Imogen Heap: Hands in the Air

So many firsts have been happening for British singer-songwriter Imogen Heap. It will be the first time that she’s going to be a mother and she’s beyond ecstatic. “I’m seven-and-a- half months pregnant, so I’ve got a big bump. It’s the biggest project ever. I’m really looking forward to putting somebody else first,” says Immi, as she’s known by her fans. This Grammy award-winner just released her fourth studio album Sparks. The music critics are describing it as her most adventurous album to date because of the thought process of how she created most of the songs.

Since she has been collaborating with her fans, may it be for artworks or simply chatting online about music, she admits to wanting to up the ante. “I’ve never tried having them send me sounds before, so I asked them if they could, since I want to include some of it for the song ‘Lifeline.’ They sent in sounds from everyday life like scratching knees, chattering teeth, dishwasher doors, and all kinds of weird things. That’s how I work, I don’t always record instruments, and sometimes I would record the radiator or the sound of wine glasses, people talking in the background, which is very much part of my music. The fans knew what I wanted, and I got really cool sounds, nearly a thousand a day.”

“It’s freedom,” shares Immi describing her new album. Traveling to places like India, China, and Bhutan, she absorbed enough inspiration for her songs such as “Minds Without Fear,” “Climb to Sakteng,” and “Xizi She Knows.” Another reason why this album is very liberating for Immi is because of one more project that will revolutionize how one can create sound and music. She, together with a team of programmers, engineers, and technicians, designed and created the MiMu gloves, which are digitally configured in the computer to create sounds, effects, and record via hand gestures and movements. Using a Kinect as the gloves’ sensor, every hand gesture is programmed to do something, either to control a sound, change the pitch, loop it, record it, and more.

“The gloves already came to a point where they were behaving as I dreamt them to behave. There was that moment where we pat ourselves on the back as a team ‘cause we got the MiMu gloves to the place where it feels like I’m sculpting music, and it’s quite emotional,” she shares. The MiMu gloves will innovate the production of music and performances onstage though admittedly, she’s not out to drastically change how she does her live shows. However, she’s hell-bent on making it a lot more convenient and more liberating. “I will always use the piano, and I will always be looping. The biggest difference is, hopefully, to make things easier and to always make me feel engaged in the performance of the music rather than having me think of an action. I hope to have more expressive performances, as well as less wires and weight to travel around the world with because one of the biggest problems of touring is the amount cost of the freight.”

“Not having enough time to make music—that’s always my biggest frustration.”

Given that she has all these responsibilities in her hands, she still has pent-up frustrations as a musician. “Not having enough time to make music—that’s always my biggest frustration. On one side of me, there’s this feeling of trying things differently. I want to move my technology forward, I want to try different ways of writing music, and in order to do that, I have to learn so many things. What comes with that is a lot of organization and people management and I’m not so good at that. And right at the end, often, is the chance to finally make music,” admits Immi.

“The more I make records, the more confident I feel in my fans as well that they will allow me to take them to new places.”

As of the moment, aside from getting ready for motherhood, Immi is busy promoting her new record, working on further improving the gloves, and contemplating on the idea of touring by late next year. One thing’s for sure, Immi’s not afraid of change. Like technology, she’s more than willing to upgrade herself constantly. “Over the years, I still love the sound that I did in the past. But now, I’m definitely open to different things. The more I make records, the more confident I feel in my fans as well that they will allow me to take them to new places.”

Published in STATUS Magazine, November 2014

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