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Kimberly Nichole: The ‘rock ballerina’ gets raw and real


Seattle is rich with rock history. Legends like Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain are among the city’s most iconic native sons, as are superstars like Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam. Singer-songwriter Kimberly Nichole is determined to add her name to the list of luminaries who have emerged from the Pacific Northwest throughout the years. The fiery rock singer has become one of the more talked-about indie artists on the strength of her powerhouse voice and undeniable stage presence — which caught the attention of one legendary songwriter who gave her her nickname. “Valerie Simpson [said] ‘She’s a rock ballerina, wild and wonderful!’ ” Kimberly shares, laughing. “I took that phrase and ran with it. I wear skirts that are tutu-inspired and I go with the rock feel in my show, so I thought it was a perfect description.”

One part Tina, one part Janis, and all heart and soul, Nichole says that her musical roots began where so many singers started their journey — in the black church. “My family is Southern Baptist, so [my life] was very much church-oriented when I started off singing,” she explains.

Discovering rock music gave Nichole her true voice, and she loved the wild freedom that goes along with the genre.

But even in finding her musical niche, it was awhile before she would embrace her inner “rock ballerina” and dive 100 percent into a recording career. But that all changed when she moved to Atlanta to attend college. “[I embraced a musical career] probably around 2006 when I met [singer-songwriter] Rahbi,” she says. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I knew I didn’t wanna be in corporate America for the rest of my life. so I started trying open mics in Atlanta and it seemed like people were very receptive to what I had to give onstage. But it was a reminder of when I was younger — I remembered that feeling when I performed as a kid in Seattle and I think I found that feeling again.”

Since rediscovering that feeling, Kimberly Nichole has been on a roller-coaster ride. She’s recorded and released her debut, The Yellow Brick Journey, and has seen her work celebrated. “Valerie gave me the Reach Out and Touch Award at ASCAP, I was very proud of that,” she shares. ”And I was able to perform at the Lincoln Center. And releasing my debut project—self-funded and distributed by myself, a one-woman team effort, I was proud of that. It was stressful — but I was proud of that.”