Heap at PopTech 2008
|Imogen Jennifer Heap|
9 December 1977 |
Havering, London, England
Imogen Jennifer Heap (; born 9 December 1977) is an English singer, songwriter, record producer and audio engineer. She is known for her involvement in electronic music and as a member of the short-lived project Frou Frou. Born in the London Borough of Havering, Heap became classically trained in piano, cello and clarinet at a young age. She began writing songs at the age of 13 and, while attending boarding school, taught herself both guitar and drums, as well as music production on Atari computers. Heap signed to independent record label Almo Sounds at the age of 18 and later began working with experimental pop band Acacia, alongside Guy Sigsworth, as a frequent guest vocalist.
She subsequently released her debut album, an alternative rock record, iMegaphone (1998), again with assistance from Sigsworth working as a producer on the album. However, as funding for Almo Sounds began to decline, Heap was dropped from the label. In the following period while without a label she performed multiple songs for the film G:MT - Greenwich Mean Time, released two singles, and was featured on guitarist Jeff Beck's 2001 album You Had It Coming. In early 2002, Heap and Sigsworth formed the electronic duo Frou Frou, and released their only album to date, Details (2002), to critical acclaim. The duo broke up in late 2003, though they did reform temporarily to record a cover of the Bonnie Tyler song "Holding Out for a Hero" as part of the Shrek 2 soundtrack.
Heap released two singles in late 2004 ("Just for Now" and "Goodnight and Go"). Heap's second studio album, Speak for Yourself (2005) was released in the United Kingdom on her own label, Megaphonic Records. A single from the album, "Hide and Seek", her most commercially successful song to date, was certified gold by the RIAA and was heavily sampled in Jason Derulo's debut single, "Whatcha Say". Heap's third studio album, Ellipse (2009), was released to mostly positive reviews. This was followed by her fourth studio album, Sparks (2014).
Imogen Jennifer Heap was born in the London Borough of Havering. She played music from an early age, becoming classically trained in several instruments including piano, cello and clarinet. She attended Friends School, a private, Quaker-run boarding school in Saffron Walden. Heap's mother (an art therapist) and her father (a construction rock retailer) separated when she was twelve. By the age of thirteen, she had begun writing songs.
Heap did not get along well with the music teacher at her boarding school, so she principally taught herself sequencing, music engineering, sampling and production (on Atari computers). She also taught herself to play the guitar and drums, and subsequently two percussion/idiophone instruments, the array mbira and the Hang. After school, she went on to study at the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology in Croydon, South London.
After being introduced to Nik Kershaw by his manager Mickey Modern, Heap and Kershaw recorded four demos that Modern took to Rondor Music. Subsequently, a few months later she signed her first record contract, aged 18, with independent record label Almo Sounds. Modern and Mark Wood formed Modernwood Management, and managed Heap until 2006, when Modernwood was dissolved. Wood continues to manage the artist via his new company, Radius Music.
During 1996, Heap began working with an experimental pop band called Acacia, which featured her future collaborator Guy Sigsworth and was fronted by the singer Alexander Nilere. While never a full member of the band, Heap was a guest vocalist (as a counterpart to Nilere) and contributed to various Acacia single and album tracks. One Acacia song, "Maddening Shroud", would later be covered by Frou Frou.
Modern asked Dennis Arnold to place Heap in the line-up in the 1996 Prince's Trust Concert in Hyde Park, London organised by Harvey Goldsmith. Heap performed four songs between sets by The Who and Eric Clapton.
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Heap's debut album, iMegaphone (an anagram of "Imogen Heap") was a mixture of self-penned and self-produced tracks, alongside tracks co-written and produced with established producers such as David Kahne, former Eurythmic Dave Stewart, and Guy Sigsworth. The album was released in 1998 internationally via Almo Sounds, to favourable reviews comparing Heap's angst-filled songs to work by PJ Harvey, Kate Bush, Chrissie Hynde, Siouxsie Sioux, and Annie Lennox. Promotion for the record included a tour of America and performances around Europe. Three singles were commercially released in the UK: "Getting Scared", "Shine" and "Come Here Boy". "Oh Me, Oh My" was sent to US radio stations in place of "Shine".
Heap's early success was soon replaced by problems. Almo Sounds cut funding for UK promotion and gave Heap a deadline to deliver songs for her second album. Upon delivery of the songs, she was told that they lacked "hit potential". It was announced that the record label would be sold to Universal and its artists moved to other labels or released. Heap was one of the artists who was dropped from the label, leaving her without a record contract.iMegaphone had, however, been licensed from Almo Sounds to Aozora Records in Japan, who eventually re-released and re-promoted the album in January 2002, featuring "Blanket" and "Aeroplane" (a Frou Frou remix/remake of one of her B-sides, "Airplane" of the Shine single released in 1998). The album featured new packaging, all-new artwork, and a previously unavailable hidden track, entitled "Kidding", recorded live during her 1999 tour.
Copies of the original Almo Sounds release remain rare. A Brazilian label, Trama Records, currently claims to hold the licence to the record and has started re-printing copies of the album in limited quantities. The album was released digitally on the US iTunes Music Store in early 2006. After achieving commercial success with her work with Guy Sigsworth as the duo Frou Frou and her second solo album, Speak for Yourself, Heap was able to secure the re-release of iMegaphone.
In the gap between the end of promotion for iMegaphone internationally and the re-promotion, Heap had also begun to think about her second solo album, and had started writing songs, both solo, as well as working with Guy Sigsworth; however, as she was without a record deal, the songs were shelved. During the time when she was unsigned, Heap appeared on two UK singles, "Meantime" (a track written by her former Acacia colleagues Guy Sigsworth and Alexander Nilere for the soundtrack to the independent British film, G:MT - Greenwich Mean Time) and "Blanket" (a 1998 collaboration with Urban Species). In 2000, Heap sang on two tracks of the album You Had It Coming by Jeff Beck.
The initial concept for Frou Frou was Sigsworth's, and the project was to have been an album written and produced by her with each track featuring a different singer, songwriter, poet or rapper. Heap explains that Sigsworth invited her over to his studio to write lyrics to a four-bar motif he had, with one condition - that she include the word "love" somewhere. The first line she came up with was "lung of love, leaves me breathless", and the Details album track, "Flicks" was written. A week later, Sigsworth called Heap again, and together they wrote and recorded the future single "Breathe In".
In August 2002, they released the Details album and singles "Breathe In", "It's Good To Be in Love", and "Must Be Dreaming" (although the latter two were not commercially available). The album was critically acclaimed, but did not enjoy the commercial success that they had been hoping for until 2004 when the song Let Go became a hit from the Garden State soundtrack.
In late 2003, after an extensive promotional tour of the UK, Europe and the US, the duo were told that their record label, Island Records would not be picking up the option for a second album.
Heap and Sigsworth remain firm friends, and have worked together since the project, including their temporary re-formation in late 2003, when they covered the Bonnie Tyler classic, "Holding Out for a Hero", which was featured during the credits of the movie Shrek 2 after Jennifer Saunders' version in the film. Frou Frou saw a resurgence in popularity in 2004, when their album track "Let Go" was featured in the film Garden State, the soundtrack of which won a Grammy award.
In a 2005 interview, Heap said of Frou Frou "(it) was really like a kind of little holiday from my own work. Guy and I, we have always worked together, and then over the years, it became clear that we wanted to do a whole album together. It was very organic and spontaneous -- just one of those wonderful things that happens. But there was never a mention of a second record from either of us, and not uncomfortably. We're just both kind of free spirits. I love to work with a lot of different people, but I was also just gagging to see what I could do on my own. But I'm sure in the future, Guy and I will get back together to do another record, or to record a few songs together."
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In December 2003, Heap announced on her website that she was going to write and produce her second solo album, using her site as a blog to publicise progress.
Heap set herself a deadline of one year to make the album, booking a session to master the album one year ahead in December 2004. She re-mortgaged her flat to fund production costs, including renting a studio at Atomic Studios, London (previously inhabited by UK grime artist, Dizzee Rascal), and purchasing instruments.
At the end of 2004, with the album completed, Heap premièred two album tracks online, selling them prior to the album's release - "Just for Now" and "Goodnight and Go".
In April 2005, The O.C. featured the vocoded-vocal track, "Hide and Seek" in the closing scenes of their season two finale. The track was released immediately to digital download services, such as iTunes, in the US, where it charted and on the UK Billboard charts where it was #22. The track was released to iTunes UK on 5 July 2005 (the same day as the UK airing of the season finale) and entered the official UK download chart. The song has since been certified gold by the RIAA.
Heap released the album on her own record company, Megaphonic Records. The album was titled Speak for Yourself.
Speak for Yourself was released in the UK on 18 July 2005 on CD and iTunes UK, where it entered the top 10 chart. The initial 10,000 physical copies pressed sold out, distributed through large and independent record stores and Heap's own online shop.
In August 2005, Heap announced that she had licensed Speak for Yourself to RCA Records, for the album's release in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The album was released in November 2005 and débuted at number 144 in the Billboard Top 200 album chart. In concert, Heap performed solo, controlling the sound through her laptop, as well as singing and playing the piano and array mbira.
She returned from the US, already having sold over 120,000 copies.
Heap also announced, on her return to the UK, that she had signed a deal for the album to be released internationally, as well as re-promoted in the UK, with a new imprint of Sony BMG, White Rabbit, run by former Sony BMG UK A&R vice president Nick Raphael.
Speak for Yourself was re-released on the label on 24 April 2006, ahead of a full promotional push on 15 May, a week after the second single, "Goodnight and Go", was commercially released in the UK.
In late September and early October, Heap embarked on a tour of the UK, holding a competition on MySpace for different support acts for each venue, before touring throughout Canada and the US in November and December. This was her first tour of North America that included a band, incorporating upright bass, percussion, and support acts Kid Beyond and Levi Weaver on beatbox and guitar, respectively. In December 2006, Heap was featured on the front page of The Green Room magazine.
On 7 December 2006, Heap received two Grammy nominations for the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, one for Best New Artist and the other for Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media for "Can't Take It In".
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Throughout the creation of her album Ellipse, Heap posted vlogs, or VBlogs as she called them, through YouTube. She used these to comment on the album as well as update on its release. The album's release was pushed back multiple times. These included Heap being asked to perform at the annual event PopTech in October 2008. During the event, she premiered one of her album's songs, "Wait it Out".
Ellipse was released in the United Kingdom on 24 August, and in the United States on 25 August.
On 15 January 2010, Heap accepted the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for her engineering work on Ellipse.
On 14 March 2011, Heap started work on her next album, Sparks (then unnamed), as fans sent in nearly 900 "sound seeds", or samples of everyday sounds such as a "dishwasher door", a "bicycle" or a "burning match". Heap said the concept for this album was to record one track over a two-week period every three months, with each song and video to be released immediately. According to her website, the album would be completed in roughly three years.
The first song, initially entitled "#heapsong1" and later retitled "Lifeline", premiered worldwide on 28 March 2011 via Ustream along with a live remix by Tim Exile. "Lifeline" was released on 30 March 2011 as a digital download from Heap's website and via iTunes, Amazon and other digital retailers. Released alongside this was a 12-page 3DiCD package (a 3D virtual CD) including crowd sourced (and paid for) images, the instrumental version of the song, the "seeds and solos only" version and "heap speaks seeds and solos" - an-18-minute commentary by Heap on how the sounds and solos were used in "Lifeline".
On 6 May 2011, Heap tweeted that she and deadmau5 were working on a collaboration. The song was titled "Telemiscommunications" and was included in deadmau5's sixth studio album, Album Title Goes Here.
On 9 September 2012, Heap wrote and released a track, "Someone's Calling", recorded especially for use as a ringtone.
In the Sparks box set, the Heapsongs are labelled in production order as:
On her Sparks vblog #5, she announced that she will take hiatus after the birth of her baby thus she won't tour promoting Sparks at least for a year.
On 2 October 2015, Heap announced that she would be releasing her single "Tiny Human" using blockchain technology during a Guardian Live livestream event. In a panel after performing a stripped-down version of "Tiny Human" with cellist Zoë Keating, Heap explained that she was releasing her single along with other content via the concept of Mycelia--a way for artists to share their music as well as enforce smart contracts via blockchain-based technology like Ethereum. Sales of "Tiny Human" via Ethereum smart contracts as of October 2017 were £30,000.
In 2015, Imogen Heap signed a worldwide agreement with Downtown Music Publishing. The deal covers Heap's portion of Taylor Swift's 1989 finale "Clean," plus five songs from Heap's 2014 album, Sparks: "The Beast," "Entanglement," "Climb to Sakteng," "Run-Time" and "Cycle Song. Her participation in 1989 led her to become part of the production team that won Album of the Year at the 2015 Grammy Awards.
For her solo work, as well as her work with Frou Frou and Acacia, Heap plays heavily produced and arranged pop incorporating elements of rock, dance and electronica. As a guest player and collaborator she has played rock (Jeff Beck), hip-hop (Urban Species) and theatre/film music.
Heap extensively uses manipulated electronic sounds as an integral part of her music. She also mixes ambient sound into her music (such as the sound of a frying pan in use cooking food, in the background of her song "Hide and Seek") and has commented that "certain sounds give the music a width and a space, and that's important."
Heap states that her song lyrics come from personal experience, but are not straightforwardly confessional. She has stated "Most of the time, the lyrics are kind of like my secret messages to my friends or my boyfriend or my mum or my dad. I would never tell them that these songs are about them or which specific lyric is about somebody. Often, when I sit down to write a lyric, it is in the heat of the moment, and something has just happened."
Heap has recorded several songs for films, including a cover of the Classics IV hit "Spooky" for the soundtrack to the Reese Witherspoon film Just Like Heaven. Her song "Hide and Seek" was featured in The Last Kiss, starring Zach Braff (who used her former band Frou Frou's "Let Go" in his 2004 film Garden State), and was also used in a 2007 episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Shia LaBeouf. "The Moment I Said It" was also used in the episode "Seven Seconds" of the CBS crime drama Criminal Minds.
In 2004, while recording her second solo album, she was commissioned to record a cover of a short nursery rhyme for the HBO television series, Six Feet Under, entitled "I'm A Lonely Little Petunia (In An Onion Patch)".
In late 2005, Heap was asked to write a track for the soundtrack of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe entitled "Can't Take It In", when a track that fellow Brit singer Dido submitted was deemed unfitting. Heap's track is played at the end of the film in an orchestral version produced by Heap and Harry Gregson Williams, who scored the movie. In addition, she composed a track for the film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, but it was deemed to be too dark in tone for the film. Instead, it was included in her album Ellipse as "2-1". 2-1 has also featured in CSI Miami (Season 8 Episode 9), as well as promotional trailers for the film The Lovely Bones.
In March 2006, Heap completed a track about locusts, entitled "Glittering Cloud", for a CD of music about the plagues of Egypt entitled Plague Songs, accompanying The Margate Exodus project, for musical director Brian Eno.
Heap recorded an a cappella version of the Leonard Cohen track "Hallelujah", for the season three finale of The O.C., and her "Not Now But Soon" was included on the original soundtrack for the NBC show, Heroes. Heap's song "Hide & Seek" was used in the season two finale of The O.C..
Imogen Heap and Frou Frou songs have been featured in various TV shows, movies, advertisements, and marching band productions, notably including CSI: Miami, Chuck, The OC, Saturday Night Live, Garden State, The Holiday, and So You Think You Can Dance. "Hide & Seek" was sampled in Jason Derulo's single "Whatcha Say", which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Frou Frou track "Shh" was also used extensively for TV promotions during the fifth season of Gilmore Girls.
Heap has collaborated as a guest vocalist, co-writer, remixer or producer with many various artists throughout her career. Among them co-writing and producing By The Time for Mika and Now or Never for Josh Groban. The diverse range of other musicians Heap has worked with include IAMX, Jeff Beck, Jon Bon Jovi, Mich Gerber, Sean Lennon, Thomas Dolby, Urban Species, Matt Willis, Ariana Grande, Jon Hopkins, Acacia, Britney Spears, Nik Kershaw, Blue October, Joshua Radin, Nitin Sawhney, deadmau5, and Taylor Swift.
Heap also teamed up with Vokle to hold open cello auditions for her North American tour. She provided sheet music for "Aha" on her website and encouraged local fans to learn the part and audition live via Vokle. Heap would then pick the cellist to accompany her for that particular city - sometimes with the help of viewers and her puppet lion, Harold. In 2010 Heap opened her online auditions to singers and choirs and invited them to audition via submitted YouTube videos to accompany her on stage as she performed the song "Earth" from Ellipse. The winner of each local show was also invited to do a 15-minute gig of their own. In the studio, the official album recording of "Earth" was made up entirely of numerous tracks of vocals.
July 2011 saw Heap unveil a pair of in-development, high-tech musical gloves at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. Inspired by the VAMP  system developed by Elly Jessop at MIT's media lab, Heap set out to develop the musical gloves in collaboration with Thomas Mitchell, a lecturer in music systems at the University of the West of England, Bristol. The gloves combine sensors developed by 5DT, x-io Technologies  with Shure microphones. Both Heap's and Elly Jessop's musical gloves are similar to The Lady's Glove, an earlier invention by the electronic sound pioneer Laetitia Sonami, and the midi gloves used since 1989 by Steve Hogarth lead singer of Marillion. While still in prototype stage, Heap used her MiMu gloves to record "Me the Machine", the first song created solely with the gloves. The song was released on her latest album, Sparks, originally titled "heapsong11". In an attempt to raise money for further research, Heap toured the song and the gloves at a number of venues and has been working with artists to discover the full potential of the gloves.
On 5 October 2015, Heap released her single "Tiny Human" on Mycelia: an experimental music distribution platform using blockchain-based technology called Ethereum alongside other open source platforms like Ujo.
In 2008, she participated in a music album called Songs for Tibet: The Art of Peace, which is an initiative to support Tibet, Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso and to underline the human rights situation in Tibet. The album was issued on 5 August via iTunes and on 19 August in music stores around the world. On 12 October 2008, Heap also participated in "Run 10k: Cancer Research UK," placing fifth of the women in the actual run and raising over £1000 for the cause with the help of her fans.
In 2008, Heap was asked to perform at POP!Tech in Camden, Maine (US). There she performed selections from her then-forthcoming album Ellipse. After her set and an encouraging plea for another performance later in the conference by the audience and organisers, Heap agreed. Having nothing else prepared though, she decided to improvise a song on the spot with parameters (tempo, key) suggested by the audience. After the show, Heap was asked by a Poptech attendee if she would give the newly created piece of music to his charity. A 'lightbulb' moment occurred in Heap's head and she saw the potential in doing these improvised pieces for local charities at each show during the tour she would soon begin.
The first of these songs materialised at Heap's show at Shepherd's Bush Empire, in London on 19 February 2010. Using the same parameters and audience participation from POP!Tech, Heap improvised a song titled, "The Shepherdess". After the show, Heap made the song available worldwide as a digital download on her website asking for donations per download. All proceeds went to the Great Ormond Street Hospital where Heap was diagnosed with osteomyelitis and underwent life-saving surgery as a little girl. Loving the concept, Heap rolled this out for her North American Tour, donating all the proceeds for each song to a local charity from that city.
In 2011, Heap played a benefit concert in Christchurch, New Zealand, to help rebuild the Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti High School following a severe earthquake which destroyed a large portion of the city earlier in the year. The concert was held at the Burnside High Aurora Centre, also featuring performances from Roseanna Gamlen-Greene, and The Harbour Union including The Eastern, Lindon Puffin, Delaney Davidson and The Unfaithful Ways. It was her only New Zealand show for the year.
On 4 June 2017, Heap performed at One Love Manchester, a benefit concert organised by Ariana Grande in response to the bombing after her concert at Manchester Arena two weeks earlier. She performed "Hide and Seek".
The initial event was inspired by the 2010 Pakistan floods. Triggered by monsoon rains, the floods left approximately one-fifth of the country of Pakistan under water, affecting over 14 million people and damaging or destroying over 900,000 homes. Teaming up with Richard Branson's Virgin Unite and Vokle.com, Heap and Ermacora create an online webcast/fundraiser to raise awareness and money for the flood-stricken. Hosted by comedian, creative, and internet personality Ze Frank, the webcast included a series of conversations with Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity, Gary Slutkin, and Anders Wilhelmson, (and later Richard Branson and Mary Robinson) with live performances by musicians Ben Folds, Amanda Palmer, Kate Havnevik, KT Tunstall, Josh Groban, Kaki King, Zoe Keating and Mark Isham.
The premise of Live 4 X thus established, Heap has since continued to refine the model, organize, host, and perform a number of charitable, streaming-live, concert events. By integrating live entertainment with educated discussion and technology, Live 4 X became an effective charitable outreach tool.
Following the devastating Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Heap told Washington Times Communities journalist and recording artist Jennifer Grassman, that she intended to continue organising Live 4 X events to benefit various charitable causes.
Catalogue of Live 4 X events to date:
On 4 June 2017, Heap participated in Ariana Grande's One Love Manchester concert, to raise money to help the victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, which took place after one of Grande's concerts. Other celebrity participants included Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Niall Horan, Coldplay, Miley Cyrus and Pharrell Williams.
After touring for nearly two years straight for her album Speak for Yourself, Heap continued her travels, this time with only a laptop and video camera on hand, as she began her writing trip for her next album. Nine weeks later she returned to the UK with the beginnings of the award-winning Ellipse and footage (as requested by a fan to film the making of the album) from its quiet beginning. Back in Essex, Heap hired Justine Pearsall to document the creation of the album. The film documents the creation of the album and the renovation of Heap's childhood home, including turning her old playroom into her new home studio. Everything In-Between: The Story of Ellipse was released in November 2010.
On 5 November 2010 at the Royal Albert Hall, Heap conducted an orchestra (including friends and family) as they performed an original composition by Heap herself orchestrated by Andrew Skeet. Heap also worked with London Contemporary Voices at this time, a scratch choir formed for this concert, which continues as a new choir in its own right. It was the score to the concept film Love The Earth - in which fans were invited to submit video footage highlighting all the qualities of nature to be selected and edited into a film. This performance was broadcast live worldwide.
In March, for the Birds Eye View Film Festival at the Southbank Centre, Heap, in collaboration with Andrew Skeet composed an a capella choral score for the first-ever surrealist film 'The Seashell and the Clergyman' (Germaine Dulac, 1927) with the Holst Singers, a programme repeated at the Reverb Festival at the Roundhouse in February 2012 and in the Sage, Gateshead.
Heap also performed in the Film and Music Arena at Latitude Festival in 2011.
In 2014, filmmaker Christopher Ian Smith made Cumulus, an experimental documentary exploring key elements of Heap's background, personality and music practice. Crafted entirely out of social media content and data created by Heap and her fans, Cumulus explores Imogen's digital footprint and identity as well as her relationship with fans. The film is available to view online.
On 30 June 2014, Heap announced in her video blog that she was pregnant with her first child with partner Michael Lebor. She gave birth to their daughter, Florence Scout Rosie Heap-Lebor, on 8 November 2014.
|2007||Herself||Best New Artist||Nominated|
|"Can't Take It In"||Best Song Written for Visual Media||Nominated|
|2010||"The Fire"||Best Pop Instrumental Performance||Nominated|
|Ellipse (as engineer)||Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical||Won|
|2016||1989 (as producer and engineer)||Album of the Year||Won|
|2006||World Soundtrack Awards||Best Original Song Written for a Film ("Can't Take It In")||Nominated|
|mtvU Woodie Awards||Best Emerging Artist||Nominated|
|Most Original Artist||Nominated|
|2010||Ivor Novello Awards||International Achievement||Won|
|2018||MPG Awards||The MPG Award For Inspiration||Won|
Imogen Heap's demo was given to Jerry Moss who offered a contract with ALMO Sounds. She signed with the label in April.