“I had the music in my hands; I could just move my arms and music would come out. This was a brilliant moment because I realized that I was okay. I could be a musician.”
Between honing in her skills as a singer, songwriter, musician, and visual artist, there isn’t much that Imogen Heap can’t do. With the release of her latest genre-breaking record Sparks, we had the opportunity of giving Imogen a call to discuss using fans’ sound seeds, the moment she accomplished flexibility, and a message for her listeners. Dive into our conversation below!
AMBY: Hello Imogen, welcome to our site and thanks for having a chat. How are you doing?
Imogen Heap: I’m good, I’m good. I’m great, actually! I don’t know if you know, but I’m pregnant and am waddling around right now.
AMBY: [laughs] Congrats.
Imogen Heap: Thank you. So, to answer your question, I’m doing great.
AMBY: I wanted to say congrats on the release of Sparks – I really love what you did with the album and am excited to discuss it today.
Imogen Heap: I’m glad you like it.
AMBY: It’s incredible how much of a story there is behind the record’s creation. You started Sparks in 2011 with a live stream from your home studio, which was located in a village on the outskirts of London. Afterwards, you started to gather sound seeds from fans. What was the main inspiration behind having fans as such an integral part of this album’s journey?
Imogen Heap: They’re always with me and have always been with me. It would feel strange to not have a stream or connection with them. It’s so nice to get an instant connection because I’m known for often being very spontaneous, and I love how the minute you share an idea with the world, it becomes a reality. It’s amazingly liberating. It wouldn’t feel right to have a private musical life and then the fans – I want both to be part of my life.
AMBY: And what about the audio samples? Why did you decide to take those from your fans?
Imogen Heap: I’ve never before taken audio samples to that extreme and used them in a song before. Lifeline was the only song on the new album that used fans’ samples. It was wonderful to start the record like that.
AMBY: There are a lot of spontaneous ideas behind the album; it was created over the course of an intense two years and you collaborated with everyone from your fans to gardeners to film makers. With such an interesting journey, what were some of the highlights you had while making Sparks?
Imogen Heap: There were so many highlights. That was the nice thing about doing each song separately in this project… you get a real sense of achievement when you finish a song. There were so many highs but so many lows as well. Me The Machine was the biggest high and the biggest low because I wanted to create this musical blog for many years but it’s a huge project – it’s already been four years in the making – and we’re still a long way off from being ready. For me, a big highlight was when I was in the middle of a live stream and had just written Me The Machine at four in the morning, which was six hours before the live stream. I hadn’t slept for about seventy-two hours, was really tired, and was trying to program the gloves at the last minute. It was so much pressure and so much money for this one event. In the middle of the performance, I completely ground to a halt in my brain; I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing.
AMBY: How did you pull through it?
Imogen Heap: I almost caved in, but in the process of doing that, I got this real wave of calm and I realized that I had the music in my hands; I could just move my arms and music would come out. This was a brilliant moment because I realized that I was okay. I could be a musician. There was this sense of achievement in knowing that I could be flexible and not have to follow a program. Even though the performance wasn’t smooth, it was a real sense of coming so far. That was a high!
AMBY and Imogen Heap: [laughs]
AMBY: You recently asked fans what their favourite songs were on the album. I’m really enjoying The Listening Chair at the moment. I know it’s an auto-biographical song which is very open and personal as you sing to fans, “I love cheese. I want to have children, but I don’t want to have children”. Has it ever been difficult for you to let down that wall of privacy and express yourself on a record?
Imogen Heap: I’m not usually so descriptive. I like to be a bit vaguer and use metaphors to describe a feeling or something that’s happening in my life. If you’re listening to a song, and you don’t love cheese, then the song isn’t about you or for you. With this song, it was all about opening up and wanting people to be able to connect to it. I felt like in it being very personal, other people would also be able to connect themselves to it. It had a means to an end [laughs].
AMBY: With that being said, your fanbase were an important part of this album and you’ve mentioned how, in general, they’re an important part of your career. Is there anything you would like to say to your fans who are reading this interview?
Imogen Heap: I would like to say thank you! Thank you for sticking with me – I know I’m not an easy artist to be a fan of since I’m always up to things that don’t always work out, I don’t always finish things, and I’m often doing loads of things at the same time. But, I feel so lucky to have you all. I realized that I’ve just got to be me. Now, I’m doing that and have this amazing freedom that the fans give me. To have this freedom and acceptance, it’s nice.
AMBY: For the last question in our interview, what’s something about yourself that most of your listeners don’t know yet?
Imogen Heap: I’m trying to think, but there isn’t too much which is groundbreaking. I want to give you something good! Hmm… in my life, I have spent more time on my own and not interacting with people because I’ve spent it with music. This is something that’s starting to change; I want to be more social and be more engaged with others. I want to have more conversations, real conversations, and grow more friendships. I’ve always had music as my partner, but I’ve started to value and treasure friendship.
Thank you Imogen Heap, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout