Kimberly Cole, roller skating recording artist, hasn’t been a full-time musician for long, but she’s been in the business for quite some time, working as a dancer for some of the biggest names in the business, hosting gigs for MTV, and even celebrity judging on VH1’s Saddle Ranch.
In her debut album, Bad Girls Club, Kimberly’s aptly-named single, Smack You, quickly rose to #4 on Billboard’s dance charts. Following the success of her first album, Kimberly is making her debut as a headliner in her own concert tour after opening for recording stars such as Katy Perry and LMFAO, and recently released the music video for her hit, U Make Me Wanna.
My phone interview with Kimberly had been arranged through her publicist and my editor, so when I thought of calling the number I was given at 11 a.m. from my home in Florida, I was expecting to hear a publicist’s voice on the other end. Much to my surprise, Kimberly herself called me promptly at 11, clearly showing that although she’s in show biz, she’s still just a regular girl with a dream she’s working hard to pursue.
Although Kimberly’s only been a full-time recording artist for about six years, she already keeps the hours of a veteran musician, admitting to me up-front that she had barely just gotten her coffee and was in “pajama mode.” Even so, Kimberly was enthusiastic and excited to chat with me about her career, fashion, and her ultimate passion for songwriting.
L20: Do you stay up late writing songs?
KC: I do, I do. Pretty much before, I used to go to bed super early my whole life until I really started doing this full time, five, six years ago. I’m pretty much always in the studio, doing something creative, pretty much every night and then, of course, it’s hard to actually go to bed early. It’s a problem–I have to work on it.
L20: What do you love about music and about your genre of music specifically?
KC: Well, I feel like as an artist, I know a lot of artists and I feel like there’s so many sides to us. I do a lot of dance songs and I think it’s so fun to hear a record at a club that makes you want to get up and dance and have fun and let go and I love it. There’s also that side to me that writes emotional, vulnerable, singer-songwriter type songs. I’m a songwriter–that comes first!
L20: And you want your fans to feel the emotion through your music?
KC: Exactly! So regardless of if it’s a dance song, like U Make Me Wanna is a collaboration with Eddie Amador that was always meant to be a fun record that makes you want to get up and have fun. And right now I’m actually really excited because this next stage of music that I’m doing is still edgy. It’s still dance-oriented, but it’s emotional and it’s vulnerable and I’m really excited for people to see that side of me because my records before, they’re kind of cheeky and fun, and I want to have a little something going on in my music that shows that I don’t take myself too seriously but it makes you feel something. This next phase, I’m definitely showing a vulnerable side and kind of who I really am at the core. I’m really excited.
L20: Who or what inspired you to get into that more emotional, deeper songwriting and music?
KC: Life, actually! It’s so crazy because we all need something in our lives–life is ups and downs. We all have our work life and our personal life and I think the beauty of being an artist and the fact that I’m so obsessed with what I do. It’s not even what I’m trying to do–it’s just who I am. Even since I was a little girl, I was writing songs and that’s just kind of how I deal with stuff. We all know [life isn't] easy and sometimes it’s that you’re happy and sometimes you’re stupid–it’s just such a plethora of emotions. I think the new phase of my music is my life experiences in the past year and I think that people want to hear that.
I’m inspired by Adele–there’s a reason why people are drawn to her. She’s just pouring her heart out. Even Gotye or all these songs that are just so happy are being recognized and it’s because it’s emotional and you connect. I hope that people can connect with this new sound that I’m coming out with because it still gives you that dance edge, but there’s something deeper and it’s not to take away anything from Smack You or the songs I’ve done because I love performing them and it’s just so much fun, but it’s time for a new chapter.
L20: Is that scary for you, to put yourself out there so much and to write everything that you’re feeling? Does it make you nervous at all that people are going to be hearing that?
KC: You know, it’s weird. I’m kind of more excited than anything because I feel like it’s just time. I feel like I’ve smacked a bitch, I’ve done all these, y’know, I had a song called Three Way and You’ve Got Balls and all these things that at the time were so perfect with the Bad Girls Club and I think it’s the perfect time. Actually, when I first started writing with the producer that I work with all the time, my main songwriting partner, Jeeve, we started writing songs that were super emotional and so different than what I started to come out with and I feel like I’m kind of getting back to that. I feel like I’m actually more excited than anything because we’re all human and we all go through the same stuff no matter where we are in life. I think that’s kind of what I really want–people to know that at the end of the day, we’re all the same, and I think being able to have the guts to kind of say, “Hey, this is what’s going on in my life,” and it’s not like it was [missing words], it’s just real stuff. More than anything, I’m excited.
L20: Do you feel like you’re putting on a persona with some of the things you wrote, like Smack You and U Make Me Wanna?
KC: Yeah! It’s just so funny because it’s a side of me. Like, Smack You of course I’m beating a girl’s ass in the video. I would never in a million years do that, which is why I think I can get away with it because I’m a super bubbly, fun girl, but on stage I’m a badass bitch. I have this kind of dual personality, kinda like the Beyoncé/Sasha Fierce side where I definitely feel like I can turn it on. I mean, that’s a side of me so I think U Make Me Wanna, especially in the videos, I’m definitely playing a character. The U Make Me Wanna video was so much fun because there was comedy laced through it so I got to play the role of just that obvious video girl which was the point, to really counteract the nerdiness of Keith Apicary’s character which was so fun. But I definitely think that, yeah, it’s a side of me. There are characters and personas and they’re a slice of who I am but, not the real me in the sense that I don’t walk around kicking people’s asses and kicking people between the hips, basically.
L20: Well, speaking of walking around like that, you said that you’re kind of playing a character sometimes with your music videos and in your performances–your fashion definitely matches what you sing about. In U Make Me Wanna, the costumes are the tiny little shorts with zippers and spikes. Do you feel like the costumes reflect your personal style at all?
KC: They do. I’m very big on how, obviously, fashion and music go hand in hand, so it really is about the record. Sometimes when I’m in the studio and I’m writing, I’m picturing what it’s going to bring fashion wise, how it’s going to bring the song to life. In Smack You, the fashion in that video was reflective of what kind of character that girl is. To even have the guts to get in a fight and whatnot. I’m definitely someone who is always changing, like some of the fashion icons I respect, like Rihanna. People are always changing it up, so I think every song is gonna kind of give you a little different fashion. I’m always a little edgier, I do like to be. I love long spiky nails and stuff, so I’m always on the edgier side–definitely not conservative, that’s for sure.
L20: Your red carpet looks definitely reflect that. You have the short hemlines and the big, bold colors, so what advice can you give to other women who want to dress fearlessly like that but aren’t sure how?
KC: I definitely think that I’m always growing fashion-wise. I’m definitely on a path to grow and I think with your personality, if you’re feeling something, just do it! It’s fun. I think that you should do something that makes you feel good. Wear something that makes you feel good. If bold, bright color makes you feel that you pop on the outside, you might feel like it makes you pop on the inside. I think that becoming like that–to just do what you feel and wear what you want–is the most flattering to who you are and your personality. I think no matter what anybody else thinks, it’s important to do what you feel, so that’s kind of what I’ve been doing. There might be the next red carpet or the next event that I’m going to be in a different type of mode, but it’s always good to just test the boundaries and do what you feel and not be afraid to be who you are, whatever that is.
L20: You definitely do just that because I think you’re the only recording artist I know of who roller skates during live performances and in videos!
KC: I definitely think I am. I would say that is so true. Yeah, this crazy sport that I did growing up. I was roller skating on stage with Katy Perry and in the beginning of performing, I was skating a lot, but you can’t really take that on the road too much so I’ll probably bring it back at the right time at a big performance where I have a huge production budget to put it together. It’s definitely a fun thing I’m gonna pull out at some point again.
L20: Is it very hard to incorporate the roller skating into the choreography of live performances and videos?
KC: It actually is because skating is meant to roll so you’re meant to go far. One of the performances I did, actually at TigerHeat at Avalon, I was on a big stage for a club and I did the first song, Smack You, of course with, boots–normal–and then for the second song I went and put my skates on. I was doing choreography with the dancers standing still so the amount of, like, muscle control you have to dance on skates, not moving, is actually harder than skating. So, yeah, incorporating it into a live show as an artist is tricky and the good thing is, I have great, amazing, talented skating friends who were in it with me and we got to do the whip and tricks, but actual choreography on stage–doing the things that the dancers are doing–is actually harder than doing a double axle or something.
L20: You mentioned opening for Katy Perry, and you’ve performed with a ton of huge names–Lenny Kravitz, Cobra Starship–what’s that like, working with these huge celebrities?
KC: Well, amazing. As a dancer and a roller skater, I’ve performed with a lot of artists. I’ve always been working on my music, but I didn’t want to call myself an artist until I was ready, so I was able to perform with Jessica Simpson and Will Smith and be their backup dancer. I got to see the other side, so as an artist opening up for Cobra Starship, Lupe Fiasco, LMFAO and Katy Perry, Shiny Toy Guns, all these people–it’s been so great. One of my favorite things. They’re all so cool and nice and it’s just the energy of the crowd–I’ve gotten such a great response, so it’s still one of my favorite things. I love performing, I love being on stage, and it’s funny because I get nervous before, but right when I step on stage it’s like I’m at home and it’s an interesting switch–I love it. I love being in videos but I love being on stage.
L20: Over your career, as you just said, you’ve worked with a ton of huge names, but you also worked in television in an episode of Dollhouse, Joss Whedon’s show, and you co-starred with Eliza Dushku and the episode also featured your song Superstar (Smash It). What was it like working with Joss Whedon?
KC: Oh my gosh, well, it was amazing, and now the fact that he did The Avengers is amazing. I loved Eliza Dushku. That experience was so great–the fact that not only did I get to act, but they used a song that I wrote like four of five times in the episode. It was probably one of the best experiences and they also actually used three of my other songs in the episode. It was a musical episode, so it was so great to act with someone that I respected and it was dancing and I got to work with Mikey Minden, the choreographer, and it was great.
I went to UCLA and majored in theater and I knew that acting was something I was definitely going to do. I’m actually doing that right now with some projects on the way and leaning more toward roles that are similar. So, it’s been really great to be able to utilize that and mix kind of my singing, which is my number one thing, with acting, so it was pretty much, like, the best experience. And I love Joss Whedon and his fans are incredible and he’s just so talented.
L20: You just mentioned that you’re working on some new acting projects. Can you share any of those with us?
KC: Well, I have some acting projects I can’t talk about, but I do have a project that I’m super excited about on a network called Style Haul on YouTube which is the biggest fashion and beauty network on YouTube and on the web, actually. I have a show called FM which stands for, you know, fashion and music, and we’ve shot three episodes and have five more to go. I feel like this is the first time that people are getting to see who I really am and me being silly, and at the same time I’m doing what I do, which is being in the studio and doing these cool things. I’m really happy that I get to take people behind the scenes of really what goes on in a day in the life, but at the end of the day I’m with other people and something always goes wrong, so it’s a little reality, it’s a little bit of fashion, it’s, like, all those things wrapped into one. It’s going behind the scenes of artist’s glam squads and I’ve always thought that people really don’t know how many problems and how hard it is to get on stage. We have some fun stuff on the way with that so that is something I’m really excited about. I’ll be doing two episodes a month uploaded on Style Haul. We just had one with Kat Graham that’s uploaded and it has almost a million views already, and we’re giving away iPads–we’re, like, going crazy!
L20: The dancing in U Make Me Wanna was insane and obviously you’re so in shape from the roller skating and the dancing, but is there anything specifically diet-wise or exercise-wise that you do when you’re not shooting a video or doing a live performance?
KC: I’m the worst! I’m the worst because exercising comes so naturally to me just because I wasn’t skating to exercise, so when it comes to going to the gym, I’m terrible. Thank goodness I’m always training for something but I think what I do is diet. Diet is 90% of it, so I definitely watch what I eat, always. I’ve kind of always been that way because if I cheat, then it’s on. I’ll go through, like, three drive-throughs and just ruin it. I think if your diet is under control and you just add that exercise, you’e good. But I think you always have to find something that you love.
Exercise should be fun and not something that you dread, so I’ve kind of been lucky that I get to dance and train for shows, and with doing these videos and whatnot regularly, it’s been easier to get my exercise in. So I think that for normal times, you always have to just find something that you love to do that you forget it’s work–something like salsa dancing or something that you’re doing for fun and not just to burn calories.
L20: What is your biggest dream or goal that you hope to achieve as an artist, for yourself and for your fans?
KC: I would say, honestly, just keep doing what I’m doing. My biggest goal and the reason why I’m an artist is to have a voice and not have a voice for political reasons necessarily, but just to show people that you can, even against the odds, do what you want to do, and I think what I want to do is do music that touches people and be a relatable, humble person. One of my really great friends, Philip Lawrence of the The Smeezingtons–Bruno Mars’ partner in crime–he’s an example of somebody who’s so talented and has had so much success and hasn’t changed. He’s just a nice, kind, amazing person. I just want to keep doing songs that reach people’s hearts and whether it makes them want to dance or makes them want to cry, I want to keep doing that–to have a voice, to be someone that people look up to and a positive person. It sounds so stupid, but what’s why I want to keep doing it–to touch people.
L20: That doesn’t sound stupid at all–it’s beautiful!
KC: OK, good! It sounds so cheesy, but it’s true! I say it to my family and they’re like, “Really?” [laughs]
L20: The thing is, a lot of artists don’t view themselves like that. They want fame or money and it’s great that there are artists out there who view themselves this way.
KC: Yeah, it’s definitely not about being famous for me, definitely not. I think about that myself because I definitely chose a career path that isn’t easy. I mean, the ups and downs–it really isn’t easy, so I ask myself that all the time. It’s not about being famous, it’s not about walking around and being recognized and letting that fulfill me, it’s something else–it’s something deeper. I mean, I want to be the same person I’ve always been and show people that, yeah, you can do it, you can do something that’s against the odds.
L20: What advice can you give to other young women who are looking to break into the music industry?
KC: I would say the coolest thing now about where we’re at is social media. That’s been my biggest blessing. Honestly, practice. Be the best you that you are and don’t be afraid to put stuff up on YouTube because there’s so much now you can do on your own. I didn’t know the industry back in the day–this is the only industry that I know, which is social media. But I think it’s such a great time, that you have so much more control and so much more ability to create a fan base based on who you are. Put it on YouTube! Social media your butt off! I love Twitter and I try my best to get back to everybody because they’re like friends. That’s the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing. You get the feedback, and it’s great.