Imogen Heap: Making An Album Is A Lonely Business

We catch up with Imogen to find out about her relationship with fans, the pressure of deadlines, and making music with her house.

This week British singer-songwriter-producer and two-time Grammy nominee Imogen Heap (to use her full name) releases her single ‘First Train Home’, the first to be taken from her new album ‘Ellipse’ (our review of which you can read here).

We have a chat to find out about her relationship with fans, the pressure of deadlines, and making music with her house.

Hi Imogen. So, why did you decide to film a video blog chronicling the making of your new album?
Well I got home to my flat when I finished touring and realised I couldn’t work, so I went out to Hawaii. It was at this time that a fan requested to me a video of how I write songs. So I decided to film it while I was out there, which really helped me, so I kept filming. When I got back three months later I realised I wanted to continue my journey, so I decided to keep filming. It was then that my friend gave me the idea of filming ten minute recaps of what I had been doing in the studio during each day making the album, which really helped shape the record.

Do you feel like Twitter is an important way to connect with your fans?
Making an album is often a lonely business, so I often found I wanted to communicate with people, and Twitter was a way of doing that. Aswell as this, it helped make the album, as after all, music is partly about the listener, and being in touch with the people that will listen to my album helped motivate me.

Will you likely be continuing your video blogs in the future?
Well I view the current set of blogs as a ‘series’, tracking the making of the album from beginning to end. So since then I have done live blogs where fans write in questions. Actually, it was at one of these where I spotted a fan talking on her webcam with a keyboard in her room, and I got her to reluctantly jam with me as she said she couldn’t play very well. So it was strange as it was just me, in New York, playing keyboard with a girl in Holland in front of 1000 people. So just like Twitter, it’s an important way of communicating with fans.

Did you consider recording in your family’s old home as a stimulus for making the album?
Well, my old house where I grew up was going to be sold by my parents, so I bought it. I did it basically because I can never throw anything away. I’ll look into old closets and find old clothes that I can’t wear any more, but because of the memories attached I can’t get rid of them. But it didn’t affect the lyrics of the album, it did affect the music a lot though. The studio in which the album was recorded was actually built in the house once I moved in, so having all this brand new equipment in this new house meant that I had no excuses not to work. However, this created more problems, as with all this new equipment she had all these amazing new options she didn’t have before. The house itself actually provided a lot of sounds on the album, like the crackling of my fireplace, or the squeeking of a banister.

Did the “making of” DVD being made during recording get in the way at all?
I thought it would, but it actually didn’t. In fact, it helped! This was because I always tend to work harder when people are watching, as I feel more pressured. Also, it was worth it as it captured a lot of moments that would otherwise be lost. For instance, I heard a sound that sounded like the sound of a half-full wine glass being played, so I decided to spend ages making a tune from the record onto wine glasses, all tuned with different amounts of wine. That actually ended up being the tune from the beginning of ‘First Train Home’.

Was making this album more stressful than your previous works?
Yes it was, because as I’ve became more popular, I’ve had a lot more media attention, which means more press, and a lot more pressure to get stuff done for deadlines, aswell as more offers like collaborations. This was good though, as if I didn’t have this pressure I wouldn’t get stuff done, so yeah, even though I felt a little rushed it was good to get things done. Interestingly though, what also made me more stressed was that I didn’t have a boyfriend when recording the album, and often, that feeling of having a partner can be very relaxing, for instance knowing that there’s someone in bed with you can be very relaxing. Although that would distract me from my record, so that also has helped me concentrate more and get things done.

Have you had the chance to listen to any of the new british female acts coming through this year?
Well in short, no. I think it’s just because they’re female that people are making a big deal out of it though. I mean who is there, Florence And The Machine, La Roux, and who’s the other one?

Little Boots?
Yeah, Little Boots. I don’t think the media would be making as big a deal if they were just regular artists, but because their women it’s suddenly a big deal. But yeah basically, I haven’t had a chance to listen to them, but it’s about time!

Can you still relate to the songs on ‘I Megaphone’?
Well, it’s a lot like, again, looking back into an old closet full of old clothes. I might not fit into the old dresses in there anymore, but I can still relate to them due to the memories that are attached to them, so I don’t want to get rid of them. The songs on ‘I Megaphone’ are a lot like old friends, I can remember them, but I don’t necessarily get along with all of them very well.

You can watch the video for ‘First Train Home’, which Imogen directed herself, here.

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