If envy were a fever, all the world would be ill.
Forget 'Vows'. To understand why Kimbra is playing thrice-weekly on your radio watch the footage of her playing 'Settle Down' outside Spotify House at this year’s SXSW. It's a modest gathering, an audience that seems to have little idea who this slightly eccentric lady is standing in front of them. She's wearing a green cardigan (quickly discarded) and striped tights swiped from the set of a discarded Looney Tunes short. There's an odd feeling among those gathered as this slightly-odd specimen repositions her two microphones.
There are no instruments — just a loop pedal perched in front of her. The crowd are bemused if not slightly puzzled. What are we doing here? Is it too late to ditch whatever this is and grab a bagel? Cut to four minutes later and the same crowd is now worshipping Kimbra like they'd never doubted she'd deliver. Those four minutes almost perfectly reflected the rise to success of New Zealand's finest export since the 1879 avocado harvest. It didn't happen overnight; but when it did, no one seemed surprised.
"I went to a school that was really encouraging in the arts, [but] when I was there I wasn't really that into studying music. You know, you just want to make it when you're young. But I realised what music meant to me and I took a little 8-track recorder and recorded songs... My parents heard them and really encouraged me with learning guitar and getting me the right vocal coaches so I didn't hurt my voice. I'm very blessed. There were times when they were a little sceptical of music at school. They're both in medicine. But they could see that I was into it and they were willing to support me. I moved from NZ to Melbourne when I was in school, and since then I've had a lot of time for growth, a lot of time for reflection.
"At the start it was just me with my loop pedal, and then I got a band and we played small gigs around Melbourne and recorded a little bit. You know, ['Vows'] kind of looked like an overnight thing, but it really was a long time in the making. And now we're on our third tour of the United States, our first headline tour. I've had time to get used to the change, to not find it too overwhelming. There are a lot of new things that you have to get used to."
It's quite the flattering back story. The talent, the struggle, the well-deserved success. The real secret is balance — at any one time, two separate alter-egos, two separate Kimbras, are present. One is the über-theatrical, lomographised caricature of a singer that can't stop singing, can't sit still and that refuses to wear pastels.
"On the one hand I completely believe that art should be coming from the heart and I feel that when I am on stage I am giving that... But when I'm performing it's like a character in some ways, a slightly more theatrical version of myself. It's like stepping into a bit of a role. Image is hard. The image that you put out there is really the front door to the house. The way you present image can say a lot, and it can complement the music incredibly."
The other Kimbra is humble, reserved, and grounded by her Christian faith. It's the portrait of a musician that is simply never published, one of a singer faced with the challenge of staying strong in her beliefs while dealing with the isolating pressure brought on by constant touring.
"I've never believed that a church is the only place that you can have a community of faith or a place that people can believe. Finding a park somewhere and having a beautiful moment of stillness in a quiet place... in a sense that's kind of my church. And also I'm very close to everyone in the band, we keep each other uplifted in that way as well."
Talented, successful, spiritual. Let's all go home and try not to think about the fact that Kimbra is only 22.
Kimbra Plays Summafieldayze At Doug Jennings Park Saturday January 5.