We catch the gleeful Kimbra (pun intended) only minutes after she has heard the news that ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ has gone to #1 on the US singles chart. The song’s appearance on Glee and American Idol pushing it to become only the sixth in Australian recording history to top the US Billboard chart; even Lindsay Lohan tweeted her support; who can argue with that? As to be expected, Kimbra is in the mood to celebrate, “I don’t quite understand it, but it is amazing obviously, and all credit to Wally, he has really done something special.”
Kimbra is wrapping up what has been an extremely successful invasion of America, one that begun with SXSW Festival in Texas and has finished with one giant singalong in the middle of the Californian desert at Coachella. Any military tactician would be proud of the efficiency with which the yanks were conquered and last night’s headlining set at the historical Troubadour in LA, which sold out in less than one minute, was Kimbra’s victory parade. “It is a venue I have always wanted to play, so many amazing artists have played there when they were just starting out, and so it was a real personal milestone and a great show.”
Kimbra has recently celebrated her 22nd birthday overseas, and discussing her new track ‘Home’, that will be released on an Australian Tour Edition of the ARIA award winning Vows, the topic of homesickness resonates, “my birthday was a bit sad because I missed everyone back home, but I had my band and they were great and I was in New York City so it’s not the worst place to spend your birthday is it? But ‘Home’ is really personal, it’s about where you belong and whether or not the concept of home is limited to one place or time or whether it is something you find within yourself, I think it’s quite normal to have several homes around the world.”
This ideology comes quite naturally to the Hamilton born, Melbourne bred songstress, whose heart has been split between the cities ever since she moved to Victoria to pursue her musical career. So where does the Hamilton girl stop and the Melbourne girl begin? “They are both really important parts of my life, New Zealand is my homeland, it was my upbringing and it’s where I fell in love with nature, but then in many ways, arriving in Melbourne was the defining moment of my life. It was me leaving my comfort zone and becoming who I am today.”
Kimbra suddenly breathes a sigh of relief and it is easy to understand why the girl is feeling a little overwhelmed, the last week has been just a little crazy. Firstly there was an appearance alongside Gotye on Saturday Night Live, a show that is commonly known as the American musical litmus test, where their universally lauded performance only consolidated the ubiquity of their duet. “SNL was a whirlwind, it is live TV obviously so you have a million people running around, but I met Kristen Wiig, so it was all worth it, that woman is just brilliant.”
But as if that wasn’t enough for Kimbra’s stress levels, tagging the #pinchyourselfmoment on her personal twitter, it was a sleepless night afterwards, boarding a 4am flight to Coachella, where she was to witness what many hip-hop aficionados claimed to be a miracle. “Tupac was insane. To see him resurrected like that was unbelievable, people were freaking out.” But her own performance with Gotye, at sunset, with the mountains on the horizon was a moment Kimbra admits she will not forget quickly, “American crowds are unlike any other I’ve seen, they sing along louder and more passionately then any crowd I’ve witnessed, they are so expressive, I can see why artists love touring here, the Coachella set was quite special.”
Kimbra will return from her overseas adventures in time to be a part of the Groovin’ The Moo travelling circus of music, as well as headlining her largest solo shows to date including nights at The Enmore and The Palais, with none other than the smooth Dandenong soul-cat Daniel Merriweather. Discussing her rise from The Forum to The Palais, from The Metro to The Enmore and from Coachella to Bendigo, Kimbra is candid about performing to different sized crowds. “I don’t see any difference in connecting to the crowd whether there are 5 people or 500 people in front of me, but in terms of production it can be a bit fun stepping it up visually and doing different things with the sets, it keeps it fresh and we can play some new songs and play some old ones differently.”
The return to the Australian festival circuit will undoubtedly be a little less stressful than her last festival tour, where an ambitious scheme was hatched and pulled off that had Kimbra leave the stage of the Sydney Big Day Out to travel for a day and a half to the US and back again for four minutes of stage time on The Late Show With Jimmy Kimmel, arriving down in Adelaide airport one hour before her next Big Day Out gig. This time around, Kimbra plans to take things a bit slower, “I’ve never been to some of these rural areas of Australia before so I can’t wait to do some driving around and see the countryside, as well as taking my music to people that haven’t seen it live before, the concept (of Groovin’ The Moo) is quite unique in that way.”
The G word is always going to be a touchy subject for an artist who has earned global attention through another man’s song, and as much as Vows has been an impressive introduction to the world, one cannot escape the fact that Gotye has given Kimbra one helluva leg-up. So is the success of that bitter break up ode a double-edged sword, as much a hindrance to her own independent success as it has been a vehicle to global stardom? “It has been an incredible introduction to a world that one rarely gets to see at my age. So I don’t see much negativity in it at all, I’ve talked to Wally about the reaction the song has received, but we are both pretty comfortable about our ability to back it up. I guess it would be different if that was the only thing I had, but one of the reasons I agreed to do it was because I was about to release my album and it’s good to have people at my shows who have heard the hit but are excite to see what lies beyond.”
What lies beyond is her next hit, a collaboration with Mark Foster, from the undeniable hit makers Foster The People and Kanye West’s old DJ, A-Trak. The track, called ‘Warrior’ is already infecting airwaves and was hatched as part of Converse’s Rubber Tracks series, with the song being put together by the 3 artists over 21 cities on 4 continents. “It was crazy, I hadn’t even met A-Trak until we hung out at Coachella but putting the track together was a really fun process, I remember at one point I was singing vocals in my Macbook in the lounge of Hamburg Airport, it was certainly a different process to what I was used to.”
Our chat finishes as Kimbra prepares to board her flight to Europe. What lies ahead is a few casual stops in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and London; but our adopted chanteuse is nothing if not nonchalant, having already adapted to life in different time zones. As our goodbyes are said, the lineup of Splendour In The Grass is being read over the radio and her name is read out amongst At The Drive In, The Smashing Pumpkins and Jack White. “Haha yeah I’ve been keeping that one underneath my hat for awhile, but I didn’t know about The Pumpkins! Far Out! That will be rad!”
Written by Chris Lewis.
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