Kimbra's rise to the top

WITH a magnetic stage presence, an amazing voice and catchy tunes, Kimbra Johnson is rising hard and fast in the music world.

Fairfax Media spoke to the recent GRAMMY award winner.  

How do you come up with the words to your lyrics?

Kimbra: I get excited by certain words when I hear or read them – it might be the sound of the syllables or the images that the word evokes – then I elaborate and create a story around those words, or sometimes it comes from observing a situation unfolding in my own life and putting it in a new ‘world’ which gives it a new string of imagery. 

Music critics describe your music as a bit of pop, soul, jazz and many other genres of music. How would you describe your  music? 

Kimbra: I don’t.

I just tell people to listen to it. 

How has life changed for you in the last year? 

Kimbra: I sometimes get stopped to take a photo with someone in Coles when I’m buying quinoa. And we’re now headlining festivals and playing in places like Istanbul and China. 

Apart from that I am surrounded by the same people that were really around from day one and I’m still writing my music from the same place that it started from – external things change a little but the heart certainly hasn’t. 

Who are your musical inspirations? 

Kimbra: There are many. From Stevie Wonder to The Dirty Projectors. Daniel Johns to Japanese producer Cornelius. 

I am inspired by artists who have created a signature sound for themselves and continued to push into the unknown and strive for timelessness with their art. 

How do you find time to write your music with all the tours and travelling? 

Kimbra: You’ll always make time for a great idea. 

If something comes to me in the middle of a soundcheck, I’ll record it into my phone or run to the back of the tour bus with my laptop and create a rough sketch of the idea. 

What has been an amazing moment in your career to date? 

Kimbra: Playing with Janelle Monae in Switzerland at the Montreux Jazz Festival. 

Selling out shows all over the states on our first headline tour there and playing Coachella with Gotye earlier in the year was certainly a highlight as well. 

Have you always wanted to be a musician or did you just fall into it? 

Kimbra: I think I was called into it. 

It always felt like a very strong pull in my life – to go forth and pursue music. 

I was happy to go and study at university and still felt  there were  many things I would like to do – but I did feel a real sense that I was meant to make music for people and it was something that stuck with me 

as a kid.  

What are your favourite songs off Vows

Kimbra: The Build Up is definitely one that is closest to heart.

I wrote it when I was about 16, and it lyrically follows some personal inner dialogues for me and  explores the various contradictions that surround love and loss. 

I also enjoy the minimal production on that track – it is far more exposing than a lot of the other tracks on Vows. 

How did you come up with the album title Vows?

Kimbra: I always liked the word – it evokes interesting images and notions of commitment and sacredness. 

It also can be quite an unsettling word as it suggests a sense of eternality. I think this record explored the idea of promises a lot, and how it felt to break them or have them broken by someone else.  

How does it feel to have the song Somebody I Used To Know become a worldwide hit? 

Kimbra: It feels great to have been a part of a song that has connected with so many people and sound tracked a moment for them. 

What are you plans for 2013? 

Kimbra: We are playing a lot of festivals over the summer through Australia and New Zealand but after that I will be getting stuck into writing new material. I have a lot of sketches from being on the road all year so now I look forward to having some proper time to start executing it all and get back into the studio.

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