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Imogen Heap: As heard on TV and in film

Heap’s dreamy, computerized songs have been prominently featured in blockbuster films such as ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ and been used to convey the drama on ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,’ ‘Six Feet Under’ and ‘The O.C.’
/ Source: The Associated Press

If Imogen Heap were as widely known as her music, she would be a household name.

Heap’s dreamy, computerized songs have been prominently featured in blockbuster films such as “The Chronicles of Narnia” and been used to convey the drama on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Six Feet Under” and “The O.C.”

But while her songs may get plenty of mainstream exposure, that hasn’t been the case for the 27-year-old musician and singer-songwriter herself. Though the self-produced British artist has been in the business for more than 10 years, and had indie success as part of the duo Frou Frou with the 2002 song “Breathe In,” the name Imogen Heap is unknown to many fans whose musical knowledge revolves around pop hits and top 40 radio.

Her Grammy nomination for best new artist might change that — at least a bit. She’s also nominated for her song “Can’t Take It In” from the “Narnia.”

Whether or not she reaches the podium, Heap’s profile has already gotten a boost.

AP: Why do you think you’ve had so much success in TV and film?

Heap: It’s not all over the place on radio, and when people are looking for things that are kind of interesting and exciting for their film, which is new, or their TV program, which is new, they don’t necessarily want something that is constantly on the radio. ... So it kind of works in my favor that I’m not 24-7 on the radio, if at all (chuckles). Another reason is that I can do it all in my studio, and get things together pretty quickly.

AP: Do you think there’s something about your music that lends itself to theatrical projects?

Heap: I think because it’s not me and two guys and a guitar; it has more interesting soundscapes. It has wide strings, and trumpets, and harps, and orchestral percussive sound. It’s more nicer with the widescreen when it has more ears to draw on.

AP: How difficult was it to put out your music on your own label?

Heap: In the beginning, we all look for record labels and think that’s the way to go, and at the end of the day, we need money to make the albums that we wanna make. And sometimes, it seems like getting a record deal is the simplest way to do that. Thankfully, in the last few years it’s become easier to be able to get your music out there on the Internet or virtually through MySpace ... I’m lucky to be in this time, because it enables me to be able to do something like that, to be self-sufficient and try and distribute it myself and get a little buzz on the Internet. ... I’m not saying that all record companies are bad, I’m just saying that kind of idea that you sign a record deal and instantly you become a success is kind of misled (laughs).

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Heap: Obviously, you pour your heart and soul into a record and it’s always nice to hear that it’s going well on the radio, because it means that you’re reaching people, that may or may not like it but at least they get the choice. It’s the easy way to get to people if you can get it, but it’s very difficult to get in the first place ... it’s almost impossible. So I have to really rely on things like film or TV. But it’s not because I want to be famous or because I want to sell lots of records and I want to be on the radio, but I want people to have the choice to hear it, because then they can make their own decisions.

AP: Were you surprised at your best new artist nomination.

Heap: I had heard that I was on the ballot form, which every single band on the planet is on that, and I just felt like, there’s no way. But I know that certainly within the music scene and the art scene and the film scene ... within those circles, I am quite well known ... so I think that’s why perhaps I’m there.

AP: Last year’s CD “Speak for Yourself” was a breakthrough for you. Did you go into it trying to sound a certain way?

Heap: I haven’t really any notions on exactly how I wanted to sound, I just knew that my main goals were to A) have fun, because I hadn’t had fun in a studio in a long time, and B) to be honest with myself, as honest as I can. If I want to do something rocky, do something rocky, I want to do something techy, do something techy, and if I wanted do something all vocal, then do that too. Don’t try and stick to a formula. And try and incorporate as much of the sounds on the planet that you love, all at once, and see what happens.

AP: Why hadn’t you enjoyed being in the studio?

Heap: I just was taking things too seriously. I was signed to record deals, and you’re always panicking about your single and your hit and stuff like that. I tried not to ever let it get in the way creatively of what I wanted to do, but there’s always that pressure. I just didn’t feel like that this time, I felt like I was having fun. I was living on the edge because I had risked everything for it, but it just felt great.