Former Frou Frou singer Imogen Heap was determined to make her latest solo album on her own terms.Former Frou Frou singer Imogen Heap was determined to make her latest solo album, "Speak for Yourself" (Megaphonic/RCA Victor), on her own terms. In order to do that she had to refinance her London flat, buy all new recording equipment and hole up in a studio for a year.
"I got the money in time for my birthday, and booked my mastering sessions for exactly a year later," Heap recalls. "Even though I had all that time to prepare to finish the album, there was still so much stuff to be done in the last two weeks. I was quite brutal with myself at the end, 'cause you can spend like three weeks on a sound, and no matter how much you love that sound, it just ruins the song."
In the end, it has proven to be well worth the financial risk and personal isolation. Last week, "Speak for Yourself" debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart and No. 182 on The Billboard 200.
Heap purposely decided to go it alone in the studio for her second solo release. She wrote and produced all the tracks, and even experimented with a host of different sounds -- including children's toys, passing trains and carpet roll tubes.
"I could have had a couple guys come in and put things together for me or edit something really boring, but I was really nervous about [crediting] somebody else on the record because [people] would have immediately assumed they had done the whole record," she says.
"A lot of people have trouble describing [the album], which I think is a good thing. I love strings and harps and other orchestral kinds of instruments. As soon as I started using these elements, it was just like, 'That's it. That's my sound base.' As far as the beats go, I like really rigid electronic sounds. It's very dense, not complicated, but it has many layers."
In the past year, Heap's music has been featured on such TV shows as Fox's "The O.C." and HBO's "Six Feet Under" and in the films "Garden State" and "Just Like Heaven." And the offers keep rolling in. She recently completed two tracks for the upcoming Disney film "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, Witch & the Wardrobe."
"I think I'm getting a little bit of name for myself," she says. "If I say I'll do something I will do it, even if it means no sleep for a week. I'm really good at doing things quickly, and I have my own studio so if someone needs something that day I can put it together. I actually work really well in that situation.
"It was a little bit different with ‘Narnia,'" she adds, "because a few people had their finger in the pie, and I was writing lyrics for something in particular and I had to be quite descriptive and not too electronic, not too weird, 'cause it's a family film."
In addition to meeting all those restrictions, she had to complete the song in only a matter of days.
"I got thrown into the studio and had to produce it, mix it, write it and everything in less than... Well, I needed like a year more than I got. But I managed to somehow pull it out of me, and I finished the song an hour before the Disney girl had to take it. Pretty scary," Heap admits. "I've never had to do that before. On ['Speak for Yourself'] I'd spend a good few weeks on a song, and I could keep going back to it."
Despite the added stress of working on projects like these, Heap is the first to admit they are well worth it because they allow her music to reach a new audience. In fact, after her song "Hide and Seek" was heard during an episode of "The O.C.", it debuted at No. 32 on Billboard's Hot Digital Tracks chart.
"It's a weird song, and I don't know if I expected it to [receive] that kind of reaction, so it gave me hope that people would be into my record," she says, hoping that the exposure will spur further interest. "Radio will support something once they see a reaction, and I think my music needs to have that connection with a film or something for radio to have an excuse to play something a bit weird."