Kimbra Biography

Singer, Songwriter (1990–)
New Zealand–born singer Kimbra is known for her fusion of musical styles and for her vocals on Gotye's hit "Somebody That I Used to Know."


Kimbra Lee Johnson, professionally known as Kimbra, was born in New Zealand in 1990. Her musical talent led to early performances and prizes, as well as a recording contract when she was just 17. She moved to Australia, and even before the release of her first album in 2011 she was famous for her guest vocals on Gotye's hit single "Somebody That I Used to Know."

Early Life

Kimbra Lee Johnson, better known as Kimbra, was born on March 27, 1990, in the town of Hamilton in the Waikato region of New Zealand's North Island, where she also grew up. Her parents are Chris and Ken Johnson, a nurse and a physician; she has an older brother, Matthew.

Kimbra demonstrated musical talent at a young age. She began writing songs when she was 10 and began playing guitar at the age of 12. She sang in her middle school's jazz choir and admired the work of classic female jazz vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald.

Professional Start and Move to Australia

Kimbra was awarded second place in Smokefreerockquest, an annual music contest for young musicians in New Zealand, in 2004. She was soon appearing in front of large audiences: As a teen she sang the New Zealand national anthem at sporting events and performed live shows in the nearby city of Auckland. Meanwhile, the broadcasting agency NZ On Air provided Kimbra with funding for two singles, "Deep for You" and "Simply on My Lips."

Kimbra was 17 years old and was preparing to attend college at the University of Auckland when producer Mark Richardson signed her to his independent label, Forum 5. She subsequently moved to Melbourne, Australia, in 2008, and began recording singles and working on an album. Forum 5 released her first single, "Settle Down," in Australia in 2010. By 2011, Kimbra had attracted enough notice to be signed by Warner Brothers Records.

'Somebody That I Used to Know'

Kimbra gained sudden fame for her haunting vocals on Gotye's international hit "Somebody That I Used to Know." She was introduced to the Australia-based singer by her producer, who also worked with Gotye. Their recording received an Australasian Performing Right Association Award in the song of the year category, as well as Grammy Awards for best record of the year and best pop duo/group performance.

Solo Career

Kimbra's music is a fusion of elements from various genres, including pop, jazz, electronica and soul. Her musical influences range from Prince and soul singer Minnie Riperton, to Björk and Jeff Buckley. Her unique style was showcased on her debut album, Vows, which was released in Australia in 2011. Hit singles from Vows include "Cameo Lover" (which won an Australian Recording Industry Association Award), "Good Intent" and "Two Way Street."

A reworked version of the album was released in Europe and the United States in 2012. It featured several new songs, including "Come Into My Head," "Warrior" (on which Kimbra was joined by musicians Mark Foster and A-Trak) and a cover of Nina Simone's "Plain Gold Ring."

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