Kimbra “Settles” In After Everybody Got to Know Her From “Somebody”

It’s pretty obvious that despite having millions of hits on YouTube for quite some time now and being a smash success already in Australia, everybody in the States got to know Kimbra thanks to the insanely popular song “Somebody I Used to Know.” The New Zealand beauty’s appearance on Gotye’s International and certified platinum U.S. hit put her on the map months before her debut album Vows even dropped here. The success of that ultimate “FU” break-up song lead to appearances on Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and, yes, a regular place inside your head for the better part of a year. But, have a listen to Vows, and you’ll discover the multi-talented artist is the total package and I mean that in a very unLex Lugar kind of way.

Even though she just dropped her debut album in the States, Kimbra actually released it (to much fanfare) in Australia a year ago, and started working on it over three years ago. The US version features those original songs along with a few new tracks, including the summer alt-rock smash “Warrior,” which finds Kimbra performing to ’80s-inspired synth with Mark Foster of Foster the People and Atrak.

I recently caught up with the “superstar” (and I say that in a very Molly Shannon way) by phone (shaky reception and all) and asked her about the evolution of Vows, becoming a superstar with the Aussie Gotye, life on the road, and when we can expect new music from her (even though us Yanks just got Vows).

Q. This sounds a bit odd considering Vows just came out here, but are you itching to get back in the studio to record new material? The album has been out for over a year.
A. I am. Yeah. It’s funny because like you said I’ve lived with these songs for a long time. I feel a new musical phase coming on and I want to explore that down the road. In the studio, I’m able to fully explore and I’m looking forward to that. It won’t come for a little while, but I’ve started working on the back of the tour bus. I’ve been connected with such amazing other artists and producers, and I can’t wait to collaborate with them and start exploring.

Q. Can you describe what you get from collaborations? You’ve had a few already in your career. Do you get the same satisfaction guesting on other people’s songs as you do your own stuff?
A. I’ve been working on this album for 3 1/2 years so to jump on a track completely is different for me. There’s not the same emotional attachment. I consider myself still quite fussy so it has to be something I feel challenges me in some way. It has to be something that helps me grow. There’s a learning curve when you work with others and it took me awhile. I try to be very open minded.

Q. Did you have any idea your collaboration with Gotye would be as huge as it has become? The song and video really became a phenomenon here … with Glee covering it and countless talent shows doing the same.
A. I had no idea. It wasn’t even intended as a single. I was surprised. I mean I knew it was a beautiful, provoking kind of song but I just thought it couldn’t be on radio. It’s just so different than everything else and more melancholic. But, it picked up like wildfire. I think people were excited by the rawness of emotion and craved something different in pop music.

Q. And the sexy music video helped…
A. We were very vulnerable. There was this raw human emotion. People could see how much time went into the video. There was no CGI or effects. It was very simply, a visual metaphor of being a part of someone’s world, and then being completely removed from it.

Q. Since “Somebody” was such a huge hit — did it take any pressure off Vows debuting in the states?
A. Sure. In ways, it did, and ways it didn’t. Having an audience immediately to speak to was very beneficial. But, there was still a lot of pressure if I could back up that song with the album. All eyes were on me after such a sick song like that. But, the record wasn’t a throw away. It’s not something that I rushed. I see the response now, and I’m even more excited. It has the weight to stand on its own.

Q. After scoring such a monstrous hit, does the thought of “One Hit Wonder” and debunking that tag start entering your mind at all?
A. I feel like I’d have more pressure if I had nothing to back it up. But when I met Gotye, the record was already in the mixing process and I had a couple million views on YouTube. The same is true with Gotye. He has so much musical depth and knowledge. It goes far beyond one song. Gotye really came from such a humble place. He had no intention for it to be a big smash hit. Many one hit wonders are formulaic, and this reached the charts very organically.

Q. Having listened to Vows, I’m pretty stunned at your own musical depth. Have you always been a vocal force — even as a kid?
A. I haven’t always been a singer like that. I had one tone I’d stick to. But, I really look at my voice as an instrument to tap into now. You can’t stay in a safe place all the time, and that may mean you cannot be afraid of sounding ugly sometimes or showing some masculinity. It’s all about showing the emotion of a song, and you shouldn’t be scared to step out and be experimental.