Interview with Kimbra

Grammy-winning artist, Kimbra, is a free spirit. Her newest album, Primal Heart is raw, honest, and it tells the story of her journey to musical success. In her interview with Pillbox staffwriter Natalie Schmidt (N), Kimbra (K) opens up about the inspirations for her music and new album, as well as her plans for the future.

N: Your music has really evolved into this experimental electric pop style since Vows. What was something new that you were experimenting with in this album?

K: I think I’ve always had an experimental approach to music, even when making Vows. I just naturally have more to draw from these days and a deeper understanding of production, and as my tastes in music keep widening, so does my desire to expand my own music. On this album, I experimented with my lyrical approach being a little more deliberate and grounded, less escapism and more direct in nature.

N: What were some inspirations for the visuals of the album?

K: Emergence. Instinct. Sensuality. The animal self. The spirit. Connectivity. Intimacy with my audience.

N: A lot in this album deals with discovering yourself and turning towards a more honest view of yourself/the world, which we saw particularly in our favorite song on the album “Recovery.” How did you consolidate these experiences into the writing process of this album?

K: They surfaced quite naturally. I had made some very deliberate choices in my personal, professional life and I think as a result my music became more deliberate and lyrically grounded. I tried to envision myself less as an entertainer in a highly curated universe, and more like a person sitting down to coffee with a friend and explaining the journey of my late twenties, as I began to discover myself in ways beyond my career, which has been such a driving force for me, since I was quite young. I wanted to retain mystery as always, but let the listener see the texture of my voice and emotions in a more exposed way.

N: How do you manage being honest and vulnerable in the age of social media? Do you feel pressured or obligated to share your life through your music?

K: Yes, it’s a constant expectation to be spontaneously candid, charismatic, funny, real, or raw. And, although these are qualities we all admire, we are not all of these things all of the time. I can be very introspective and contemplative when I am not on stage and it doesn’t come naturally for me to reveal my daily rituals because the sacredness often exists in them being a private endeavor. I find stillness in the mundane parts of life sometimes, but there is pressure for your life to always appear interesting! Like everyone, I am trying to navigate this. Trying to share myself with others while accepting that I need a space that is reserved for myself and my closest loved ones also.

N: In your song “Recovery,” you say, “no I don't need your remedy I just need to find all kinds of health active recovery.” What does “active recovery” mean for you in terms of working on yourself?

K: The striving toward self-awareness and acceptance of oneself. Acceptance seems passive, but it’s very active to me. It’s a constant journey of waking up and observing what is outside of you and within you on a given day and working with that. Stepping into that. Turning up to the day, in all of its mess and glory.

N: Can you compare the Australian/New Zealand music scene with your experience in the American music industry?

K: We tend to take ourselves less seriously, to be honest. New Zealanders especially have a way of constantly down-playing themselves and we are terrible at self-promoting, ha! This creates a nice kind of democratic environment but it also means there is less celebration of the exceptional, which I think is something quite beautiful about American culture. People here love to see others take a hold of their dream and run with it. There are pros and cons of course, but I think this has had a positive effect on my sense of ambition.

N: How has kiwi culture influenced your music throughout your career?

K: I grew up listening to many wonderful female singer songwriters from New Zealand who informed my love of classic songwriting, I also sung Maori music at school which I loved. I also think I subconsciously took influence from the rhythmic urban roots and hip hop scene that New Zealand really embraces. My favorite punk rock band called The Mint Chicks (members of this band later went on to form Unknown Mortal Orchestra) also sound tracked my high school years and are a great example of super original Kiwi music that inspired me.

N: You’re going to be in the musical-drama production Daffodils. Can you tell us more about it? What’s the difference between preparing for this musical versus creating your own music?

K: For Daffodils, I am playing a character called Maisie. Although I draw a lot from my own musical experiences and upbringing in New Zealand, I am there as an instrument for the director and that was quite liberating for an artist like myself who is often very involved in my own videos and image etc. I truly had to let go for this and trust the people around me. I loved the experience and I prepared by allowing myself to be flexible each day and ready to work with the team to serve the vision of a larger story. Acting and performing music are not largely dissimilar, they both require you to draw deeply from your own experience but acting requires the finer art of achieving a 'lack of self-consciousness.'

N: You mentioned that Primal Heart is a very experimental album, but if you had to pin down one core theme or message of it, what would you say?

K: 'I see in you what I see in myself.'