Take the Box — Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse's first record, Frank, was a defining album for me. It showed me that female singer-songwriters could also have toughness, hip-hop beats and be fierce. It was very empowering. I fell in love with her fearlessness.
This song has always meant a lot to me, it was my favourite on the album and it talks about a very real thing that happens in relationships when they come to an end; you have to pack your things up and leave. Later in my life, I got to know what that felt like.
Like Everybody Else — Lennon Stellar
I'd never heard someone put into words what Lennon Stellar does with this song. It was so equalising to hear someone sing about an experience that everyone has when they realise they're not special. Everyone goes through the same things and ever since I heard this song I just felt a little less alone. And that's what music is all about.
I felt it when I spent time in Ethiopia after meeting women in Ethiopia who are just like me but living with illness I could never imagine, poverty I could hardly believe. I've been there three times, it would have been four but covid cancelled that. The more I do outside of music, the more I realise that everyone is so connected. We put all these differences between us and focus on the things that make us important or special and really dull our views on humility. At the end of the day we all feel fear, anxiety, love and friendship and I hadn't heard a song put that into words as well as she did.
Dirty Mind — Prince
My first Prince record was Musicology. I saw him on MTV and got into his music by seeing him on TV. I realised he was a really big deal and went back through all of his discography and became a fan of all of his earlier work. And, of course, to finally meet Prince before he passed is one of the great experiences of my life. He gave me the Grammy award so we met on stage and we talked after. He had also asked me to come and perform at his studio in Paisley Park, which is his studio in Minneapolis, but it never got to happen because he sadly passed.
Prince helped me realise you can be two things at once. You can be deeply religious and deeply irreverent, equally male and equally female and sexually explicit and very shy. I just love the contradiction that he is and this song is one of the funkiest pieces of music I've ever heard.
Father Stretch My Hands — Pastor T.L. Barret and the Youth for Christ Choir
When I was making [second record] The Golden Echo producer Rich Costey would introduce me to new music all the time. This is back in 2014 and he played me this when we were driving to the studio one day. I almost cried, I think I did cry, it was so emotional and beautiful.
I'm pretty sure this was recorded in the early 70s. It's got a really musty sound to it. I'm so influenced by Black church music. I love gospel. A lot of it has the feeling like the building's going to explode, there's so much energy. I like my concerts to feel like that too. Kanye West sampled this song years later.
Over the Ocean — Here We Go Magic
I played on the same festival as Here We Go Magic one year and saw them play live. They have other good songs as well but this song I've never forgotten.
Music is very grounding for me. I listen to music when I take baths, when I clean the house, when I'm sad and when I'm celebrating. My life is busy and demanding and there are certain songs that have become safe places for me to turn off the world. This song puts me in a very surrendered heart space. I love it. It makes me feel very safe.
* As told to Karl Puschmann. Kimbra is a panellist on returning music reality series Popstars, which begins on Monday, 7.30pm on TVNZ 2.