Imogen Heap photoshoot

Imogen Heap on the set of her latest music video


For your eyes only: Imogen Heap


November 21st, 2023

The celebrated musician tells Feeld about finding her first-ever muse, her new album, and the joy of living an open, truthful, adventurous life.

Our column For Your Eyes Only is a series designed for close readers of all manner of texts. Authors and artists alike will untangle their own twists to reveal what it takes to both end a story and finish a work. This is a deeply intricate inquiry into what makes you turn the page, sit on the edge of your seat, rewind and rewatch, listen with both ears, step back and look again. In other words, only spoilers to follow. Read at your own risk and reward.

My new song is called “What Have You Done To Me?” The title is a little ironic, because it has done quite a lot to me…

It all began with a date I went on with a lovely Finnish man called Petri. He has really been a muse for me; my first-ever muse. We met two-and-a-half years ago on a bench, and discovered all kinds of things. Uncomfortable silences became sexy silences. Once, I took Petri to the studio to play the beginning of this song. It was kind of to impress him, but it was also the beginning of me really getting back into music. I wanted to find myself again, and through Petri and other dates on Feeld I was able to discover myself. So we were in the studio together and I was playing him this track—he was kind of like, yeah, as a man of few words—but then he played me a track, “Despiritualized,” by this artist called Prurient. I had an amazing out-of-body experience. My eyes were rolling back in pleasure, but it was also sometimes quite painful, and I thought it was Petri’s amazing energy that was doing this to me. 

I’m a musician. I’m a mother. I’m 45. I’m currently actively exploring sexual activities and having lots of discussions about them. I also make some technologies, and whatever else I can. My artistic practice is pretty chaotic—I tend to make music at the moment between childcare and other projects. This song was enormously long—fourteen minutes—and my process was erratic, but I’ve been getting better at making the space to make music since having a child.  

Later, through other noise events, I discovered that I do have this relationship with sound.  I was hoping to capture a moment in my memory. That’s why this song has a whole noise section, and then a musical aftercare section to soothe you from any trauma you might have discovered while listening: there’s a six-minute long period, almost like a meditation. Maybe you’ll feel something on your first listen, or maybe you never will. It really takes you on a journey. I tend to document my life in a very physical way, and I realized that I couldn’t leave the song on its own. There needed to be a sense of comfort at the end, a safe space to let myself mull, or emerge, or, I suppose, be like a hug. 

I think of my time on Feeld as a sport, almost. There was a period of about a year and a half where I was having many, many experiences on Feeld. It came after six years of having almost no sex drive; I discovered I had an underactive thyroid when a fan saw me in a Zoom conversation and messaged me that she thought she recognized a goiter [an enlargement of the thyroid gland] on me. She led me into this journey of mental and physical health. I hadn’t really been myself since…well, I guess, like everybody, since I gave birth. Up until that point, I had done exactly what I wanted. 

And the amazing thing about having a child is that she’s so incredible, and we’ve had so many beautiful, positive, amazing moments, but there were many hard moments as well. Looking deeper into my mind and body led me to the physical diagnosis, as well as a diagnosis of ADHD, which I hadn’t known about before. Lots of my life suddenly made sense to me, like why it was hard to go into a form of structure. Once I started addressing and treating these diagnoses, I could think again, my memory returned; it was like coming out of a cloud. I signed a record deal at 18 and have been working extremely hard ever since. I would work, work, work. 

But because I’m passion-driven and I love creating projects, working with people, making things happen, I would say my sexual energy took a backseat. Obviously I’ve had sex. I had a child. But I never really explored my sexuality and my kinks. This felt like the time to go overboard in that creative sexual energy, in the same way I had done with my music. I realized that everyone else writes about sex, but I’ve just never done it; I think I wrote one song (it’s called “Entanglement,” and I actually made the video with my daughter’s father right before we got pregnant) but that was it. I had mostly been working on commissions, not really doing my own thing, and so the sexual energy became a way for me to do what I wanted.

Basically, all this slutty behavior was so I could write about it. My diary for the last two-and-a-half years has been research and development for this album project. Feeld was very helpful in that department. I had so many conversations, and discovered that where I live, in London, is a real hotspot. I feel like I’m in the epicenter of a sexual revolution in my neighborhood. I had great fun. I felt confident and had no shame—just really relaxed and open. I love it. I love talking, and going on dates with strangers. Sometimes people recognize me, but most don’t, so I can almost reinvent myself. 

I think one aspect of Feeld that made the most difference, compared to other dating apps, was that everything’s already on the line. Everybody says exactly what they’re into. It’s all out in the open. It gives you more time to enjoy each other; you’ve got all this insider information sooner rather than later. I’ve learnt so much and I’m continuing to learn. 

Actually, let me get my phone. I want to quickly look through my account and get some memories back. I’ve enjoyed long dates. There were a lot of hotel rooms booked. I discovered daytime dates, which were quite needed, with a child at home or people’s work schedules. I had a nice time with a couple, in a building that I had always wanted to visit in London.I went to see what it looked like inside, and then ended up in bed with them. Generally, I stay local, but I have used Feeld when I go to different countries. I feel like I know what I’m going to get, and that I can stay in this more relaxed state. Sometimes I’ll catch myself discussing things on the playground with other parents and be like, oh, wait a second, maybe I’ve gone too far away from Feeld. But people really do light up when I mention Feeld! It spices up that playground small talk, and I’ve discovered some new allies, I suppose. 

Going back to Petri—he was the one that introduced me to Feeld. I’d never heard of it, but Petri and I met on another app, and I was talking about what I was thinking regarding my sex drive and my curiosity, and he was the one who suggested I sign up. I had been feeling a bit awkward as a 45-year-old woman, like I hadn’t explored nearly as much as I felt I could have, but I suppose it takes two to tango. Two or more. 

Beyond being on the app, Feeld has impacted the way I make decisions, how I speak. I feel like, what’s the point in faffing around not saying what you really feel? Time is so limited. Why settle for anything less than really awesome, really deep, really exploratory connections? 

I have been a bit uncomfortable in my body in the past; I have a perfectly nice body, but I just wasn’t comfortable with it. And then through multiple dates I found that I could get rid of those inhibitions and insecurities. Nobody’s bothered. I feel like I can read that in a Feeld profile more than any other. Sometimes I even think I can tell, when I see another dating app profile, that that person is also on Feeld. You can just kind of sense the type. 

This song is a manifestation of that feeling over this period of time. You can absolutely hear it in the confidence of the song, this journey or sexploration that inspired me to want to design my life differently. I want everything to be open, rather than stuck in front of my computer, trying to make everything perfect. I want to discover energy. The extreme excitement in silence, in gaps, even when it’s uncomfortable or intimidating. The eye contact, the humor, the feeling of wanting to go inside another person and chew on their brain. 

Now, as I prepare to release the work associated with this time in my life, I’ve been fantasizing about finishes. I’m remembering how I felt when I wrote “Hide and Seek,” which was…really self-indulgent. I thought nobody would like it. It had no beats, it was pretty cryptic, it didn’t have a repeating chorus. And that’s my most successful song, financially as well as creatively. It reminded me that people like when I go a bit crazy. They like when I channel what only I want to do. That same experience was mirrored in this sexual journey—I get excited when I feel intimidated, even on stage. I’m totally different than I was just a few years ago. There’s an openness and a confidence to be myself, to have flaws, to make mistakes—everything that becomes special because I went somewhere a little different. It’s the permission. I’ve given myself permission that I could have had all along, and the more I unravel that, the more I see these constructs I had placed on myself and on my music. The point is, it’s all about being with people. Because what is not fun is not living a truthful, open life.

That’s for the past. When I think about the future, I want to tell my future self that I wouldn’t have changed anything. All the things I went through, good and bad. The biggest thing that I would tell my future self, though, is that when I was younger there was often an understanding that a breakup or similar pain would be material for a song. There was this belief that when something bad happened, it would be okay because you’re going to write a good song about it. I think I subconsciously didn’t seek out happiness because I thought it would make the magic go away, and I wouldn’t have anything to write about. I kept myself quite isolated. Now I’m realizing being happy and feeling inspired was possible, a bit late in the day. I think the difference is that I know, now, that it’s more fun to be flawed; to be honest. The more that you don’t hide anything, the more you can be accepted; it allows other people to also share their true colors. I’m really grateful to have learned that now that I’m a mama, and only wish that I could have earlier. When you’re with one other person, and you can find a deep connection by being brutally honest, that’s when magic can happen. 

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