Remember Kimbra Johnson? The Waikato Times recommended you should when she first appeared on our pages as a cute 10-year-old a decade ago, and now the playful pop singer has signed an international record deal.
Kimbra, as she is now known, was unable to talk to the Times yesterday because she was busy in a Melbourne recording studio, but the former Hillcrest High School student was able to update things via email.
The 21-year-old has come a long way since she sang the national anthem at the Waikato Cup race meet in December 2000; she this week signed an international deal with Warner Brothers Records which will release her debut album, Vows, later this year.
Kimbra was earmarked by Hollywood blogger Perez Hilton, who helped launch the careers of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, as one to watch after he saw the video for her single Settle Down.
"If you like Nina Simone, Florence and the Machine, and/or Bjork, then we think you will enjoy Kimbra - her music reminds us of all those fierce ladies," he wrote.
Kimbra moved to Melbourne in 2008 to further her music career, but still likes to get back to Hamilton at least once a year to catch up with family and friends.
"I come home for Christmas, which is always lovely," she said.
"We grew up right by the river with a big gully-overgrown forest type landscape in our backyard, and I miss having such inspiring scenery and adventures right on my doorstep.
"Being in a big city all the time can be hard work so it's nice to come home and re-connect again."
Kimbra's style and fashion-sense has changed, but as her music videos for her two singles - Settle Down and Cameo Lover - show, she has not let go of her childhood altogether.
"There is an element of youth and playfulness we've tried to keep in both clips, but I also like thought-provoking imagery, and artists that use visuals as an extension of their music and world.
"I think that as you grow older you learn how to take a few more risks and gain the confidence to step outside of 'safe'."
Hillcrest High School assistant principal and Scat Choir director Susan Radford said Kimbra's style and talent was evident from early on.
"She's a very talented young person in a range of areas," Ms Radford said.
"Kimbra had a very definite sense of her own style from a young age.
"She's got the smarts and she's intuitive enough to know how to succeed - 'astute' is the word I would use to describe her."
Ms Radford said Kimbra was a member of the choir and also participated in numerous school productions as well as being a well-rounded academic and talented linguist, once travelling to France with her French class.
Ms Radford said despite her star being on the rise, Kimbra had not grown too big for her home-town boots.
"I caught up with her when I was in Melbourne. We had a drink together."
Kimbra said most of her closest friends were "back home" in Hamilton.
"Those people have shaped who I am. It was very hard leaving them behind but everyone has to pursue their own paths and true friends are always there no matter what the distance."
- Waikato Times
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