Kimbra's back with a brand new album

To the core

Singer Kimbra lays her heart on the line with her new album, Primal Heart.

With her third studio album, Primal Heart, out in January, New York-based Hamilton export Kimbra Johnson, known professionally as Kimbra, reflects on the inspirations that she’s injected into her new music.

India Hendrikse: How long did your new album Primal Heart take to create?

Kimbra: Well, I took a break after The Golden Echo [her second album] to do a myriad of things. I went to Ethiopia twice during that period, did some travel for myself that wasn’t music related – it was just life related for myself – and I also moved my life to New York and set up a studio there. Then I did a lot of writing for a lot of other artists for a while. I entered this zone where I was invited in to do some work when people were writing for the new Rihanna album – nothing that ended up going on it, but I was immersing myself in this new world, so that was a period and then I decided to commit to making my new record. It’s been over two years since The Golden Echo came out and basically for that whole period I’ve been like a sponge and taking inspiration from all these different travels, from this relocation and from immersing myself in new music and different experiences.

Who were your main musical inspirations for this album?

I’ve had D’Angelo’s bass player play on this record, Pino Palladino, who’s a bit of a legend; Johnny Warricker and Roger Manning, they bring a certain aesthetic to things. We had a song where me and Skrillex made the beat together at his house, so that brings an interesting dynamic to things – it sounds totally different to anything Skrillex has done before, but everyone has left a mark on it in some way. In terms of what I was listening to, I’m always trying to listen to more obscure music so that I can take influence from things that are less similar to my own work and find a way to make it palatable in pop music or whatever I’m creating at the time, so yeah there were a few key artists I was listening to a lot. I remember really enjoying this band called Mr Twin Sister out of New York when I was writing, I loved the Personal Computer record by Kody Nielson from New Zealand – I was obsessed with that album when it came out. The new Frank Ocean album’s super inspiring for me; Solange Knowles and her work has always been inspiring to me but especially her new record. I think even going to Ethiopia, I was surrounding myself with a lot of Ethiopian music, listening to it and cooking to it at home. I dunno if it’s directly influencing it but everything that you surround yourself with leaves a mark on your subconscious or your conscious [mind] – you’re drawing all the time sonically from the world around you.

Are there any central themes in this album that you could describe to me?

The name of the album is Primal Heart so really it comes down to the core emotions that connect us. When I looked at the record I could see that I was exploring something that was a bit more exposed and vulnerable than I’d done before. It’s a journey, there’s lots of songs that are more playful and upbeat, and then ones that are definitely more about the internal conflict within one’s self. I was really fascinated with the word ‘primal’ because it traces back to words like origin, instinct, essential, fundamental and, of course, heart is the central, innermost part of any living thing, so Primal Heart is this exploration of all those things that make us inherently human.  


Kimbra’s new album Primal Heart will be released Fri 19 Jan, 2018.