She started writing songs when she was 10, learned the guitar and signed with an independent Melbourne record label when she was 19. Kimbra is just 21, yet her cameo stole the scene in the single Somebody That I Used to Know, with Gotye, which went gangbusters internationally, and she has written, produced and arranged her first album, Vows. Kimbra - born Kimbra Johnson, from Hamilton - has just finished touring in Europe and is in Auckland to perform at Derby Day.

You're a 21-year-old white girl from Hamilton who's been compared to Nina Simone. What does that feel like?

It's extremely flattering. Nina Simone is someone I've always looked up to and I'm lucky enough to have one of her songs on my record.

You write about the pitfalls of love and relationships - have you ever been in love?


Well, yes, I'm drawing from personal experiences. But there's an element of observation being a songwriter. A lot of the best songwriters are good people-watchers. It's about looking into the human psyche and beneath the surface. Some of this is personal experience but it's often about just observing.

Are you a feminist?

I don't think so. I try to avoid labels. It also has negative connotations, a word like feminist.

Yet, Settle Down is a pretty unsettling, challenging music video about domesticity.
Settle Down is an observation on the ideals placed on us as kids. I'm not trying to make a statement. I'm just putting it on the table. For some women the video and the song may be empowering, but for others who are comfortable in that environment it's just saying "be in the moment".

In a sea of music videos featuring women in bikinis shaking it all about, your video stands out.

I think music is a form of expression, so it's a bit disappointing for a woman to think she has to take her clothes off to be eye-catching in a simplistic way. It's a disappointing one-trick pony. My aim is to be original and create some kind of world that we can take people to. Something and somewhere which provokes thought and emotion. Even if that's just about questioning the ideals of perfect married life.

In Somebody That I Used to Know you sing about being screwed over. How many times have you been "screwed over"?

Ha! In life? I think the success of that song is that everyone feels in that position whether they've known someone so well then suddenly they're a stranger. It could be romantic or it could be about a friendship.


What is the first album you ever bought?

The first album I ever bought with my own money was when I was about 13 or 14 and it was Silverchair, Diorama.

If you were an instrument what would you be?

I'd be a harp. It's so beautiful and elegant.

What song reduces you to tears?

A few. There's a song by Sam Cooke, the gospel singer, called Come, Let Us Go Back to God. It just sounds like this lonely man in the wilderness and it's just so emotional it gets me every time.


You've had a pretty stratospheric rise - what keeps you grounded?

I like quiet contemplation and reflection and to be still. I'm well aware that I can't get too carried away with this. It can all be taken away in an instant. I also love to read books and podcasts.

What thing about yourself are you most proud of?

I think I'm a good friend. I try to be a good listener.

Being on stage rocking it out requires guts and nerve. What are you afraid of?

Of not making a difference. In some way. Even if it's just making music that resonates with people.