Kimbra Lee Johnson, aka Kimbra, is only the third New Zealand singer in history to win a Grammy. She did that, of course, when she and Gotye took home 2013 Record of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance awards for “Somebody That I Used To Know.”
Surprisingly, the young songwriter, singer and musician chose to celebrate the victories in an unusual way: She moved to a sheep farm on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
“I literally moved in the day after the Grammys,” Johnson recently told DiscoverSD. “I just wanted to be in an environment that would give me some rhythms. And I really needed some kind of creative shift after the whirlwind of touring and everything that happened with Gotye. I wanted to be around nature and a place that was nourishing.”
While she didn’t have a tremendous amount of modern amenities, she did get the serenity and isolation she was seeking. And much of the pre-production for her sophomore album, last August’s “The Golden Echo,” was done there.
Juxtaposition came when she started working with L.A. producer Rich Costey. His “super” studio allowed the singer to flesh out her ideas on the latest and greatest gear, while collaborating with the likes of Michael Jackson drummer John Robinson.
“There were two worlds that I danced between,” Johnson said. “I went from the minimal, organic, still and quiet on the farm, to this other space where I could embrace the chaos through limitless possibility. Having access to both of those worlds was a really important part of how the record ended up.”
Partially due to Johnson’s ability to turn colleagues into friends, and partially due to Costey’s ability to bring in quality performers, the just-turned-25-year-old stuffed the album with guests. From John Legend and Bilal, to bassist Thundercat and Foster the People’s namesake, Mark Foster, “The Golden Echo” features a disparate list of quality contributors.
“I didn’t want to use any one palette of sounds,” Johnson said. “I really wanted to open it up and bring in people and ideas that would throw another perspective into the room. It was very much about embracing the opportunities that were there - and seeing what could happen when you open it up and let people be part of the conversation.”
As always, she’s recreating the vast musical landscape of “The Golden Echo” with her live band in tow, kicking off her new mini-tour at Observatory North Park on April 8. After playing Coachella and a handful of other West Coast dates, Johnson will have to decide when, and where, she’ll be heading back to the drawing board.
“You’re always thinking about the next body of work,” she said. “And that comes with time for me. I don’t know if it’ll be a farm again or not, but I will need a time of contemplation or stillness before I head into the third album. I just want to figure out what I want to say. But I’m always writing and coming up with new ideas to explore. It’s like a muscle - it’s nice to keep working it.”
She plays Observatory North Park with Mikky Echo.