kimberly nichole reinvents “the witch” for halloween

October 31, 2019
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Kimberly Nichole (a.k.a. The Rock Ballerina) is part of the original AFROPUNK crew. Though many fans know her from the subsequent stint on The Voice, or appearances on theatrical stages, we’ll always remember her first and foremost as the inimitable singer, MC, and host of AFROPUNK Fests past. Newly relocated to London, the multi-hyphenate artist is about to release her new record, West Coast Seattle Girl. And just in time for Halloween, we’re excited to bring you her latest single, an explosive cover of Seattle garage-rock legends The Sonics’ “The Witch.” Time to get loud and get spooky, kids.

And since we had her ear and a moment, we asked Kimberly a few questions about what she’s up to now.

What is the super-hero origin story of the Rock Ballerina?

I always give credit to Valerie Simpson (legendary singer/songwriter/Ashford & Simpson). A while back Andre Leon Talley featured me in his Vogue Magazine column — they’re good friends — and her quote about me was “she’s a rock ballerina…wild and wonderful…” It kinda stuck.

You’re both a songwriter and a prolific interpreter of classic songs. What do you do to find your version of a classic?

I think it’s all about the feeling; letting it resonate and then interpreting that feeling. I love covering classics — like “House of the Rising Sun,” “River Deep Mountain High.” Certain eras of music just resonate strongly in me.

How is that different from your approach to your original music?

I think it’s similar. My originals are of course me literally singing about my life and journey; so, it’s very much personal. But I find in any song you can find yourself within the lyrics somehow.

What drew you in particular to “The Witch” by The Sonics?

I was put on to The Sonics years ago. Of course, they were big before I was even born, but I remember really trying to tap into the rock legends of Seattle other than Jimi and Nirvana. And I found The Sonics. I bought their music and “The Witch” was so bad ass! They say it’s garage, but that song sounded like early rock and roll, like Little Richard! I immediately loved it.

You’ve worked with a lot of legendary artists lately, who was someone you defied or transcended your expectations?

There’s a few. All of them have definitely exceeded my expectations, especially with their kindness. Valerie Simpson and Nona Hendryx have been champions and mentors of mine for some time. They really root for me, and love and believe in me. I am so lucky to have their love and support. Slash of Guns ‘N Roses…I mean…I damn near fainted when I knew he wanted to perform with me! Unbelievable ! Then when we met he was so damn nice! Like…you picture him as being Slash of Guns ‘N Roses, one of the most unapologetic, bad-ass, don’t-give-a-fuck bands in rock music. But he’s as sweet as pie!

Who were the performers that made you realize what you were capable of?

There’s many… but one performer I remember seeing live in Atlanta that made me understand freedom and what my potential could be was JOI (Gilliam)… honey! Tennessee Slim! Star Kitty! Rebekah Holy Love! I saw her and she was so bad-ass and sexy and seducing and captivating and fierce and beautiful and fly and cool-as-fuck and, to quote her, “a never-ending, pitch-Black goddess situation”! I was determined to find and exude that kind of unapologetic energy because I knew it was in me.

What was a live show that changed your life?

Lord! There’s a few! Prince, Purple Rain 20-year anniversary, and the Foo Fighters live! I thought my head was gonna explode! From beginning to end! They didn’t let up!

What brought you to London?

Ummm… I was done with New York! LOL! Seriously…I was ready for a change and was planning to move to LA. But an opportunity in London, at The Box, came about and I ran there!!!!!!!

It’s interesting that you’d move to London and then release a record called The West Coast Seattle Girl, what is it about your hometown that defines you / anchors you?

I’ve just always been about representing “the town”! It has shaped me — my foundation — I want folks to know that! I need it to be clear. And the album title is definitely a take on Jimi’s posthumous “the west coast Seattle boy.” He went from Seattle to the South to New York to London. My path has been similar. So, it’s paying homage to him and to our hometown.

What do you hope people will take away from The West Coast Seattle Girl?

I hope they’re inspired! I hope it excites them! I hope they understand who I am a bit more.

Stay tuned for more, and keep up with Kimberly Nichole at @Kimnicky