Kimbra keeps pushing the envelope with new album, tour

Two-time Grammy winning New Zealand singer Kimbra is playing Red Hat Amphitheater on May 9. She is the opening act for Odesza.
Two-time Grammy winning New Zealand singer Kimbra is playing Red Hat Amphitheater on May 9. She is the opening act for Odesza. Micaiah Carter

When Kimbra mentions North Carolina, she focuses on vacation as opposed to her singing. The singer-songwriter gushed about a stay in Hot Springs in the western part of the state.

“I love that area (Asheville),” Kimbra says while calling from Washington, D.C. “It was so beautiful when I was there (in 2015). I would love to go back there and just relax. It reminds me of home.”

Kimbra will be back in North Carolina May 9. She is the opening act for Grammy-nominated Odesza at Red Hat Amphitheater, one of the first major concerts at the venue this season.

Kimbra, whose full name is Kimbra Lee Johnson, grew up quite a distance from North Carolina. The singer was born and raised in New Zealand. “For much of my childhood it was all about the outdoors,” Kimbra said.

As a child, Kimbra discovered she possesses an unusual set of pipes.

“I sang when I was really young but I didn’t think I had a special voice,” Kimbra says. “I never thought about being a professional singer until I was in high school.”

Then, she won second place in a national singing competition. “To be held in that regard gave me confidence,” Kimbra says. “Why not give it a shot?"

“Vows," Kimbra’s debut album was released in 2010 courtesy of Warner Brothers and was just a blip on the radar in the United States.

But everything changed when Kimbra recorded a duet with Gotye and helped generate the smash “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

“I went from being unknown to people recognizing me because the song became so huge,” Kimbra says. “I think people forget how massive that song was.”

“Somebody That I Used to Know” was the top-selling digital song of 2012. An impressive 6.8 million units were sold, and it was the top streamed album of the year with 45 million streams.

“Whenever I hear 'Somebody That I Used to Know' it takes me back to an amazing time in my life,” Kimbra says. “That song launched me.”

Shortly after winning two Grammys for the duet in 2014, Kimbra wrote and recorded material for her second album, “The Golden Echo” It was a tip of the cap to '80s and '90s pop rock.

“Every album is like a snapshot for me,” Kimbra says. “That was a photo of where I was at the time.”

“Primal Heart,” which was released April 20, is comprised of catchy R&B, pop and rock. Each of the dozen songs takes the listener to a different place.

“It’s nice it worked out that way but it wasn’t by design,” Kimbra says. “I naturally go into a variety of places.”

Kimbra is at her best delivering soulful tunes, such as the infectious “Recovery” and the retro pop of “Past Love.”

“I just want to keep pushing the envelope,” Kimbra says. “Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, now that I live there.”

Manhattan inspires Kimbra. “The cool thing about it is that it’s so vibrant,” Kimbra says. “The city moves me, and the cool thing is that I go back into my space and I just focus.”

And then there is Raleigh, which Kimbra plans on exploring.

“I love the mountains but I’m curious about cities like Raleigh,” Kimbra says. “When I come back I’m going to make sure I check out some things like the shops and restaurants. I really like the vibe in North Carolina. It really reminds me of where I’m from, which is a good thing.”


Who: Odesza with Kimbra

When: 6:30 p.m. May 9

Where: Red Hat Amphitheater, 500 S. McDowell St., Raleigh

Tickets: $99 and up

Info: 919-996-8800 or redhatamphitheater.com

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