This 21-year-old singer has “it.”
Plain Gold Ring
Explosively controlled jazz. Volcanic scat and soul. She bobs and weaves and falls victim to the depths of her emotional possession, as all great artists do. But she rises from those depths and expresses the journey upward and outward, without losing her courage or her conviction.
Aside from her wonderful voice, running parallel with it, she moves in interesting, idiosyncratic ways to her own song. A refreshing change from all too many pop singers who dance in cookie cutter ways, pushed into narrow corporate forms to look like every other pop singer. Joy Williams of The Civil Wars is similar in her physical originality.
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Kimbra Johnson was born in New Zealand, grew up there, but now makes her home in Australia. She has been compared with singers like Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Bjork. Her first album, Vows, was released this past August.
An excerpt from an article in Australia’s Daily Telegraph:
She began writing songs at age 10, learnt guitar at 12 and by 14 she’d finished second in the national school competition Rockquest.
“That was really encouraging as a kid,” Kimbra says. “It seems a lifetime ago, but it was a great head start.”
A single, Simply on My Lips, was released in New Zealand in 2007.
UK music industry figure Mark Richardson, now living in Melbourne and running a management company, was tipped off about Kimbra.
He flew to New Zealand, where a showcase was hastily arranged in a wine bar.
“She was doing her folky, jazz-tinged acoustic guitar thing,” Richardson says. “The first thing you noticed was the quality of her voice and her confidence. She’s humble but she knows she wants to be special.”
Richardson, who had worked with a young Jamiroquai in the UK, offered her a management deal with a catch — move to Melbourne.
“Those are the things that make the difference,” he says. “She was prepared to put the effort in.”
Kimbra arrived in Melbourne before her 18th birthday with no contacts but Richardson paying her rent so she could focus on songwriting.
“I’ve never really had a job,” she says. “I’ve only really ever done music.”
Richardson had a game plan.
“I told her to get out, go see bands, go meet musicians, go get integrated,” he says.
“And she’s brilliant at doing that and so driven about what she wants to do.
“Jamiroquai was like that. They have that thing, they work harder than anybody else.”