GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter Kimbra is the definition of bold. Her sound, encompassing jazz, R&B, pop and rock influences, knows no creative limits—last fall she even joined the Howard Gospel Choir on stage for a performance.
The New Zealander, who won two GRAMMYs for her duet with Gotye on his 2012 megahit "Somebody That I Used To Know" and released her third album, Primal Heart, in early 2018, recently took her love music and connecting with others to the turntables, playing her first-ever DJ set in South America.
Her creative spirit flows outside of music as well. An artist who is as thoughtful about her music as she is about her visuals, she uses costumes and fashion as yet another way to engage with audiences. "When you're listening to music, it's cool if you're also stimulated with your eyes," she told the Recording Academy.
We caught up with Kimbra during her first visit to Mexico at Corona Capital Guadalajara to chat about how she incorporates creativity in different aspects of her music, what it means for her to bring her music to new places, the need for more opportunities for women, what she's working on next and more.
This is your first time in Mexico. How do you feel being here?
It's crazy. It's such a long time coming. I've heard from so many people about coming to Mexico. I know I've got so many fans from here. The crowds are unbelievable. They're just so crazy ... they just know every word, to every song, which is so crazy to me. Any time I interact with the crowd, they go so crazy. Yeah, it's a really amazing feeling. They're also just super passionate music lovers. I can tell they're really listening to everything. I've met some of the fans out here; They've been following sometimes for 10 years in the music. It's awesome.
The mission of Corona Capital is to bring more international acts to different cities in Mexico. How does it feel for you to come to a city that you've never been to before?
I mean, I make the effort to try as much of the local food and to meet as many of the people and just get a sense of how each place is different. Already, Guadalajara is so different to Mexico City. It's a really amazing opportunity; the places I might never go unless music took me there so it's very exciting. I've wanted to come to Mexico especially for a long time ... I just hear so much about it. Everyone who goes to Mexico comes back just talking about how it is, just such a vibrant culture and such amazing people. Of course, I'm a huge food lover of Mexican [food], so that helps to be able to eat so well over here.
You just did your first DJ set, not so long ago.
Yeah. I did it in Brazil for the first time. That was awesome. It was actually really fun. I've always kind of wanted to give it a try, but never really just dived head first into it. I really enjoy sharing music that I like with people. I did stuff from Arca to Bjork, to Tame Impala. It was very diverse. Yeah, it was just a lot of fun to show a bit of my taste.
You're a singer, a songwriter, and a producer. What does it mean for you to be so involved with your music?
I think it's about getting to give as much of your unique sound across all the different parts of the process. I have a big love of sound design and really sculpturing music to make you feel something. Of course, the lyrics are important, but also the sound of the base that we choose or the particular drummer or the exact synthesizer preset that we use. All of this stuff is important to me. I think it's a way of injecting my personality into the music and giving more to the people who listen to it, rather than just singing and that's it.
A recent study by USC found that women who identify as songwriters and producers are vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts. Do you have any thoughts around that?
Well, in my experience, I think there are plenty of women in this industry or at least involved in the business side of it. You know, I've worked with so many women at both record labels and my tour manager and my crew and certainly so many female musicians that I looked up to. It's just that, in the public sphere in places like festivals, places like ... Yeah, just big headline shows, we're not seeing as much opportunity for females. It's not that they're not there. They are there. They're working, amazing artists, but I think we just need to change our idea of what success is in the public sphere and letting the decisions be made. Letting there be more focus on women in the industry as opposed to saying, they're underrepresented, there's not as many women as men. There are [as many women], it's just that we need to be giving them as many opportunities in production and showing that there are examples of them in the industry higher up, not just on the ground.
You're a lover of fashion. How does that help you express yourself?
Well, it's about how you sit in your body, right? The clothes you wear, the fabrics. It all helps you feel more engaged with, even your skin and just the way you hold yourself. I think the clothes that I wear on stage are part of me, stepping into a persona, an exaggerated version of myself and color and texture has always been exciting to me because it's visually, it's stimulating. When you're listening to music, it's cool if you're also stimulated with your eyes. It helps me to move as well. If I have fabric that I can play with or things that I can interact with on stage, it makes the performance more physical for me, which then makes me more passionate and expressive.
What's next for you after Corona Capital? What are you up to?
Go back to New York. That's where I'm living. I'm about to start LP four. Yeah. Fourth album. Taking some time, off touring and getting back into writing.
Anything you can tell us about your new music?
It's so new. I'm only just starting now. I've been writing at the piano, which is different for me. Usually, I write with a lot of beats and stuff. Now it'll be a bit more, just trying a new instrument, and seeing what happens with that. Yeah. I'm not sure yet, who I'm going to collaborate with or if I'm going to produce myself. I'm still working that out. It's all a big bag of surprises right now.