Imogen Heap Talks Ariana Grande's Version of 'Goodnight and Go': 'It's a Real Gift'

Tom Dymond/REX/Shutterstock
Imogen Heap and the Round house Choir perform during the Roundhouse Gala in London on March 7, 2013.

Just a few months prior to the release of Sweetener, Ariana Grande teased a clip of her singing a snippet of what fans recognized as Imogen Heap’s “Goodnight and Go” on Instagram Stories, prompting them to wonder if she would be sampling or covering the song for her record. It turns out she remixed Heap’s track as “Goodnight N Go,” putting a trap spin on the original and reviving pop culture's dormant passion for Heap’s 2005 song.

Heap, like the rest of the world, was delighted when she found out Grande had put her own spin on an old favorite. For much of the U.K. singer-songwriter’s career, she’s hinged on pop culture moments to expand her fan base. “Let Go” caught on in the States after Zach Braff placed her band with Guy Sigsworth, Frou Frou, on the Garden State soundtrack. The O.C. fans won’t forget the scene where Marissa Cooper shoots Trey Atwood in the season 2 finale as Heap’s “Hide And Seek” plays in the background. Eventually there was a Saturday Night Live parody surrounding the track and Jason Derulo ended up heavily sampling it for 2010’s “Whatcha Say.”

Heap filled us in on what she thinks of Grande’s version of “Goodnight and Go,” her dinner with the pop singer, and her upcoming world tour.

Did you know Ariana was planning to remake “Goodnight and Go”?

I did know, but I didn’t know until quite late. I think she had been working on it for quite a while before -- I think she might have forgotten that she had done it. Then she was reminded and asked me.

When did you find out she was working on this cover?

Well, she tweeted a little thing -- this melody that comes in at the end -- it was really beautiful. I was like that’s so nice -- sounds better than I did. Then she kept tweeting about it and people were like, “Are you going to do a cover of 'Goodnight and Go' on Twitter?” Her brother Frankie Grande sent me a text with the song, and I heard it and thought it was really great. I loved it. I’m so happy -- I’m smiling now. It feels like a gift: when somebody that famous picks up on a song that has had its day and gives it a second life, it’s a real gift. I think she’s done a lovely version of it. I love that saucy verse she’s put in there and twisted it up at the end. What’s not to like? Not to get too gross about money, but it’s a huge for me to have one track on a big album. One song on her album is like ten of my albums, so it’s pretty cool. It’s like a gift.

Your music has been very influential over the years. When do you feel like you got your big break?

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a big break -- I think I’ve had lots of mini breaks. I’ve never really made it “big,” but I’ve made it well enough to be able to really enjoy life and do the projects I want to do. Odd random things: like getting into The O.C., Jason Derulo taking a bit of my song. Tiesto suddenly decided he was going to remix it. Some choir decided to do it. There are so many tiny things that all amount to a successful career, really. Just lots of mini helping hands. [Ariana’s cover] means rediscovery of an old album, and it’s amazing timing because I’m about to go on a world tour. I’ll maybe even ask Ariana if she wants to come and sing it with me at our Los Angeles show.

Have you two ever met before?

Yes I have actually. I’ve met her a few times. I get lots of fans sending me clips, I’ve seen quite a bit of her YouTube clips. Before she even released the record, she was doing really cool samplings of her voice and using a harmonizer. I thought she was really good. I didn’t know about any of her TV stuff. I would just message her and say, “That’s really great.” I think for her 21st birthday -- her mom emailed me somehow and asked, “Can Ariana come over for dinner?” So she came to my house in the middle of the countryside in the outskirts of London and I didn’t have my mobile on so I couldn’t hear her calling me and they were completely lost going up and down this weird backstreet of the countryside. I think Ariana really thought that it was a big setup where she was going to get murdered. Eventually I opened the door and there she was. I knew she was coming so I cooked her some lentils because she’s a vegan. Tried to make something half-tasty. During that meeting, she also tried on my gloves. I have these musical performance composition mi.mu gloves I’ve been making for eight years. She was one of the first people to wear them on the stage outside of me, and also took them on a stadium tour. Pretty hardcore if you ask me. I remember talking to her about her music. Back then she was working on Dangerous Woman. I remember her saying, “One day, probably my fourth record, I’m gonna really have fun and be totally myself. I’m really going to be true to myself.” When I heard [Sweetener] the other day, I was thinking this was a really adventurous record. It seems like she’s really had fun. She’s been through a lot -- she’s dealing with a lot. You could just hear it pouring out of the record. I think some people might not like it and some people will love it and that’s exactly what an artist should be doing. They shouldn’t be pandering. Congratulations to her for doing that -- it’s not easy to do that when you’re at such a high level. It’s really hard to be true to yourself. People expect a certain type of record and she gave them what she wanted to give.

You’re about to go on tour, but it’s been a minute since you’ve put out new music. Will you be putting out any new records soon?

Well, I don’t know. I’ve been making the Harry Potter album. I made the music for the Harry Potter play [Harry Potter and the Cursed Child] -- that took a good chunk of my life. Two-and-a-half hours of music for a five-hour play. Hopefully that will be released soon. In a way, that’s my next album. It’s very unusual because it doesn’t have any lyrics in it, but it’s very nice. It’s 79 minutes, so you get your money’s worth. People might be like, “This is not what I want from Imogen,” but I love doing it. There are a couple of songs coming out as well soon. There’s a song called “The Quiet” that’s probably going to come out near the end of the year that’s connected to a game. Then there’s another song that’s going to come out. My friend Guy Sigsworth -- who I have a band called Frou Frou with -- has an album coming out soon called Stet, and there’s a song or two that we’ve done on there. On tour, Guy’s going to do some Stet songs with me, then we’re going to do some Frou Frou songs and some Imogen Heap songs like “Goodnight and Go.”

Tell me about the tour you’re going on.

I was going on tour -- I’m doing a very different type of tour. It’s a music and technology tour. I had this idea originally that was a three-day festival, but in the end, reality hit home and we thought we’d do one amazing concert in every city. But there’s going to be a week in each city where we talk about music technology, the gloves, this thing I’ve been working, which is a music identity maker that will help us get paid quicker and help us to do better business with the industry. A good example perhaps is the Ariana Grande record -- not an intention I’m sure, just automatic people typing stuff up or things not being checked by people at different labels -- is I wasn’t mentioned as a writer on [“Goodnight and Go”]. The idea of this [passport] is to help music makers be acknowledged for the work they’re doing by being verified as musicians and being recognized because you have a crazy passport. We’re working to softly launch this idea. We’ll be signing up people while we’re on tour by creating a database of music makers that is owned by us.

It’s been 15 years since The O.C. premiered. How did the show and having your music on the show change your life?

It didn’t really change my life at the time -- it was a slow-burner. It was a big moment to get in it. It didn’t have my name in the credits, but that actually worked out to my favor because lots of people were like, “What was that fan?” A lot of people became fans because they looked and discovered who this weird woman was with this vocal track. It created a new wave of fans. We were able to release the record off of that. Anything getting into The O.C. or someone remixing something -- there are all these strange ways that success finds me.

Do you ever rewatch the scene where Marissa shoots Trey and “Hide And Seek” plays in the show?

No, I don’t, but I have seen countless memes and versions of YouTube of that scene. I’ve seen the parody on Saturday Night Live, and the parody of the parody. In a way the biggest success of the song [“Hide And Seek”] is the chain reaction of the popular culture of that moment being written again by SNL and then being constantly revisited with some moment in pop culture. We’re actually doing a project called The Life of a Song based around “Hide And Seek” and it explains all of the journey, the champions and the moments in its life that its peaked, its reactions in the business and the amount of money that song has made me and how it’s been split up.

Imogen Heap will come stateside next year. Tour dates are here.