You may be one of those who never heard of Kimbra before or you may be one of those who have listened her hit singles “Cameo Lover”, “Good Intent” and “Two Way Street“, with pure pleasure, over and over again. You may be one of the 12,000,000+ viewers of her videos on YouTube or one of those who watched the ARIA awards when she won the prize of 2011 Best Female Artist. It doesn’t matter whether her name rings a bell or not; this article is for everyone out there, as Kimbra’s story is as interesting as it can be.
Imagine the woman who sings “I want to settle down” being just a little girl, daddy’s girl, who at the age of 10, was writing songs, dreaming of becoming a famous singer. At 12-years-old, her father, the head doctor at the University of Waikato’s student health centre in New Zealand, bought her a guitar and after a few years of lessons, she was already on stage, performing. Perseverance was her thing from early childhood, as she competed in the national schools’ competition Rockquest for three years running, and only in 2004, when aged 14-years-old, she was awarded second place. From that moment, Kimbra (her full name is Kimbra Lee Johnson) rose to prominence and her destiny was written. She made her first music video, “Smile”, for the children’s TV show What Now, she became a member of the school’s Jazz choir, Scat, until she was discovered by manager Mark Richardson of OutPost Management at the age of 17.
Richardson, who is responsible for discovering Jamiroquai and Paula Abdul, convinced her to relocate to Melbourne, Australia to follow her musical career and her path became more obvious. She signed with his newly-formed management company and independent label Forum 5 and in 2010, her first single, “Settle Down” was released, reminding everyone that good music can still be made and bearing small influences from Nina Simone, Bjork and Florence and The Machine.
After three and-a-half years in the making, she released her debut album, Vows, in 2011, highlighting her growth and her musically and personally development over this time. In its first week of release, the record, considered a genre-defying, a dazzling introspection, the album charted at No. 3 in New Zealand, No. 5 in Australia and No. 14 in the US. But carving her own path didn’t stop here. She made a duet with Gotyé on “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. Now, she’s hitting the United States along with Gotyé, she has performed at Saturday Night Live, she released the track “Warrior”, produced in collaboration with Mark Foster of Foster the People and DJ A-Trak, whilst Vows has been shortlisted for the AMP Awards.
At 22 years of age, Kimbra is now compared to vocal legends, such as Janelle Monaé, Prince and Jeff Buckley, not only for her unique style, but also for her talent, musical sophistication and maturity. Her multifaceted influences are deeply buried within her songs and her exciting, creative spirit doesn’t cease to surprise the entire music industry. She has established herself both locally and internationally as a significant talent and it would be required something more powerful than a tsunami to take her down.