She’s won a Grammy, spoke at TED, performed countless times across the world, wowing thousands of people with her unique and incredible art on stage and in the studio-Imogen Heap is a pioneer of many
She’s won a Grammy, spoke at TED, performed countless times across the world, wowing thousands of people with her unique and incredible art on stage and in the studio-Imogen Heap is a pioneer of many faucets of the music industry. She’s recently collaborated on a project that caught worldwide attention of the artists and scientists-Mi.Mu Gloves that let anyone create and hold music in their hands, which led her to an inspiring appearance at the TED conference. She’s working with the BlockChain- an online project that helps musicians get paid for their work easier and quicker. Imogen has also become a mother last year to a beautiful girl she named Florence or, as she calls her, Scout. We are thrilled to get an insight into her recent projects and her otherwise private life. Read on to discover Imogen- the artist, the musician and the mother.
Could you tell us more about the BlockChain project and your involvement with it?
I kind of became aware of this project about three or four months ago. I didn’t understand the system of the BlockChain, that bitcoin wouldn’t exist without it in a way that it does. I quickly realised that this is the place where I could, kind of, solve the problem of remuneration to the artists, as well the copyrights and licensing database problem. I could see this as a way to create the history of music and the future space of music and I suddenly started to imagine the industry where the music was the bedrock, the core; artists putting their creative work into the ether. Currently, it is almost as if the artists are an afterthought. I am very excited and I really think it is possible.
Just yesterday I had a meeting with this group, and it turns out there are people who are already building this space. So the next stage for me to see if this really is a place for me. It isn’t a place that I personally want to build, rather just an imagination of what I feel could happen. It’s more like an idea to move towards and not be afraid; for record companies not to be afraid, and service providers not to be afraid. It is not artists vs them. This is a transparent way to enable the flow of money and everyone to be paid rightly, and actually for the end user to maybe pay less.
Do you think the new Apple Music Connect service could interfere with this project?
I feel like everything that is out there is not competition. It won’t be necessary to have multiple log-ins on different platforms; you will just have an identity and you will take that wherever you go. It just seems like there are multiple platforms and none of them speak to each other. It doesn’t make sense for the artists to have all these different places to go to, but at the moment there isn’t a system. In a few years time we will be in a world where everything is hyper-connected where the idea of signing into different platforms won’t make any sense.
About Mi.Mu Gloves, is there any recent development?
There has been an amazing development actually. After the TED conference in 2012 it was really clear that people wanted to buy them, but we were not in a position at all to do that, because the system, the hardware and the software were really developed for me. We started to think how other people would use the gloves and how the software would need to be much easier to use, so over the last three years we worked a lot on the software and the hardware to finally get the design which we feel we can manufacture. The software now is much more customisable for the user to be able to do whatever they like as well as to connect, to easier map into the music service they use. So what we’ve done was to work with fifteen collaborators around the world who had a pair of the Mi.Mu Gloves. We’ve been working with them over a period of six months, fine tuning the software and next year we hope to have a manufacturable pair. At the moment we are limited because it has to be handmade and that is expensive and time-consuming. We just need to be able to make them quicker and it has been a real challenge to find a design that works, but we think we are almost there and we have got some funding from the government organisation Innovate UK. So we now have a bit more time that we can allocate to the team to be paid and to work on it.
Next year we should have a lot more buzz about the gloves. Meanwhile people have been doing amazing things with them. One of my favourite collaborations is called the Drake Music. They work with musicians with disabilities, especially with the guy named Kris Halpin who’s got cerebral palsy, he can’t get the shapes that he needs to play the guitar with his hands, so with the gloves he is able to fill in the gap where he can’t use his hands in a way that he was able to. He’s finding new ways to use the gloves and he’s been doing some really amazing things with them. I think that’s one of the really successful outcomes of the project, because he’s been working very hard over the last six months, and now he is doing concerts with the gloves. He’s been on the BBC radio the other day; he’s been to Abbey Road doing demos, so check out Drake Music. That, for me, is a really fantastic collaboration that has taken the gloves to somewhere we could not have imagined. That’s a real success.
What does fashion mean to you?
I think more often in my life, practicality takes the lead over the look. In my early days I would walk around in ridiculous high heels and feathers in my hair adding an extra foot onto my height. I would walk around in crazy bright pink petticoats and generally ridiculous clothes. But now I wake up in the morning, get dressed and that is how I would walk to the shop. Over the years, I feel like it’s just more and more about confidence; to be comfortable in my skin to wear simple clothes, to enjoy elegance and clean lines. I can’t seem to stop wearing black [chuckles]. I like really well-made, beautiful clothes. I also scruff around in jeans occasionally at home. I guess the more busy my life has got the less crazy my clothes seem to become. I got a set of clothing that I really love and I just put it on. My hair and my makeup are really simple and soft nowadays, I don’t want to speak out anymore. I don’t want to spend an hour to get ready -this is what I used to do- I just want to get up, get ready, put on some nice yet practical clothes, stylish, elegant that compliment the shape of my body and just get out of the house.
I don’t like wearing heels, as I don’t want to wear shoes that I can’t run in if I need to. I like walking very fast and running around town, jumping in and out of cabs, buses and tube, so I don’t like to wear heels. It’s funny to say, but in the last three years, I would never be seen dead wearing trainers, yet now I love my Converse. I think practicality has taken the lead, especially now that I have a child in my life. However, I love to dress up for an event or a video; I would become a hyper-version of my average me walking around town.
Well, you look great anyway. Today, for instance you had said you just woke up and yet your hair looks great, it’s a great cut!
I cut my hair myself. A couple of times I’ve been to a hairdresser but I’ve always been disappointed and I’d rather be annoyed with myself than with somebody else.
One last question, what are the main three principles that you live by?
Ah it’s a nice one. I think what goes in makes you, so what you eat, read, who you are with, where you go and things you do are you. And so, I try to eat and drink healthy, I try to keep fit, go for walks everyday. I like to be around nature; I live in a countryside. I used to live in a city and I love the city life but I realised how much I value being able to look out onto trees and go for a walk in the park. I think it is so important to get nature into your day every day. I don’t read the news; I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing, but the news is just so depressing. It’s not always helpful to feel the negativity that’s going around all the time. I’m actually quite out of touch with what goes on in the world, but obviously I hear the big things -good and bad. I am not the person who gets on the tube and reads the newspaper that’s on the seat. I’d rather just sit and contemplate and look at people, smile at people, think or write something down. I am not big into the mass media of news or other people’s lives. I now feel, like never before, how important family is. I used to spend a lot of time away from the family and not see them very often. But now I feel like I want to spend more time on my family, be there for them and I’ve made space for them in my life. So, yes, eat healthy, be healthy and value the beauty of the family that surrounds you.