Singer Imogen Heap Says 'Hooray' to Gay Weddings in her Native U.K.

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Singer Imogen Heap talks about her new album "Speak for Yourself," the musical uses of a frying pan, and her feelings about gay weddings in her native U.K.

With a voice both deeply mysterious and profoundly comforting, British sensation Imogen Heap creates electronic soundscapes that are intense, personal, and musically sublime. On her new album, Speak for Yourself, which Heap wrote, recorded, performed and produced, the singer brings listeners on a thrill ride of emotion, from the haunting admonishment of “Hide and Seek,” to the beat-driven, romantic trepidation of “The Walk,” to the maniacal rock-and-roll joy of “Daylight Robbery.”

The album has had a stunning start in the U.S., where it debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Top New Artist Chart. Heap has been garnering fans in a myriad of places over the last couple of years -- the song “Let Go,” recorded with her Frou Frou band mate (and Madonna and Bjork producer) Guy Sigsworth, was included on the Grammy-winning soundtrack to Zach Braff’s Garden State. And “Hide and Seek” was prominently and emotionally featured on the final episode of last season’s The O.C. Recently, Heap contributed the closing track to the hit movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. In a recent phone interview from her native England, the singer talked about the joy of working on her own, the musical uses of a frying pan, and her feelings about gay weddings in the U.K.

Heap says that although she and her Frou Frou partner, Guy Sigworth, had a lot of success with the group, she was chomping at the bit to see what kind of musical conconction she could come up with on her own. “It may come as a surprise,” she says, “but Frou Frou 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.”

The songs on Speak for Yourself all describe extreme emotional circumstances. Heap, as the singer -- and the protagonist -- sounds very in the moment, whether she is experiencing fear, sadness, joy, or anger. And making the songs even more immediate, Heap has written each song as a confession, an interior monologue or an urgent plea. “Lyrically, Guy had a great influence in the way I write lyrics,” says the singer. “He made me really aware that somebody else would actually be listening to the words I wrote. In a way, as my partner in Frou Frou, I would be singing lyrics to him, just by the very fact that he was on stage or in the recording studio with me. So, when he was listening to me sing, I got a sense of what a lyric sounds like when it is ‘said’ to another person. That really appealed to me -- that the listener at the other end of the radio, or on their iPod, would be listening to me speak directly to them.”

Heap says the lyrics do come from personal experience, but they are written in an indechipherable code. “Most of the time, the lyrics are kind of like my secret messages to my friends or my boyfriend or my mom or my dad,” she says. “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.”

The songs on Speak for Yourself span several genres -- pop, rock, dance -- but they all make use of a myriad of electronic sounds that are alternatively joyous, menacing, soothing, and lovely. “I just love crafting and shaping sounds,” says the singer. “Actually, many of the sounds that I work with start off as organic instruments -- guitar, piano, clarinet, etc. But I do love the rigidity of electronic drums. For this record, I would record live drums, and then I would spend a day editing them to take the life out of them. I like to breathe my own life into these sounds, and I do try to keep the ‘air’ in the music. Some people think electronic music is cold, but I think that has more to do with the people listening than the actual music itself."

The singer sometimes even uses sounds from her everyday life in her music. “One night,” she says, “I decided to record my boyfriend and me eating dinner. I wanted to get the sound of the room. So, on ‘Hide and Seek,’ for example, you can actually hear the sound of a frying pan. People might think it sounds like rain, but it’s a frying pan. Certain sounds give the music a width and a space, and that’s important.

When asked if she is aware of having gay fans, the singers answers with a resounding “yes.” “I haven’t had any specific ‘You’ve helped me come out’ emails,” she says, “but I’m very aware that I have a strong gay following, and I’m very happy about that.

Why does she think that is? “Maybe because they have extremely good taste,” she laughs. “Maybe it’s the flamboyancy of the music; it’s kind of edgy and exciting and free. I don’t really know. You tell me.”

Next, the subject turns to gay marriage. Heap now lives in a country (England) where gay people are having legalized weddings. “Yes, hooray!” she exclaims. “I’ve been to two gay weddings but that was before it was legal. But nobody’s invited me in the last couple of weeks since it was announced.”

Look for Heap to be touring the U.S. in early 2006.


Peter Galvin,



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