Imogen Heap was born December 9, 1977 in Essex, England. Although her unusual name sounds as though it was dreamed up by a record executive, it was actually given to her by her parents after much careful consideration. “My parents always joke about it,” she says. “They couldn’t call me things like Sarah because if I had an initial S, then mixed with Heap I would be ‘sheep’, and if I had Caroline or Christina then I’d be ‘cheap’. So I. Heap wasn’t so bad.”
Nor was her upbringing too bad either. Imogen was encouraged by her parents to pursue her musical passions from an early age, and she quickly mastered the clarinet, cello and piano. By the age of 11 she had also begun writing songs and was already showing a keen knack for generating the kind of quirky lyrics that would one day make her famous.
Following a brief stint at the prestigious Brit Music School, Imogen signed her first record contract at the age of 17 to independent record label Almo Sounds. Imogen recalls it as being a strange and overwhelming time in her young life. “I never thought about being a rock artist or a pop artist or selling my songs as kind of a job because that was kind of like, a hobby for me,” she says. “So it all kind of happened and I didn’t expect it and it just kind of came… within like six months of meeting [her agent] I had a record deal.”
That deal resulted in 1998’s i Megaphone, a 13-track album featuring the singles, “Getting Scared,” “Shine,” and “Come Here Boy.” Although the record failed to chart, it did win universal praise from critics who favorably compared the songs to those of Kate Bush and Annie Lennox.
Although the feedback was encouraging, Imogen received disheartening news later that year when Almo Sounds was bought and later disbanded by Universal. While others may have thrown in the towel, Imogen continued to compile songs for her second solo album while also collaborating with talent like Guy Sigsworth, one of the producers of i Megaphone.
The couple’s excellent working relationship soon led to them creating an electronica duo playfully called Frou Frou. “There was no grand plan… it just kind of felt right at the time,” she recalls. “The Frou Frou project was really spontaneous. We both knew we could handle it and we liked each other. So we found the label Island and made a record.” That record was 2002’s Details, an 11 track album featuring the popular single “Let Go.”
Again, despite critical acclaim, the album was not a commercial success and Island Records announced it would not be picking up their option for a second release. “It was never about how successful it could be,” she admits. “We just really enjoyed doing this one record and it was a great moment in time.”
Although Frou Frou was no longer active, the group’s legacy was far from dead. Both Imogen and Sigsworth received a major boost stateside in 2004 when Zach Braff selected “Let Go” for his film Garden State. “That really, really helped things,” Imogen confesses. “That was probably the most popular I’ve been, because that really opened up a massive new audience that wouldn’t have heard it on the radio.”
Imogen followed up the success of “Let Go” with the 2005 release of Speak for Yourself, her second solo album. The record became an immediate success in the U.S. thanks to the singles “Goodnight And Go” and “Hide And Seek,” both of which were featured on season two of The O.C.
So what’s next for Imogen? In addition to maintaining a busy touring schedule she is also currently scoring a soundtrack for a big screen documentary about flamingos. “It’s really hard work but I’m having really good fun at the moment,” she says.