is it just more big? - They're really related to the title of the album, which is Primal Heart, and within the primal heart is many things, right? This capacity for love, and selflessness, and striving, but then, also, greed, and envy, and ego, and all these other things that can be so destructive in our world. So, the songs explore different parts of that and it's sort of peeling away of the layers and showing this rawness, you know? This primal heart. That's what it means to me. So Human, of course, is very much about that. This is what it means to be human I don't know much But I know that I hurt as much as you - So as Everybody Knows and Top of the World, they're explorations of the heart itself and what lies in it for all of us, you know, for better or worse. Hey - How do you feel you've evolved since Golden Echo? - The Golden Echo was a very, like, imaginative album for me. It was, you know, almost a psychedelic approach where I've let myself just venture anywhere I could think of, you know? Whereas Primal Heart has more of a grounded focus because, you know, I moved my life to New York and I had these new experiences. Instead of escaping reality, I wanted to confront it a little more. And like you said, you know, maybe it's a little more focused on growth, and maturity, and womanhood, and…yeah. So, I'm really glad that comes across to people who hear it because I feel more empowered than I perhaps was, you know. I mean, I was younger and it's nice to feel that your art is reflecting the person you're becoming. Mm… Mm, hmm… Mm… Mm, hmm… Mm… Mm, hmm… I know what I know While I know what I know What I know, hey Ooh, ooh… Not many things I know But I know what I know And I'll grow Yeah, yeah yes, I There was a time when I was low So low, so low But there's a time when I had to show Got a heart that's primal 'Cause yeah, I need your love for my survival Hey, life's got me on trial I confess I've been messed up and in denial Ooh… 'Cause this is what it means to be human I don't know much But I know this much is true Ay, yeah This is what it means to be human I don't know much But I know that I hurt as much as you Go where I go, where I go, where I go, where I go 'Cause I'm a foreigner everywhere I roam Yeah but I see in you what I see in myself It's written in the marrow of my bones, yeah I got a heart that's primal, yeah 'Cause yeah I need your love for my survival Hey, life's got me on trial, yeah I confess I've been messed up, in denial Yeah 'cause this is what it means to be human I don't know much But I know this much is true, yeah This is what it means to be human, yeah Don't know much But I know that I hurt as much as you Ooh… Ah… I'm human, yeah… I don't know… Do, do, do, do, do This is, yeah… Yeah 'cause baby, I… The bridges Maybe it grows, I Oh, oh, oh This is what it feels like, yeah Oh, oh, oh This is what it means to be This is what it means to be Hey, hey… - Are you going to play a lot of new stuff on the tour that you're going on? - So much, yeah. It's going to be a lot of new stuff, like, almost the whole album. But I'm just having so much fun playing the new music that it feels like a nice way to share joy with my audience, and, you know, I think if they see me inspired, it makes for a more exciting show. And of course, there'll be some old stuff as well, but I just…I'm in a really exciting space at the moment and I want to share that energy from the new album. - What's your favorite song to perform live? - Right now I'm really enjoying playing Past Love, which is the last song we played in the session just because it's fun to be playing guitar with the band. That's not an experience I've had that much, of, like, playing guitar along with other musicians. I'm usually doing it by myself. It's fun, though. It's like getting a cool new interpretation each time we play it. I don't feel the same I took all I could take Hey, rapture, find me now I said I didn't mind While you stripped all my pride 'Cause good love Good love was mine Broken wings, bones of coal Now every word I wanna say, I swallow Though I try to shake the light I live inside the sheen of every faint glow Ooh, past love Come back to yourself Don't keep reachin' out to him He can't help you now It's a past lie So come back to the time It's been far too many nights And you're still cryin' I woke in early morn Feelin' somethin's wrong Time take me, I'm movin' on The night won't let me sleep Wish these days of the week would fade out, fade out for me Broke my wings They were bones of coal Now every word I want to say, I swallow, Ahh though I'm tryin' to shake the light I live inside the sheen of every faint glow Oh, past love Come back to yourself Don't keep reachin' out to him He can't help you now It's a past lie Come back to the time It's been far too many nights And you're still cryin' Ooh, ooh, ooh Oh, oh, oh… Oh, oh… Oh, oh, oh… Oh, oh, oh... Oh, oh, oh Oh, oh Just cryyy All you do is cryyyyy All you do is cryy All you do is cryyyyy Do, da All you do is cry… All you do is cry, All you do is cry All you do is cry, cry, cry Past love Won't you come back to yourself? Don't keep reachin' out to him 'Cause he can't help you now It's past life So come back to the time It's been far too many nights And you're still cry I don't know much But I know that I hurt as much as you Human Human Human Human
Maybe you know her from her hit singles Cameo Lover, Good Intent and Two Way Street, or youre one of the many voters that helped put all three in the ranks of Triple Js Hottest 100 - the worlds biggest music poll. Maybe youre one of the 12,000,000+ total views of her stylish videos on YouTube. Or the fact that she won the ARIA for 2011 Best Female Artist. Perhaps you better recognise her from her duet with Goty on the world-conquering Somebody That I Used To Know, a chart-topping hit in 11 countries world-wide, and No. 1 for 8 weeks on the Australian singles chart. The name may ring a bell from any one of her electric live shows, including performances at Splendour In The Grass, Big Day Out, Meredith, Parklife and a sold-out national headline tour, with forthcoming shows including Groovin The Moo.
The point is: if you dont know Kimbra by now, then youre in an ever-diminishing minority.
But the story goes further back. Spending her early years gigging around her native New Zealand, it was only once Kimbra borrowed a small eight-track recorder from her schools musical department that her songwriting blossomed in earnest. After a furious period of creativity, including the inklings that would become her debut album, she was discovered by manager Mark Richardson of OutPost Management at the tender age of 17, who enabled her to relocate to Melbourne to follow her musical career. Shes been carving her own path ever since.
Kimbras debut record Vows, three and-a-half years in the making, charts not only her growth and development musically over this time, but personally as well. Recorded and arranged both at home and across various studios, it presents her unique worldview on life and love. Even at twenty-one years of age, Kimbra already possesses the maturity and musical sophistication of the mavericks she is so often compared to - from vocal legends Nina Simone and Jeff Buckley, to radicals the likes of Prince, and contemporary artists such as Bjrk and Janelle Mona.
Vows was self-produced and with the refined skills of Francois Tetaz (Bertie Blackman, Gotye); whose focus on imagery taught her to treat the album like a film and Australian Urban export M-Phazes (Amerie, Pharoahe Monch) If Vows is a film then, what is it about?
A smoky romance one scene, a film noir the next - Vows is a genre-defying, an eclectic journey of joyful triumph and a darker introspection. A dazzling, colourful soundtrack to travel its conceptual groove through a mix of styles. Migrating confidently from triumphant neo-pop built on stacked harmonies and joyful hooks, to moodier, reflective moments that showcase her sophisticated vocals. Upon release, Vows swiftly achieved critical and commercial success. Debuting at No. 3 in Kimbras native New Zealand (Gold Status), and at No. 5 in the Australian album charts and soon attained Platinum status within three weeks of release. Subsequently, Vows has been shortlisted for the AMP Awards.
Having signed an international deal with Warner Music, Kimbra, complemented by her band of funky virtuosos, is now set to take on the States. With a slew of SXSW showcase gigs; touring the nation in support of Goty, with further dates confirmed with Foster The People shes preparing to unleash Vows to the USA this May. Shes making in-roads with the countrys most eclectic production and writing talent, whose combined CVs mirror Kimbras own multifaceted influences. Co-writing with soul star John Legend, recording with iconic producer Mike Elizondo (Dr Dre, Fiona Apple) as well as working with Greg Kurstin (The Bird and The Bee, The Flaming Lips, Foster The People) plus Mark Foster & A-Trak and Keefus Green (Mike Patton, Mini Mansions). Kimbra is rapidly establishing herself both locally and internationally as a significant talent. A fresh, exciting creative spirit in todays music industry.