When Imogen Heap composes a song, you never know what she might decide is an instrument. She composes in her home in Essex, England, where her 200-year-old elliptical-shaped house gave her the title of her new album, Ellipse.
Heap is constantly building her audience through the Internet. She's closing in on a million followers on Twitter (@imogenheap). Her songs have 44 million plays on MySpace. She used Flickr to get artwork for the album from her fans. And, as she was working on the new CD, she described how it was going in dozens of video blogs — including this one — about completing Ellipse.
Inspired By A Tweet
Fans have been tracking Heap's progress through these media for the past couple of years. In an interview with Heap, Melissa Block asks what it's like to have that direct connection throughout the process.
"It's been so amazing. I've always struggled with this barrier that I felt like I'd had up until blogging came along," Heap says. "Just one comment from somebody really sparks something in me. It doesn't need to be this huge war between me and the listeners anymore. I really thrive on that."
Heap allows these comments to filter into her songs. For example, one fan on Twitter asked if Heap would put a theremin on a song.
"There was this song I was working on called 'Swing,' " Heap says. "It was almost finished, but there was something missing, and I couldn't for the life of me figure it out. And then this little piece of information — this little tweet — came to the forefront of my mind."
So Heap went on the Internet and downloaded a theremin logic patch for her computer, and within seconds, she had her theremin sound.
Thriving On Limitations
In the interview, Heap takes Block through the song "Tidal" piece by piece; the result is enough to make listeners wonder whether Heap is tempted to throw every toy into a song.
"Yeah. And I do," Heap says. "I do start with the computer and make noises with synthesizers and stuff. But I really tried to get every single sound that was in the house, like the kitchen sink [or] a jack-in-the-box someone gave me for Christmas. I wanted to put everything on the record, even if it was just for one nanosecond. But there are endless possibilities — every single sound on the entire planet you can use."
When Heap decides she wants to work with a particular sound — like a jack-in-the-box — it applies limitations, and "that's when the creativity really thrives."