Kira Puru might be the perfect pop princess — if she wasn’t such a queen.
Sassy and thoughtful, fiery and fabulous, Puru is the kind of woman you want your teenager to look up to — a delicious diva whose velveteen voice wooed a nation when she sang on Urthboy’s 2016 ode to his mum, Daughter of the Light.
Before that, the singer had collaborated with the likes of Paul Kelly and released an addictively gloomy paean to heartbreak, All Dulled Out.
And just last month, she dropped her self-titled EP, a clutch of current and future hits such as Molotov and Tension with raunchy bass lines and pithy lyrics; basically sexy, catchy tracks to dance or snog to.
It’s Puru at her most glorious, embracing herself: a plus-size woman of colour who is a “bit queer” and a lot proud.
“We spend a lot of time in our childhood trying to fit in and trying to be normal because we don’t want people to single us out, so we gravitate towards the norm,” she says.
“But after having that drilled in your head for 20 years, you realise that what makes people special and what makes people inspiring and what makes good art is actually uniqueness, and being different. When I began to embrace the things that made me different ... that’s where the sweet spot is.”
Authenticity, she says, is the best choice.
Puru, who is Maori on her dad’s side, recalls a “pretty poor” upbringing in working-class Cardiff, outside of Newcastle, NSW.
“But it didn’t seem to bother us,” she says. “I’m thankful for the way that I was brought up because I’ve got good values. I’m not as frivolous and I have learnt to be a bit more grateful about the things I have.”
And she’s grateful for the struggle because it’s made her better and stronger.
“I’m, like, so incredibly resilient,” she says, before adding that strong people tend also to be acutely vulnerable.
“I’m going through a new breakdown every week. I am way too in touch with my feelings.”
She’s also opinionated, and unafraid of uncomfortable conversations. She recently posed a question on Twitter about why, as a pop artist, she was nominated for a National Live Music Award in the live R&B or soul category.
“I didn’t feel like I got any answers, really,” she laments. “Really, what I was looking for was for someone to acknowledge the elephant in the room, like: is it because I’m brown? Is that why?”
Puru insists it’s a chat we need to have.
“When I began to embrace the things that made me different . . . that’s where the sweet spot is.”
“It’s important for us to talk about the experience of minorities and people of colour and how we classify things and why we classify things in a certain way, like, what is ‘urban’.”
That’s the category in which her good mate Mojo Juju, a part Aboriginal soul singer, has been nominated for an ARIA.
“Why is the onus on us to be delicate in the way that we talk about that rather than other people to acknowledge that it’s a problematic category. It’s unfair for Mojo to be up against, like, hip-hop acts in an urban category ... Why is there rock and hard rock but there’s only urban? I think it’s a cool conversation to have.”
The other issue for Puru is this: what if she won the soul category? “I don’t want to take home a soul award in place of somebody who actually makes really great soul music because that doesn’t feel right to me.
“That narrative for people of colour has been going on for way too long. I don’t need to feel grateful for getting the scraps of something that’s inappropriate, I’d rather either have or have not something that I deserve or don’t deserve.”
Take Fly, for example, the latest single from her EP. Sure, it’s got a dirty bass hook but it’s as juicy a pop tune as you’ll find anywhere. It’s also the most wonderfully double- entendre-laden ditty in recent times. (Check out the video shot aboard an actual 747).
It’s clear Puru has found her groove.
“I’ve been making music of all different types over the years and it’s really liberating to make music that’s fun to dance to, that’s tongue in cheek and it’s self aware,” she says.
“I feel really proud and just so happy to put that energy in the world. The party space, the disco vibe has given a lot to me in my formative years and it’s really nice to feel like I’m putting something back into that.”
Kira Puru plays the Sewing Room in the city on December 7. Tickets from Moshtix.