Kimbra face to face


Kiwi songstress Kimbra is about to play her first show in New Zealand since she walked away with a Grammy award more than a year ago. Reporter Taryn Utiger talked with her ahead of her gig.


THE DETAILS: Womad New Zealand

TSB Bowl of Brooklands Taranaki

March 14 to 16

Kimbra's set is on March 14, 10.30pm. Tickets available from


Kiwi songstress Kimbra is hoping the woman who inspired her name will be in the crowd at Womad this weekend.

The chart-topping star will return to play in New Zealand this week for the first time since she walked away with a Grammy for her part in Gotye's hit song Somebody That I Used to Know.

The 23-year-old has carved out a magnificent reputation as a live performer and has relentlessly toured the globe for the last two years, thrilling audiences with over 140 shows in 2012, including three tours of the United States.

Despite her international success and prowess as a performer she is nervously awaiting her headlining performance on Friday night in New Zealand.

It will be the first time she has come face to face with her favourite fans for more than a year, with those fans waiting patiently to hear Settle Down, Cameo Lover and Plain Gold Ring.

"I just can't wait to interact with people outside of social media," she says.

"I am really and sincerely excited to be at Womad and to see people in the flesh and to have eye contact with my fans again. It's indescribable."

She's hoping that nestled among the crowd at the three-day music festival will be the woman who inspired her name.

The story of where her name came from is a relatively straightforward one, although she secretly wishes it was an epic tale.

Before Kimbra was born her parents, Ken and Chris Johnson, used to babysit some young children.

One night the children were telling their babysitters all about their different aunts and uncles, and when they got to aunty Kimbra, the Johnson coupled melted.

"My parents just thought it was such a beautiful name, so when I was born that's what they named me.

"I haven't met the other Kimbra yet, but I am so keen to meet her."

Returning to New Zealand will be a pleasant change for the Melbourne-based artist who has been in Los Angeles working on her latest album.

The day after she walked away with a Grammy she moved to an urban mini farm in LA, complete with sheep, pigs and a rooster who woke her up at dawn every day.

She said the farm was a perfect place to create her soon-to-be released and highly anticipated new album. The open space, the stillness and being surrounded by animals put her at ease and helped her to reconnect with her childhood.

Kimbra says the influence this had on her album was profound and the time she dedicated to recording, including many 4am finishes, helped her grow as an artist and as a producer.

"I can't believe it's finished. It's crazy. It's pretty much consumed me for the last year. I was so focused on producing some really good work," she says.

Although the album has not been released yet the Hamilton-born star will play some of her first public performances of the new work on Friday.

"I am so excited to play the new work at Womad.

"I really can't wait to try out some of those songs in a live context and see how the band responds to the atmosphere, and how the song will grow and develop because of that. I just want to share with people and give back to them this music that I have been working on," she says.

The venue Kimbra will perform in is Taranaki's much-loved outdoor amphitheatre, the TSB Bowl of Brooklands.

One of the reasons she agreed to headline the Friday night was because her friends had told her so much about Womad.

"And I hear the venue is just beautiful. And now that I have seen the line-up I understand why people rate it so much," she says.

Kimbra's top picks for Womad are Nigerian political-funk-for-the-people artist Femi Kuti and Pakistani devotional Sufi musician Asif Ali Khan.

Over the last year the former Hillcrest High student has fallen in love with Pakistani music and is hoping her schedule isn't too busy while she's at Womad, so she can catch her favourite acts in the flesh.

In fact, seeing some of her idols in the flesh has become a common thing for the star after her Grammy win last year.

Although the win was for her involvement in Gotye's hit Somebody That I Used to Know the rise to fame has meant her own work was put on a platform and she also got to rub shoulders with her favourite bands.

The win, she says, has opened up many doors for her musically and has allowed her to collaborate with icons of experimental music.

Dave Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Deantoni Parks of the Mars Volta, Ben Weinman of the Dillinger Escape Plan, John Legend, Bilal, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and Van Dyke Parks are just some of the huge names appearing on her new album.

"It's been an incredible ride since the Grammys. I've become well travelled; people started delving into my own music and seeing what I do as as solo artist and it's helped me to break into the American market.

"Gratitude is so important to me in my career. I treat what I have as a great honour and a great gift and a great task that I have been given.

"I'm so lucky to have the chance to bring magic and maybe even transcendence into people's lives. Of course I have worked really, really hard for this, but I'm also really grateful that I am here.

"I have so many friends who are amazing musicians who find it so hard to get their music out there. There is so much bravery and courage needed and I'm just so lucky and so thankful that the timing has met with my hard work," she says.

Kimbra, of course, is not the only young New Zealander who has walked away with a Grammy recently.

Lorde and her first album, Pure Heroine, have taken the world by storm.

Kimbra, who has listened to Lorde's album and thinks she is doing great work, was in the United States at the time of this year's Grammys and said there was such a buzz about New Zealand music.

"When she won it gave me a real sense of Kiwi pride. People are starting to pay real attention to what we are doing Down Under and why music is coming out of New Zealand that seems like it's a real breath of fresh air compared to what's already on the charts," she says.

While Womad will expose New Zealand to the music of the world, it will also expose musicians of the world to New Zealand and to Kimbra.

"It's going to be so great to be back and to share my live band with my fans in New Zealand who have been with me right from the start. It's really exciting."

Taranaki Daily News