Watch Kimbra's Acoustic Tastemakers Session
Video: Kimbra performs "Settle Down"
"It's cathartic," New Zealand singer/songwriter Kimbra tells Billboard.com of the U.S. release of her debut record, "Vows." "I have lived with these songs since I was 16, and started working on the record at 17, so it definitely feels like an iconic moment to have it out in America." As it should; Kimbra is now seeing her years of tireless work payoff as "Vows" debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200, with 35,000 copies sold to date according to Nielsen SoundScan. Recently Kimbra and her backing band took to the roof of Mophonics Studio on a fine New York City afternoon to perform album tracks "Two Way Street," "Settle Down" and "Withdraw," R&B-tinged pop gems that exhibit her skin-shivering voice and her penchant for crafting hooks.
A fan of soul, gospel, '90s R&B and jazz, Kimbra later found herself drawn to everyone from Nine Inch Nails and the Mars Volta to Miles Davis -- "bands that really confused me and challenged me," she says. She sought to blend these influences together to create multi-layered tracks inspired by Prince and Michael Jackson. To compliment the audio, Kimbra turns to fashion, especially during live shows, to add visuals that create an experience that's all about self-expression. Of her style, she says, "It keeps things fresh and exciting, when you're on the road for a long time, to be able to mix up outfits on stage and embrace a bit of a world around the music."
Video: Kimbra performs "Two Way Street"
A self-described perfectionist, Kimbra worked with producers like Francois Tetaz and Keefus Green, who both helped push songs in different directions, as well as let her know when, as she says with a laugh, "a song is ready to be set free." For Kimbra, working closely with a producer like Green -- who's bag is full of experimental tricks like plucking clavichord strings with paintbrushes and running it through effects pedals -- on the track "Come Into My Head," was an exciting learning experience that gave her ideas for her next project.
It's no surprise, though, that Kimbra gets so much out of collaboration. She's done a few already -- like Gotye's ubiquitous earworm, "Somebody That I Used To Know," and "Warrior," a recent Converse collab with A-Trak and Mark Foster -- and relishes such opportunities. "It's an even more challenging and exciting experience to sit down with another artist, who has their own set of ideas on music and concepts and lyrical territory, and collaborate," Kimbra says. "I really enjoy that process. It can be kind of scary at first, but the more you do it, the more you become accustomed to it."
Video: Kimbra performs "Withdraw"
Following a tour with Gotye, Kimbra will be crisscrossing the U.S. with Foster the People and will be making a stop in Switzerland for the Montreaux Jazz Festival on July 14. More U.S. dates are also lined up throughout September and October. Fans can look out for an upcoming video for "Two Way Street," directed by Matthew Rolston, which Kimbra describes as a trippy "Alice In Wonderland."
"It's new territory for me," she says of the experience working on the video. "This is that thing about just being open-minded and experimenting with different people from different worlds -- I am finding that really inspiring right now."