‘Pride festival crowds are my favourite to perform for’: pop star Kimbra

‘Pride festival crowds are my favourite to perform for’: pop star Kimbra
Image: Kimbra. Image: Micaiah Carter.

Since her hit song with Gotye back in 2011, pop star Kimbra’s career has taken off. Jesse Jones spoke with her about marriage equality, pride festivals, and her new album Primal Heart.


New Zealand–born singer Kimbra has been delighted to watch Australia catch up with her home country on marriage equality.

“It’s been fantastic to see the progress. I think we’ve all been waiting for that one moment, and I’m very excited to see the news and that things are starting to move forward,” she says.

“[Marriage equality] is something I’ve been proud of as a Kiwi.”

Kimbra has a big queer following, and says LGBTI pride festivals have been among her favourite crowds to perform for.

“They’re so much fun, I always have a really great time,” she says.

“It’s been exciting to see the festival scene growing, and I love to perform for my fans.

“It’s been especially fun because I love to embrace fashion so much. That’s so much of what I love to do.

“It’s great when I get a chance to explore that deeper, especially with all my crazy outfits.

“There are a few drag designers that I work with over here. They always make the most creative looks.”

Kimbra wore a retro silver number by designer BCALLA for her David Bowie tribute performance with The Roots and David Byrne at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“That was super special,” she recalls.

She might be best known for her Grammy-winning duet with Gotye in 2011’s Somebody That I Used to Know, but Kimbra has redefined her style to release a new album with a totally different sound.

“I just get bored really quick,” she quips.

“I’m so appreciative that my fans have grown with me, and that people from the LGBTI community continue to come out and support and appreciate what I’m doing, even when I’m changing things up all the time.”

Her raw and emotional album Primal Heart is out this month. Kimbra worked with other artists on the album, including dubstep star Skrillex, who co-produced the track Top of the World. The song has already been listened to more than a million times on Spotify.

“We met backstage at Coachella, and we started hanging out a bit,” Kimbra explains.

“He played me a beat that he had been working on and I just started singing along.

“Then it was like, let’s record it. It was this really organic process.”

Kimbra also worked with bassist Pino Palladino, who has played with acts as diverse as The Who and Nine Inch Nails.

“He’s an incredible musician and someone I’ve admired for a really long time,” she says.

Kimbra’s favourite song to perform from the new album is Black Sky.

“I wrote it almost as a mantra to myself at a time when I was in a low space,” Kimbra says.

“There’s a lot about vulnerability on this record. In the chorus it says to someone you love, ‘you’ll only really know me when I fall apart, you’ll only really know me when the sun goes down’.

“It’s so much about hope and letting someone see you in the good and the bad, and knowing that that’s when they can see who you really are. Whenever I sing it I feel very emotional, and it’s been really fun to share that out on the road.”

Now based in New York, Kimbra has been doing plenty of touring lately. She says her biggest luxury is having quiet time at home to read, explore the city, and do domestic things the rest of us might find boring.

“It’s been a lot of travel and a lot of experiences,” she says.

“I get quickly disillusioned if I spend too much time just in the music industry—I need to get out and experience other things.

“If you don’t ever get a chance to rest and be completely normal and anonymous, you quickly become pretty self-obsessed.”

Kimbra is nonetheless keen to head down under to perform soon.

“It’s a really important place for me, where I feel like I kicked off my career, so I’m very excited to get back there,” she says.

“I’m always saying to my agent, when are we going to get back to Australia and New Zealand?

“So watch this space, I’m definitely working on it.”

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