Kimbra entered the first Play it Strange National Secondary Schools Songwriting Competition in 2004, making the top 10 of over 300 entrants, and from this had the song It Takes Time included on the Play It Strange Top 20 Volume 1 compilation. In 2005 she placed in the 31st to 50th place bracket of the same competition with the song Reminisce.
Early public performances by Kimbra included singing at the Waikato Times Gold Cup race meeting in 2000 as a ten year old, and at twelve singing the national anthem before 27000 people at the Auckland vs Waikato NPC rugby final. In June 2006 Kimbra sang in front of 30000 people at an All Blacks vs. Ireland rubgy test match at Waikato Stadium.
In 2007 Kimbra duetted with Gian Perrone on the Dynamo Go song Sad Again, which was released on the Affordable Pop Music EP. She also performed at the 2007 Hamilton Circle Jerk, covering songs by Amy Racecar and This Night Creeps. In 2008, she signed a contract with Australian company Freemantle Media, leaving Hamilton for Melbourne following a performance at the Hamilton Gardens summer festival. In that year she also featured on the Nesian Mystic song Mr Mista, which reached #3 and spent 17 weeks in the New Zealand charts.
In 2011 Kimbra signed to Warner Bros Records, and was named by Hollywood blogger Perez Hilton as "one to watch". Her debut album, Vows, was released on 29 August 2011, and entered the official New Zealand charts at #4 (peaking at #3); it ended the year as the 10th largest selling New Zealand album for 2011. On the back of this release, her single Settle Down entered at #37 on the New Zealand singles chart, although left the chart the following week. Vows also went to #4 in the Australian charts. In May 2012 Vows was released in the United States, and entered the charts at #14, although it fell to #45 the following week, spending four weeks in the charts overall. Later in 2012, the album briefly entered the Polish (peak #23) and Dutch (peak #95) album charts.
In 2011, Kimbra also featured on the release Somebody That I Used to Know by Australian artist Gotye. The digital download-only single peaked at #1 on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart and entered the New Zealand Charts at #4, moving up to #1 on 12 September 2011. The song went on to reach #1 on the Austrian Top 75, Belgian Top 50, Bulgarian Top 40, Canadian Top 100, Danish Top 40, Dutch Top 40, Finnish Top 20, French Top 100, German Top 100, Irish Top 50, Portugese Top 50, Swedish Top 60, UK top 75, USA Singles Top 100, and has charted in Norway (peaking at #2), Spain (#3) and Switzerland (#2). It ended 2011 at #5 on the top selling singles for the year in New Zealand. The song was covered in the television programme Glee in early 2012.
In October 2011 Kimbra received the New Zealand Critics' Choice Prize for up-and-coming acts, who the judges believe are destined for greatness; the award comprised a NZ$10,000 recording and music video grant, and a NZ$2000 Rockshop gift voucher. In November 2011, she won "Best Female Artist" at the Australian Music Industry Awards (ARIA) for her single Cameo Lover. At the same awards, Gotye won "Single of the Year", "Best Male Artist" and "Best Pop Release" for Somebody That I Used to Know.
In 2012, Kimbra teamed up with Mark Foster (from the band Foster the People) and DJ/turntablist A-Trak on the song Warrior, part of the Converse "Three Artists. One Song" series. The song was included as a bonus track on the 2012 "deluxe" and "Australian Tour" editions of Vows. The song spent 9 weeks in the New Zealand charts, entering at #40, and peaked at #22. In late 2012, she had the song With My Hands included on the album Frankenweenie Unleashed!, featuring music inspired by the Tim Burton movie Frankenweenie. In November 2012, Kimbra won five "Tui" awards at the New Zealand Music Awards: Album of the Year, International Achievement Award, Best Female Solo Artist, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, and Best Pop Album. She also won the ARIA award for Best Female Artist for a second consecutive year. By the end of the year, she also released videos for Two Way Street and Come into my Head.
In early 2013, Kimbra won two Grammy Awards for Somebody That I Used to Know with Gotye, in the "Best Pop Duo/Group Performance" and "Best Record" categories. Following the Grammys, she moved her base from Melbourne to Los Angeles.
In 2014, Kimbra released her second album, The Golden Echo. It debuted at #5 in both the New Zealand and Australian charts, which was its peak position in both countries. It spent one week in the USA album charts, at #43.
- Vows album, 2011
- Settle Down EP, 2011
- Cameo Lover EP and single, 2011
- Good Intent single, 2011
- Vows - Deluxe Edition album, 2012
- Vows - Australian Tour Edition album 2012
- Vows Remixes album, 2012
- The Golden Echo album, 2014
- It Takes Time included on the 2004 compilation Play It Strange Top 20 Volume 1
- Thoughtful Escape appears on the 2005 compilation Smokefree Rockquest 2005
- Deep For You appears on the 2006 promo only compilation Kiwi Hit Disc 80
- Simply on my Lips appears on the 2007 compilation TheSet.co.nz New Zealand Music Sampler Vol.1
- Simply on my Lips appears on the 2007 promo CD Kiwi Hit Disc 90
- Settle Down appears on the 2010 promo CD Kiwi Hit Disc 130
- Cameo Lover appears on the 2011 promo CD Kiwi Hit Disc 137
- Good Intent appears on the 2011 promo CD Kiwi Hit Disc 141
- Two Way Street appears on the 2011 promo CD Kiwi Hit Disc 144
- Cameo Lover (Electric Empire Remix) appears on the 2011 compilation Chillout Sessions XIV
- Cameo Lover appears on the 2012 compilation Love Love Love (Compilation)
- Plain Gold Ring appears on the 2012 compilation Uncovered Vol. 4
- With My Hands appears on the 2012 compilation Frankenweenie Unleashed!
- Come in to my Head appears on the 2013 promo CD Kiwi Hit Disc 153
- 90s Music appears on the 2013 promo compilation Kiwi Hit Disc 171
As a Featured Artist:
- All for You by Goodnight Nurse (ft. Kimbra Johnson) appears on the 2006 album Always and Never
- Sad Again by Dynamo Go (ft. Kimbra) appears on the 2007 EP Affordable Pop Music
- Mr Mista by Nesian Mystic (ft. Che Fu, Cydel and Kimbra) appears on the 2008 album Elevator Musiq and compilation Kiwi Hit Disc 111
- Asleep in the Sea by As Tall as Lions (ft. Kimbra) appears on the 2009 album You Can't Take It with You
- I Look to You by Miami Horror (ft. Kimbra) appears on the 2010 album Illumination
- I Look to You (French Horn Rebellion Original Mix) by Miami Horror (ft. Kimbra) appears on the 2011 single Summersun
- Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye (ft. Kimbra) appears on the 2011 album Making Mirrors
- Made to Love by John Legend (ft. Kimbra) appears on the 2013 album Love in the Future
- Young Singer Hits Right Notes, Waikato Times, 8 February 2001, p3
- Kimbra, Emily Rock to the Top, Waikato Times, 19 June 2004, pA2
- Judges Wax Lyrical about Johnson's Polish, Waikato Times, 14 October 2004, p12
- Broken Arm no Barrier to Win, Waikato Times, 4 July 2005, p3
- NZ Anthem Nothing Irish for City Teen, Waikato Times, 10 June 2006, pA3
- Kimbra interview, Nexus, 21 May 2007, p34
- Last Chance to see Kimbra Live, Hamilton Press, 20 February 2008, p20
- Look at Her Now, Waikato Times, 10 June 2011 
- Kimbra takes home Critics' Choice Prize, New Zealand Herald, 7 October 2011 
- "Deep for You" video, 2006, at YouTube
- "Simply on my Lips" video, 2007, at YouTube
- "I Look to You" by Miami Horror (feat. Kimbra) video, 2010, at YouTube
- "Settle Down" video, 2011, at YouTube
- "Good Intent" video, 2011, at YouTube
- "Cameo Lover" video, 2011, at YouTube
- "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye (feat. Kimbra) video, 2011, at YouTube
- "The Build Up" video, 2012, at YouTube
- "Two Way Street" video, 2012, at YouTube
- "Warrior" by Mark Foster, A-Trak and Kimbra, 2012, at YouTube
- "Come Into My Head" video, 2012, at YouTube
- "90s Music" video, 2014, at YouTube