Up-and-coming dance-pop singer Kimberly Cole first graced Vertigo Shtick's pages in May 2010 when we introduced her great single "Smack You," which later rose to the top five of the Billboard Dance Club Play chart. Cole's debut album Bad Girls Club was released in December (and earned a rave review from this website) to support the sixth season of the Oxygen Network reality show of the same name. A few weeks ago, I had a chance to chat with the former professional roller skating champ about her origins, plans for 2011 and beyond, the making of Bad Girls Club, and MMF threeways gone awry.
Vertigo Shtick: How did you get started with pop/dance music? You were an MTV host, roller skating...how does that all lead to where you are now?
Kimberly Cole: Well of course I could tell you my monologue and be on the phone for an hour, but...it’s weird because I’ve heard other artists being interviewed and it seems like a cliché thing to say - even on American Idol: “I’ve been singing since I was three!” And unfortunately I have that similar type of story, where I was that four year old girl singing around the house, curly ringlets, dancing and tapping, and I thought in my head I had, like, the best voice ever. I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, I have the best voice; I’m like Mariah Carey!” And I clearly was not even good, now, watching videos, but I always liked when people were watching me. At Disneyland, for example, waiting for the parade, and I would get out in the middle and do a little dance. So from the very beginning - I think sometimes you’re just born with that vibe.
I come from a very academic family: my brother is a dermatologist, my dad’s a dentist, my mom’s a principal: education was always very important. My mom kind of put me in everything to have me have a really well-rounded life, but singing and competitive roller skating became my obsession for some reason. But as long as my homework was done, I could do everything. The reason I’m saying this is because I went to school, I went to UCLA, graduated, I was a champion roller skater…I took whatever I did to the limit, and I felt like it taught me how to get something done. Like: even if you’re not the best at something, figure out a way to be the best at it. So, forever with my love of music, the reason I loved roller skating so much wasn’t necessarily because of the roller skating: it was the music, and performing. I always sang when I was little, and when I was eighteen I almost got signed to Dreamworks records (by accident) and it reminded me that this is a dream that I have, and that I need to follow it and not be embarrassed about it.
I’m giving a long story, but throughout college I was always working on recording, but I didn’t start the process of actually calling myself an artist until I felt like [I'd learned] the things that one needs to learn, like how to record...paying my dues. I had to pay my dues before I had the guts to call myself an artist. I kind of just in the last couple years, really genuinely feel like “wait, I’m an artist.” I’ve learned a lot.
VS: In my review of Bad Girls Club I focus on its precision. I don’t know if you’ve seen Black Swan, but that movie’s all about how she’s so precise that she never quite loses it and gets into it; I think you do both. Do you find that you bring that academic interest that you were raised with into your music, and how?
Jeeve, my partner in crime, has this same kind of personality I have, where he’s very technical, but at the same time he’s a genuine artist and loses it too. Like knowing what is needed in a song, and what elements are needed to make a song work, but at the same time not being so technical that you lose that freedom, the magic that happens sometimes when you’re not trying to be perfect. Of course, I always will grow and grow into that more. I definitely think sometimes you’ve got to dumb it down for music. We actually have a hard time, sometimes have to take things out because it’s too musical. I think that having that side of my brain, being able to know [and] analyze what’s needed or what’s even not needed definitely helps me. Good question.
VS: I’m a sucker for close harmony, and that’s something you use throughout the album. Do you use backup vocalists? I looked through the album notes and it looks like most of it is you.
It’s all me, definitely all me, but I will say that Jeeve... [when] the two of us are together it’s so funny, because that is my favorite part too. When we do the leads – we always record the leads first – I’m like “Okay, let’s do the harmonies!” because it’s such ear candy. And even from past stuff, we’ve done too many harmonies. So it’s all me, but Jeeve is really the one who gives his brain. I would say he’s the most amazing vocal producer, vocal arranger. The two of us together are really a great team when it comes to those harmonies and whatnot. I’ve learned so much from him. Before I worked with him I didn’t know…I would come up with my own harmonies that weren’t as hot, definitely.
VS : So how do you plan to translate all of this into your live performances? You have a long history with live performance, be it roller skating or dancing...so what can we look for from live performances by Kimberly Cole?
KC: First of all, yes, you definitely hit the nail right there. The studio…that’s one side of me. But live performing, I feel like I always do it the same way that I would approach how to make a song the best it can be. Even Tricia [Miranda, Cole's choreographer] – okay, I have to talk about Tricia because we are like creative soul mates when it comes to live performances. She gets it so much. Especially because of where I’m at as an artist: some people know who I am, but some people don’t. So when I perform at a club, assuming not everyone knows everything about me, I don’t want to be on stage too long, for example, because then they’re bored or something. I feel like as people know who I am I can stay on stage longer. So what we do is like a little teaser, leave them wanting more.
I have the best dancers: I have Sohey [Sugihara], who’s a Janet dancer, I have Jae [Fusz], who’s danced with everyone, I have Rihanna dancers... I have the best crew. So we really bring this high energy. I’ve really grown, because I started last year adding my roller skating into the shows, and it’s kind of hard to sing. So it’s developed into a really cool balance where I can still dance, show that I know how to move, but being able to genuinely sing live, because I think that’s really important. Right now we have this really great set where we throw things out in the audience, maybe like a seven to ten minute set where it’s not too long, not too short, high energy, sexy, and we’re still working on it. We’re actually going to do a Bad Girls Club tour, and hit every market in the US. We’re trying to really figure out…we don’t have the second single yet because "Smack You" is still the first single; we’re pushing it, it’s just hitting radio now. We’re trying to figure out what that perfect balance of a live show will be, but we’ve gotten a great response. That’s one of my favorite things, performing. I would do it every night if I could.
VS: Well there are so many great songs - I don’t think there’s a song I dislike on the album.
VS: There’s just so much there - obviously it goes with the theme of Bad Girls Club, but it doesn’t seem tacked on. And I have to ask, did the “Three Way” story happen to you? How many of those stories are from real life, or embellished?
KC: You should ask! Because they’re all situations – it’s so funny because I think I can get away with being or calling myself connected with the Bad Girls Club and it’s really the opposite of my personality when I’m not on stage. When I’m on stage I have that whole Beyoncé/Sasha Fierce thing going on where it’s a total other side of me. I feel like every song is like a fantasy of what I want to do or who I want to be, but I haven’t been able to. I’m not that girl – I’m actually quite the opposite of it. But at the same time, when I’m performing, that side is me so the threeway song…it almost happened to me. It didn’t quite happen to me, it’s kind of embellished, but it’s something that’s funny, like you never really think of a threeway being with two guys. I’m sure it happens a lot, but…
VS: Well I appreciated that, because before you it was only Britney Spears who was able to say “I’m gonna go out and have a threeway with two guys!” Obviously I’m a little biased, but hey, that’s fun for me.
3” came out. We were like “Nooooo!!” It was [just] on the brink. And also, I think it was two years ago now I had a song called “Superstar,” which was featured in an episode of Dollhouse, a great episode, and there were so many similarities between that song and her song “Womanizer.” We hadn’t heard her song, [ours] was written like a month before [“Womanizer”] came out. Britney and I for some reason come up with the same concepts, but I love her.
VS: To close this out - although I hope we talk to you again, because there’s a lot I would love to talk to you about...
KC: Any time, you’re a friend!
VS: So what lies ahead for you this year? What can we expect from you over the next year, and what are you looking for in your career as it’s gotten off to this great start?
KC: Well with my partnership with the Oxygen Network, I’m really looking forward to – I’m excited that I’m partnering with such a cool show. The Bad Girls Club is such a great platform, and it’s a great, catchy little title so I can pick songs that we have now that are very in one niche and perform them live and obviously, make my mark as an artist who can bring more to the table as well. Because I’m not that; I’m all kinds of things. I have emotions and I sing ballads and whatnot.
This year specifically I want to be on the road. I want to meet as many people as possible because, even talking to you I feel like.. I have a lot of fans on Twitter, and I do really understand and appreciate everyone who hits me up because they’re friends, they’re not fans. Because we have a connection; we need each other. I’ve been doing some TV stuff, doing some interesting things with the new business model of the music industry, and always keep my head towards things I can do that are different, not just “okay, this is the way the record label does it.” I have a lot of great ideas, a lot of show ideas, a lot of YouTube things. Maybe release a second single, and then think ahead to what my next album will be like!
|Get Kimberly Cole's debut album Bad Girls Club on iTunes|
More Kimberly Cole on Vertigo Shtick:
Album Review: Kimberly Cole - Bad Girls Club
First Listen: Kimberly Cole - "Smack You"