On 10 February 2013, she and Gotye won the Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance awards at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards Show for "Somebody That I Used to Know". This achievement made her only the third New Zealand singer to win a Grammy Award in history. Kimbra's second studio album, The Golden Echo, was officially released on 19 August 2014 to positive critical reception.
Kimbra Lee Johnson was born on 27 March 1990 and grew up in Hamilton, New Zealand. Her father, Ken Johnson, was the head doctor at the University of Waikato's student health centre, and her mother was an orthopaedic nurse. At the age of 10, Kimbra began writing songs. When she was 12, her father bought her a guitar and "after a few years of lessons, she was on stage, performing with her guitar tutors (she was never taught to sing)". Kimbra attended Hillcrest High School, competing in the national schools' musical competition Rockquest for three years running, where she was awarded second place in 2004 at the age of 14. Kimbra made her first music video, "Smile", for the children's TV show What Now. Kimbra was a member of the Hillcrest High jazz choir, Scat.
Early public performances by Kimbra included singing at the Waikato Times Gold Cup race meeting in 2000 as a 10-year-old and singing the New Zealand national anthem before 27,000 people at the 2002 NPCrugby union final. In 2007, after winning the Juice TV award for Best Breakthrough music video for her second single "Simply on My Lips", she came to the attention of ex-Independiente Records boss Mark Richardson (Jamiroquai, Paula Abdul) and his newly formed management company and independent label Forum 5 in Melbourne, Victoria. She signed with Richardson and in 2008 she moved to Melbourne, Australia.
In June 2010, Kimbra's first single on Forum 5, "Settle Down", was released. She had started writing the track four years earlier – it was finished with François Tétaz. The music video was directed by Guy Franklin. Perez Hilton featured the track on his website citing "[i]f you like Nina Simone, Florence & The Machine and/or Bjork, then we think you will enjoy Kimbra – her music reminds us of all those fierce ladies!" On 10 December, the Australian 'indietronica' group Miami Horror released their single, "I Look to You" featuring Kimbra's vocals. Kimbra also stars in its music video, which features wide-angle and kaleidoscope shots of her in face paint and dresses walking through golden fields. Early in 2011, Kimbra's song "Cameo Lover" was a finalist for the 2011 Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition and eventually won the competition. In March she issued "Cameo Lover" as her next single, its music video was released in April and was directed by Franklin. In 13 April Kimbra went to perform for Moomba Festival and ChillOut Festival in Sydney at Oxford Arts Factory to welcome the release of her next single, "Cameo Lover". On 15 July 2011, "Cameo Lover" won the songwriting competition, ahead of third placed song, "Somebody That I Used to Know", written by Australian musician, Gotye. On 7 June Kimbra signed to Warner Bros. Records New Zealand for distribution in New Zealand and Australia, as well as a worldwide deal for other territories with Warner Bros. Records in the US. On 5 July Kimbra sang in Gotye's single, "Somebody That I Used to Know", which was mixed by Tétaz. Tétaz had recommended Kimbra to Gotye after a 'high profile' Australian female vocalist had withdrawn from the collaboration.
On 29 August 2011, Kimbra's debut album, Vows, was released in New Zealand and 2 September in Australia. In its first week of release it charted at No. 3 in New Zealand, No. 5 in Australia and No. 14 in the US. In its second week, it rose to a peak of No. 4 on the ARIA Albums Chart. Australian producer 'M-Phazes' produced Kimbra's track "Call Me" and assisted on other tracks on Vows. Its artwork including body art and illustrations were created by Rhys Mitchell and Raphael Rizzo. She has won the Critics' Choice Prize at the 2011 New Zealand Music Awards and Best Female Artist and Best Song (for "Cameo Lover") at the ARIA Music Awards of 2011. The US release of Vows featured new tracks not available on the Australian or New Zealand version of the album. She had performed in various location such as, at the Forum Theatre, Melbourne on 9 September 2011, at Astor Theatre, Perth on 17 September 2011, at the Adelaide Botanic Garden in Brisbane on 1 October 2011, at Adelaide, Australia on 3 October 2011, at Queenscliff Music Festival, Queenscliff, Victoria and Wellington Square, Perth on 25 November 2011, at Homebake Festival 2011, at Royal Botanic Gardens, The Domain, Sydney on 3 December 2011 and at the Falls Festival Lorne, Australia on 30 December 2011.
On 4 and 5 January 2013, Kimbra continued her performance for the Summadayze Festival in Perth, Australia. On 25 January 2013, Kimbra went to Singapore for the St. Jerome's Laneway Festival. On 10 February 2013, Kimbra and Gotye won the Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance awards at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards Show for "Somebody That I Used to Know". This achievement made her only the third New Zealand singer to win a Grammy Award in history. Kimbra was also featured with the soul-pop RNB singer John Legend in the song Made to Love, published in the album Love in the Future. The single was released on 11 June 2013 and the album was released on eleased on 30 August 2013. On 15 September 2013, Kimbra performed for Rock In Rio Festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Kimbra has also recruited to collaborate on the record which includes pop iconoclasts Daniel Johns, Dirty Projectors's Dave Longstreth, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson, abstract beat wizards, Steven Ellison a.k.a. Flying Lotus and Stephen Bruner a.k.a. Thundercat, progressive rock heroes, Mars Volta’s Omar Rodríguez-López and Deantoni Parkes, members of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Queens of the Stone Age, seductive soul singer Bilal and the legendary composer Van Dyke Parks, who has worked with notable performers, mainly Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys, Prince’s New Power Generation keyboardist Morris Hayes and John Robinson, were also invited to drop by the studio. Besides working for her music career, Kimbra was also involved in a non-profit charity organization called So They Can, it is a registered charity in New Zealand, Australia and Kenya focusing on education and building the local economy through micro finance and social business. Kimbra became the ambassador of So They Can within the year of 2013.