PoP20 | POWER OF POP INTERVIEW – IMOGEN HEAP (2011)

You’re coming back to Singapore! What was it like playing in Singapore 1st time around?

Well, it was very brief sadly. We didn’t really see much of the town but looking forward to coming back this time and spending a little bit more time there. It was one of the most beautiful concert halls I’ve played in, no doubt I really saw that but it was a flying visit. But on this occasion I might come a couple of days early on my own. The band will join me the day before the gig. I’m also coming back to do a concert called Music Matters on the 26th of May, so I’ll probably spend a few days there then as well. I’m doing a talk and a workshop.

Did you plan to be back that quickly (about a year) like you promised!

Yes it’s really worked out because there’s a festival there (i.e. Singapore) and there’s a festival in Australia. So we’re pulling together the festivals really but it’s great to be back. Yes, cos there was such a great reaction the last time – they sang beautifully in the crowd when I asked them to do a three part harmony on one of my songs.

Even though you’re performing before thousands of people, you seem to be so casual on stage – is that natural or something you had to cultivate over the years?

It’s something that I’ve been able to reveal. At the beginning, I was so terrified – when I was a lot younger, I thought I had to be something else, I wasn’t interesting enough on my own and I needed to put on an act. It wasn’t an act, I was just nervous on stage and I didn’t know how to talk with the audience as I was still young. It really took a tour in the States when I was 19-20 and they wouldn’t let me take my band over because they were too expensive and I hated my label for that but understand that now. So I went around on my own on the piano and as a result of that I really had to learn to be comfortable with the audience as it was just me – there was no band to hide behind or pretend that I needed to do something with my keyboard or something. I had to speak to the audience so that’s when I really started to feel comfortable on stage and I joked around. When you realize that the times when things go wrong on stage for you is often the audience’s favorite time because for them it’s something different that may be funny or they can relate to the fact that everybody has bad days or when computers don’t work.

How much time & effort is put into crafting your elaborate shows?

Well, over the years certain songs have taken on a character they didn’t begin with. Like Just For Now, for instance. That one started out with me desperately trying to recreate exactly what was on the record and then realizing that I just couldn’t do it as there was only one of me at the time – I didn’t have a band – I had all this gear in front of me, pressing buttons and trying to bring things in, sampling stuff and trying to recreate the record and it was just impossible. As soon as I gave up on that idea, I decided to treat the songs as new entities but still trying to keep the character and the essence and the emotion of the song but with dynamic changes and to not be afraid of reinterpreting it. Cos I don’t think anyone wants to hear a bad carbon copy of your album, they don’t want to hear a lesser version, they want to hear something different that maybe you can connect better with the song. So Just For Now, over the years, through actual things going wrong on stage has ended up being me singing the song with the crowd.

What can we expect from your Rock & Roots show – anything different from Concert Hall?

On the 28th (February), I’m releasing a new song so I’ll probably be playing that song which is quite exciting for me cos I’ll be playing a new song after a year and a half of writing no new songs so that’s going to be good. I hope it’s going to be good! But there’s going to be a slightly different setup. Me, percussionist Chris Vatalaro, a cellist called Daisy. But because it’s a festival, we only have 75 minutes so it’ll be a different set, not so intimate but I’ll still be doing the singalong song and the new song. I’ll be doing whatever people vote for to be honest. In the last year, I’ve been asking fans to vote for the songs they’d like to hear and I play the top 12 that has been chosen for that city (That’s very democratic of you – KM). Yes, very democratic but it also takes the weight off my shoulders. When I walk on the stage beforehand I’d always be nervous that I’ve chosen the wrong song. Often, different places in the world have different favorite songs cos it could be on a different TV program or they be more in tune with something else. So I like to do that. Then I have confidence that at least I’ve done my best to do what the audience wants to hear for each town and often it gets me to play the odd wild card song, cos for some reason, Singapore wants a random song I haven’t played for ten years so I’ll look forward to finding out what they are.

Thanks to Seow Yee/Timbre Music and Sony Music for setting up this interview.

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