Kimbra talks her new album, female friendships, anxiety, and being human
Having released her latest album at the top of 2018, singer Kimbra is finally back touring and spared a moment to sit and talk with us about the album, female friendships, anxiety, and being human. Check out our interview and exclusive photos below!
This tour is a lot more intimate for you, why did you want to showcase a more personal side to your fans?
I think Primal Heart as an album and lyrical exploration set that tone of intimacy. Although it talks a lot about strength, it also has a very tender side. I wanted to showcase that. Most of my early touring around this record was done with a lot of electronics so as a contrast to that I wanted to offer a different insight into the songs. I wanted people to hear the songs in the form they were first written in, before lots of production was added. I also wanted them to get a deeper look into the process of a songs evolution and how it can take on different meanings with a different execution.
Your long-awaited album Primal Heart is finally here, now with its counterpart Primal Heart: Reimagined! How do you think these projects showcase a different side of you in comparison to your last album, The Golden Echo?
I focused more on my voice as the central focus of the record Primal Heart (thanks to my co-producer John Congleton who was adamant about this) and lessened the noise around it so I could approach my audience with a directness that perhaps I wasn’t as ready to pursue in my previous record. The Golden Echo displayed my imaginative and even psychedelic side when it comes to music. Primal Heart is an album that focuses more on the essential facets of our human experience and my experiences in the world rather than running from them and creating imaginary ones.
What was it like working with Snoop Dogg and Skrillex on your track “Top of the World?”
It was crazy! Sonny and I first messed with that beat at his studio, he was playing it and I started singing drones along and we instantly recorded it and felt so excited by the mood. I later developed it for my album and embraced a more hip hop style than i’ve ever done before. I always hoped that vision would be fully explored with a remix or another version that would include a rapper. When I heard that Snoop Dogg liked the song, it was a no brainer. Hearing his verse for the first time was everything I had dreamed for the song and more. He just makes everything feel iconic.
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How is Primal Heart: Reimagined different from the OG album?
I wanted the EP to be guided through the lens of another producer, not me. I wanted a different perspective to the original album and I wanted to fulfill the role of ‘singer’ channeling my songs in an old school way where I turn up to the session and sing my heart out while the producer arranges the elements around that emotion. I brought Lars Horntveth on board to be that person (Jaga Jazzist, A-ha etc) and he was able to give it a unique sound that drew from the original but also took it somewhere new. It is delicate but layered. It is a lonelier sound and more fragile than the original Primal Heart. I am so proud of how the EP turned out.
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What were some of your inspirations in creating it?
We talked often about the intimacy of old recordings by Nick Drake, Elliot Smith, Joni Mitchell and more recent artists like Grizzly Bear and Fyfe who also reworked songs from his electronic album into piano ballads. They all cultivated a mood that felt relevant to an experience we wanted to create.
Your new album has some exciting collaborations, you’ve even brought your friend Dawn Richards on the road with you. How is the presence of female friendship prevalent in your creative process?
There’s a sensuality, a depth and an empathy that is felt between women who are in the same line of work and are deeply passionate about what they do. Naturally, when a women is driven in the music industry they’ve likely already faced a lot of challenge and push back and it is very empowering to bond through that and also share the space of art in a meaningful way by showing other women what positive female friendship and support looks like in ways that only we can. Women have a profound impact on my work, as collaborators, people working as pat of my business, on tour etc. There’s an unspoken understanding a lot of the time that is invaluable in this industry for me.
How is it performing without production on your new tour? Has it increased any nerves while performing?
Definitely! I stepped on stage for this tour without any gadgets, no wires and weird machines to hide behind. I had to accept and embrace myself as I am, just with my voice, and that can be scary when you’re used to relying on a lot of multi tasking on stage. I can be over work myself at times and this gave me the space and freedom to just hone in one aspect of what I do and enjoy refining that. It was honestly the most liberating tour I’ve done to date. Every night I stepped off stage feeling cleansed in a profound way.
How has living in New York impacted your creativity as opposed to living in Los Angeles?
I have a studio set up in a second bedroom of my apartment which allows me to actually immerse myself in the sounds of Manhattan and even let them seep into my space of creation and influence my relationship to everything I’m writing. It’s made me bolder with the decisions I make and allowed me to meet so many dope musicians who bring the influence of New York to what I do and also bring the spirit of the city which is to be very ambitious and in touch with everything going on in the streets around you. In that respect I feel very at home and very free to be my full creative self.
As a New Zealand-native living in the United States, your lyrics reflect your journey of playing that role in the current political climate. Can you share more about that?
I think I used to feel that I shouldn’t have an opinion on the experience of living in the United States, because I am not American. These days, I see every experience as a valid human experience that deserves to have a voice in the larger story. I’m also aware of my influence and the importance of speaking my truth as an artist and questioning my role and responsibility in the world. I just think it takes some bravery. I think sometimes I feel scared that I don’t understand enough to have a valid opinion. But these days I just decide to learn more about it so that my opinion is just better informed.
You’ve spoken about dealing with anxiety in the public light, can you share a little bit of how you cope with it?
I’m very thankful that although our current world gives us lots of reasons to stress, obsess and feed into a undercurrent of general anxiety from just living in such a fast paced world, we also have access to a lot of great resources and methods when it comes to managing emotions and artists especially have to be disciplined with that. I actively seek out silence, solitude and prayer and meditation. I strive to cultivate an interior life that is not dependent on what the world says about me or my career which is only one part of who I am. This is a method in staying balanced emotionally but also a means of recognizing what is important. It makes the ‘weather’ of the day (our emotions and struggles) less catastrophic when our identity is rooted in a deeper knowledge of who I am beyond my emotions. I’m a big believer in making space for that.
Your song “Everybody Knows” is a testament to encourage women in times of oppression through empowerment. Can you share a little more about the importance of these issues to you?
I think songs about speaking your truth are timeless and needed in every era. Oppression of women is very real and we only move forward in this area by first acknowledging and shining a light where there is toxicity. Changes comes when there is first the courage to name something for what it is. This song is about demanding accountability and also giving yourself permission to move on and grow. We often don’t feel that we are allowed that. But music is a powerful way of forming a sense of camaraderie around suffering, and I’m glad this song could be that to someone.
Shot by Jacqueline Kulla and Lisa Yoo
Video by Jeremy Reynoso
Makeup by Emily Deremo
Styled by Branden Ruiz assisted by Nathan Martinez