Born and raised in the Hawkesbury, Imogen credits much of her success to the support of the community. Imogen took lessons in classical singing with the late Aleda Johnsen and appreciates the practical foundation it has given her music.
“Aleda taught me to pronounce my words properly and how to breathe properly,” she said of her much loved tutor.
Raised by musical parents, Imogen has loved music since she was just a toddler.
“I started singing when I could talk,” she said. “Music was always a big part of my life. My Dad is a musician and he’s been in bands and written songs all his life. Naturally, there were instruments lying around our house and I’d just pick them up. To Dad’s credit, he was never precious about it and was never worried if I’d destroy them, which meant I was able to play on lots of instruments.”
This meant that she had exposure to many different types of instruments and by the time she was eight her love of music was well established.
“I started writing songs because I had grown up listening to Dad’s original music and aspired to tell stories like he did,” she said.
Imogen was 12 years old when she performed her first gig at Kurrajong’s Sassafras Creek Cafe and soon began busking around the region, eventually coming of age and playing in pubs and cafes around town.
Her recent success means she’s on the road most of the time and she often finds herself missing home.
“I’ve loved living here,” she said. “It’s quiet and the air is fresh and it’s a beautiful place to write songs; you can see Sydney from a distance from our balcony — I’ve written a lot of songs out there!”
After releasing several singles in the past few years, Imogen’s breakthrough came when While Women Wait was released in January 2015. Given significant airplay, the song charted on the Country Music Channel in Australia and was picked up by AC radio in the USA, as well as cable TV.
Earlier this year, Imogen took to the stage at the Tamworth Music Festival for the ninth year in a row.
“I've been playing in Tamworth since I was 15,” she said of the ten-day annual country music festival attended by over 50,000 people. “It's a crazy place during the festival — lots of chaos and music on every corner.”
Imogen, who is inspired by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Neil Finn and Joni Mitchell, says she’s excited about recent changes in the Australian country music scene, with an emerging Alternative Country/Americana movement, which is where she feels her music best fits.
“It’s great to have seen the festival growing and changing in the years I’ve been playing there,” she said.
Her songwriting has also gained the industry’s attention. She co-wrote two songs on country music legend Kasey Chambers’ recent album Dragonfly.
“Imogen is a songwriter well beyond her years, with a flawless voice that is mesmerising,” Kasey said. “At just 22, she is already an old soul.”
She met her producer, Mark Lizotte, also known as Diesel, at a Nelson Bay show where Imogen was the supporting act. Having sold over 850,000 records over the past 25 years, Diesel has become a household name around Australia.
“We discovered immediately that we had very similar tastes in music,” she said. “After a great show, I went to sleep in my hotel room and woke up to an email from Harbour saying Mark had requested I support him on his entire album launch tour around Australia later that year . I was ecstatic, and felt privileged to have been asked. I said yes, and the tour ended up being so much fun and some of the best shows I've ever played.”
Not long after the tour, Imogen was looking for a producer for her second album.
“Mark mentioned he'd be happy to produce my music if I ever needed someone,” she said. “He was the perfect person for the job — he understood country, but also the fact that I was on the edge of the genre. His knowledge of rock music, folk music, Americana, and of course his amazing musicianship skills, all of that was an amazing asset to my album.”
The pair teamed up and recorded in April last year, with the album released this year, and is “one of the creations I'm proudest to put my name on so far in my life,” she said.
“The album is about learning about yourself, those around you and your place in the world. It's about the tumultuous experience of entering adulthood, and all the joys and challenges that come with it. Some of the stories are about heartache and love, but some are also about business and learning whom to trust. I like to think of this album as a coming of age record for me, and I can't wait for the world to hear it.”
The pair has again teamed up and are currently touring the country, on a schedule spanning regional and urban areas, from February to May. With 30 dates it’s a huge undertaking, but Imogen says she’s just excited to be supporting Mark. “He is a real inspiration and a mentor to me,” she said.
Imogen’s new single, Your Anything At All, was released in February this year.
“It’s a bit of a sassy song,” she said. “It's about when someone makes you feel like they're too good for you and instead of letting it get to you, you respond with ‘Fine, I don't need you anyway, I'm gonna get on with my life’. There's vulnerability in the song, but also the strength, self-belief and confidence to overcome it.”
The song’s music video was directed by Jeremy Dylan, and Imogen describes it as being “one of the quirkiest, most fun shoots I've ever been a part of. I roped my partner Shaun into playing my love interest! The video shows him seeing me on his TV, then imagining us in all these different scenarios from TV shows, like Game of Thrones and Mad Men. It was a lot of fun, and basically an excuse for us to dress up in a lot of awesome outfits. I'll never forget that day!”
Imogen’s new album Collide is available now on iTunes, Spotify, Apple music and in all good music retailers.