London singer/songwriter Kimberly Anne has just come off touring around the UK with pop powerhouse, Ella Eyre. Kimberly is the real deal, her lyrical honesty and musical precision is beyond her years. Her music is fun and vibrant with a honest and sincere skin.
I caught up with Kimberly before she played to a very excited Manchester crowd on Tuesday night. We talked about her artistic vision for her music, her live set and how she got discovered by Polydor, plus much more.
Charlotte, Bitter Sweet Symphonies: Your video for ‘Liar’ is a stark commentary on how lies and falsities can be hurtful. The video aesthetically is very bare, the sentiment of the song carries a lot more weight because of this. Did you have any say in how the video looks? What was your thinking behind the concept for ‘Liar’?
Kimberly Anne: “Well basically, yeah I did have a say in how the video looks. But what many people don’t know is that I actually shot a video before that. That lost the whole sentiment to the whole song. I like to come up with concepts and execute them, really simple ideas but I worked with a company.
I think they’re used to working with artists who don’t normally like to control and know everything and things like that. So some things got away from us because I trusted them quite a lot, I presumed I’d show up on the day and it would be what we had discussed, but I’ve never really worked with a company before.
But I showed up and it all felt very different and felt very detached and had two very pretty models in it. Not that there’s anything wrong with pretty models! But it didn’t feel very sincere and it felt a bit synthetic so we literally scrapped it, which hurt because of the money.
But we scrapped it, and I literally shot that video for ‘Liar’ with my friend, Ryan, with just one camera in a big black room with a smoke machine and yeah we thought just let people listen to the lyrics. We just came up with a simple idea of different ways to distort yourself, so you’re in a black room and then I’m basically a zombie. So its how lies, even lying to yourself makes you really ugly and unattractive to yourself even. So that’s the sentiment behind that.”
Your live sets are always fun and upbeat yet deeply moving. When I got the chance to see you live, it was just you on stage with your loop pedal and guitar. Do you feel that as your live shows progress you’ll want to add a backing band into the mix or another element maybe?
“I have! Thank you first of all for giving me that feedback for gigs that means a lot, thank you. “Upbeat but heartfelt” that’s nice I’m going to put that quote for all my promo stuff. I wanted to give a more fuller sound on stage that’s a bit more effective of the production that I have on record but I don’t think I’m ready to have a big full band yet and the reality is that you make money in music in very different ways now and at the early stages it’s really important to keep costs down.
I know it looks really good getting a big band straight away but there’s no point in having a band for 6 months and then being so poor that you can’t tour. So I’m trying to be a bit of a business woman about it but also I find that having restrictions often make you more creative so that’s why the looping came into play and now I’m working with a drummer and I’ve got a little laptop. But we can make like a full band sound just by using those elements.”
It sounded so good just then in soundcheck.
“Ohhh, thank you so much. We’ve been working really hard on it, it hasn’t been easy but you know doing 5 gigs alone pays off, not like pays off the equipment but in you could do 5 gigs with a full band or 2 gigs with a full band and pay the same for the equipment we’ve got, so it lasts long term. But hopefully in the future I may be able to get some more help on-stage but I’m trying to grow with the size of the project hopefully, and if it stays this size then it does, that’s cool. I’m happy with the sound now. That’s the plan!”
I’ll see you in December at Sound Control anyway.
“Oh awesome! Yeah I’ve never played a headline show in Manchester. It’s sold out now, we did a free ticket giveaway so of course it’s sold out…”
Yeah I couldn’t understand why the tickets took so long to sell out, I expected it to sell out sooner.
“Yeah, well no. It’s good, it’s a good way to gage how well you’re doing in certain cities and stuff , so you know where you need to do more work which is important because you can’t just book a full tour and feel confident that everyone’s going to come. Well I can’t anyway!”
Well everyone has to work at it.
“Yeah you have to incrementally improve I guess.”
How do you feel you stand out from other musicians today?
“I’ve got big stupid hair. Oh I dunno. I’m trying to just do what genuinely makes me happy and hopefully that’s not to similar to someone else but I try to not pay too much attention to comparing myself to other people because I think the more you do that, the more the lines get blurred. I think if you just concentrate on what you’re really into, then it’s very unlikely that anyone else is going to come out exactly doing that. As long as you stay innovative and excite yourself, then hopefully you’ll excite other people.”
You’re signed to a major label, that’s the dream. How did you get discovered by Polydor?
“Basically I started making some demos from my bedroom and shared them on my personal facebook and a friend of mine I went to school with years ago, literally just shared it on her page and sent it to her foster sister who was doing some work at Radio 1 and then somehow it managed to get into the hands of the head of music at Radio 1 – George Ergatoudis and he literally just sent a tweet out about a track I did.
I made a little music video for it, he sent that link out and the next day I got an email from a website that basically hosts songs and sends it to the whole industry and I said ‘Yeah sure, go for it’. I didn’t really understand what it was and then when the track went out, I just suddenly got all these phone calls and emails, which was really weird. I didn’t have a manager, I didn’t have a booking agent, I didn’t have anything and all of a sudden I had people calling me and I just went around to have some meetings. And Polydor are just great, they’re really cool guys and they really get it so I’m in good hands.”
After all the success you’ve had with the ‘Hard As Hello’ EP and recent support slots with Hudson Taylor, Bipolar Sunshine and Nick Mulvey. Are you seeing more people coming up to you after gigs and loving what you do? Are the crowds singing the words back at you yet?
“I have had a couple instances and when it has happened I’ve sometimes messed up because I’ve been like ‘Oh my god, they’re singing the words’ and then I mess up the guitar. But it’s really interesting like say the Ella Eyre tour I’m on right now. I’ve never done a tour like this.
It’s more of a pop tour and so it’s a whole different crowd so if I’ve supported Nick Mulvey or Lewis Watson or Hudson Taylor it is sort of a close knit community who go to a lot of gigs that are similar to that but here I’m seeing people that maybe would normally go to see Rita Ora or something like that and they’re still going ‘Oh that’s alright that. I’ll have a CD’ and you’re like cool!
It’s good to know that you can crossover a little bit, hopefully. So this definitely feels like new ground but sometimes I do get people coming up that have seen me before which means a lot. But it also means a lot getting a crowd like this that are like ‘I want something really polished and beautiful’ and I’m like ‘I’m not polished and I’m beautiful but take this anyway.’ So yeah.”
What did you learn from touring with those artists and playing on those big stages?
“I learnt that when you think you’re ready and you think you’re rehearsed, you’re still not ready! Because something’s you can’t prepare for until you’re actually on-stage, like you can’t account for being halfway through a song and someone shouting out something.
You have to be able to play through distractions I guess and know when to take in those distractions and when to acknowledge them and have banter with it. Because performing is such a spontaneous thing, I think you just have to be really open that you can’t plan everything to the T when it’s live so even when things go a bit wrong, you’ve just got to be like ‘Hey, its live music! Let’s move on.”
I saw you supporting Bipolar Sunshine and after the gig you were giving away tea bags with a free download on them, an ingenious idea by the way, combining the nations love for tea with good music. Do you plan on doing anything like this again?
“I’ve done it again! Today I’ve got lollipops but it’s the same download, but don’t tell anyone. Yeah some people give out flyers and we just wanted to see a way to give people a gift. Something that’s obviously low cost to make and something that they’re actually going to use and something that will have the correct spelling of my name on. Trying to think of small things that are cheap and that are tasty, well you don’t have to eat them, but I think so far it just happens to be tea and lolly’s but who knows what’ll be next.”
What have you learned about yourself from being a professional musician?
“I think I’ve learnt that I don’t even know if I’m professional yet! [laughs] I think don’t take yourself too seriously because I think that’s when you get a bit lost in the whole thing and the reason why we all got into music is because it’s fun, so as long as you stay attached to that. I think you’re heart will stay in the right place hopefully.”
For many writers, songwriting is a way for them to express themselves. Their thoughts, feelings, beliefs. What is it for you?
“I don’t know. I have no idea what my message is. But I think that it’s not to over think that too much. I just try and write as genuinely as possible about what’s going on with me and the things I experience and the things that me and my friends experience. Basically I just try and let it come naturally.
I will talk about stuff in my songs that feels important at the time and hopefully just try and be as honest as possible and genuine as possible. If someone else can connect and relate to that, then that’s really cool. I’ve found comfort in music that I feel is quite true and genuine and someone speaking their heart and you’re like ‘I’ve felt that too’ and you sort of don’t feel quite as isolated because you’re like ‘Someone else has gone through that’. So if I could ever do anything like that and achieve someone else feeling a connection that would be a success for me.”
Quick fire questions:
First instrument you learned to play – “Piano”
Last thing you do before you go on stage – “A wee”
Best piece of advice you’ve been given – “Smile”
A band you want to see live – “Catfish and the Bottlemen”
Musicians that inspire you – “Imogen Heap, Tracy Chapman, Fink, Ben Howard, Colin Hay and The Cure”