The power of deviation: An interview with Kimbra

The power of deviation: An interview with Kimbra

Music in constant development — For many artists, winning a Grammy would mark the beginning of a life in the spotlight. For Kimbra it marked a time for different type of change - she quickly moved to an LA sheep farm.

She’s an artist that’s difficult to categorise, her music a raw concoction of jazz-inspired electronic pop. What defines all of Kimbra’s musical endeavors, however, is a voice so powerful it instantly grabs your attention. It’s almost a little surprising that she’s so softly spoken.

“It’s been in my DNA since I was born. At some point I guess it became clear to me that what I did give other people joy as well, that it wasn’t only cathartic to me,” she says of her choice to pursue a career in music.

The choice worked in her favour: landing a record deal at only 17, Kimbra had been a big name in the indie scene Down Under before becoming internationally acclaimed with her feature on Gotye’s hit ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ back in 2012. The song ended up winning ‘record of the year’ at the Grammys, far from her expectations when they recorded it from a sofa in her flat.

“That kind of sudden success almost feels a bit…”, Kimbra pauses. “I guess claustrophobic is the word.”

Instead of basking in her Grammy’s shimmering afterglow, Kimbra decided to escape the glamorous, albeit chaotic world of Hollywood. The day after she won the award, she jumped online and found a room for rent on a sheep farm on the outskirts of Los Angeles. She stayed for over a year, doing her dishes in a bathtub and making music surrounded by the animals she lives with on the farm.

“I couldn’t live in Hollywood, I just couldn’t do that. I needed stillness and being able to get into that bubble. What I was able to do was hibernate, and then come back into the world and do all these projects and events. But I needed both,” she reflects.

“It’s not an unattractive place, Hollywood. I love the aesthetics, that it’s all so over the top and theatrical. I guess it just comes down to how deeply you want to engage with it. When it comes to actually making a record, I needed something very different.”

Kimbra hasn’t let people restrict her to being “that girl in the Gotye song”. She’s released two albums, Vows and The Golden Echo, and has done a wide range of collaborations. Her music acts as a showcase for her remarkable skill of constant reinvention, continually deviating from what she’s previously made.

“I think the term “progressive pop” is suitable for my music, because progressive suggests that you’re pushing to find the edges of what you’re working within.”

“As an artist you need to push yourself and find avenues you haven’t explored yet”, continues Kimbra. “Everything I do is a constant development. The goal is to keep a cohesiveness to it at the same time. I want to have a body of work that people feel isn’t totally schizophrenic.”

Kimbra has always taken an active part in creating her own sound. The interest for the production side of music began with an 8-track recorder borrowed from her school, which she made her first hit ‘Settle Down’ on.

“I started messing around with and became fascinated with how I could sculpt sound”, she continues. “It essentially became a tool of writing for me. Production itself is an instrument.”

Another way of developing as an artist has been through collaborations. A song very different from her hit with Gotye is her new feature on the Danish artist Slowolf’s electronica single “White Feathers”.

“I’m super stoked that I got to work with Slowolf. I heard his remix of my song Goldmine and I really wanted to see what we could make together,” she says.

“There is something very internal about working with my solo records, you end up spending a lot of time in your head. When you work with someone on their record you’re coming into the process as an instrument. I can bring colour to something as opposed to it being about my whole story.”

Musically, Kimbra seems to be a never-ending journey of development, the result being a distinct and uncompromising sound. It’s a path she thinks she may have never trodden if she’d stuck about in Hollywood after the Grammys.

Kimbra has now moved to New York and is working towards a third album, but she hasn’t quite managed to leave her farming days behind her.

“It’’s a bit weird, but I’ve set up my own equivalent of a farm here! Although it has no animals. But I’ve found a setup in my flat that gives me some space in such a hectic city.”

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