How did she do that? ‘Daffodils’ star Kimbra on becoming a singer and actor

20 March 2019
By Fashion Quarterly


New Zealand-born singer and actor Kimbra has become a global sensation.

Growing up in Hamilton, Kimbra has evolved from humble roots before embarking on her career and making moves in the entertainment world.  Now starring in the latest New Zealand hit film Daffodils and with some smash hits up her sleeve, is there anything she can’t do?

Kimbra spoke to Fashion Quarterly about her career, how to get ahead and her favourite things that make Aotearoa her home.

Tell us a bit about your story so far (where you grew up, your career path and what you’re doing now).

I grew up in Hamilton, signed a management contract at 17 and moved to Melbourne. Then I signed to Warner Bros in Los Angeles at 21 and moved there. Now I live in New York and am beginning work on my fourth album!

Congratulations on your role in Daffodils! What does starring in this film mean to you as a Kiwi and as a musician?

It’s a chance for me to connect to my New Zealand roots and the music I grew up with. The songs are a soundtrack to Kiwi life and it was really fun to reinterpret them for a younger audience.

Who were your Kiwi icons or heroes growing up and how have they shaped you into the person you are today?

I loved songwriters like Bic Runga and Brooke Fraser, but I also liked a lot of punk rock like The Mint Chicks who are also featured in this film. I keep in touch with Ruban from that band who is now in Unknown Mortal Orchestra and he continues to inspire me as a musician.


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You’re probably asked this all the time, but what does it really mean to you to be a New Zealander?

I think we’re small town people who dream big!

What’s the first thing you do when you return home to NZ? And more importantly, what’s the first thing you eat?

Vogels, Marmite, Grainwaves and mum’s bacon and egg pie. I always try to fit in fish and chips on Raglan beach too.

Your career requires you to travel relentlessly. Is there something you take with you to make you happy or remind you of home?

I keep my computer set up with a New Zealand landscape as my backdrop, it calms me. I also like to wear New Zealand designers as a way to stay connected to home.


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Do you have a favourite memory that is tied to New Zealand music?

I used to cover ‘Sway’ by Bic Runga when I was young and doing my first pub gigs, so that holds a special place in my heart.

How is your own personal journey intertwined with the iconic songs in this film?

Many of the locations are places that I grew up in and have strong ties to. I think the songs in the film have connected me to New Zealand songwriters in a deeper way and reminded me of how much talent there is here.

Being your first ever screen-debut, how did you find the experience of acting?

There’s a lot of stopping and starting which was new for me. But the community aspect was so rewarding, working alongside so many amazing people and being a part of this larger vision where you are just one instrument in the symphony.


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What are your top three tips for landing a job in your industry?

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Know what you value.
  3. Work hard and passionately.

What are some challenges you’ve faced or had to overcome?

Every time I move to a new country there are challenges including making new friends and creating a space where I like to live and write. Also, staying true to what I believe when there is pressure to put business interests first – the music industry is full of challenges and you have to navigate them under a public eye, but I still wouldn’t swap my work for anything else because it’s where I feel I can bring the most to the world.

When did you last act fearlessly?

When I said yes to being in this film! It took courage to step into a new field but I decided if I’m gonna do it, I had to throw myself into it wholeheartedly.


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We’re sure your life has been a series of ‘pinch me’ moments, but what’s been your biggest ‘pinch me’ moment so far?

I performed at Riverside Church in Harlem with a huge gospel choir recently to celebrate Martin Luther King. It was one of the last places he spoke before he died and Nelson Mandela’s son was also speaking at the event – it was a real honour to be a part of that.

You have already achieved so much, but what’s next for you?

Writing my next album! I have a Europe tour in March but that will be my last run of shows for the year so I can just focus on writing and recording.

Photos: Instagram, Getty Images


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