Welcome to the world of Heidi Happy

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Singer-songwriter Prisk Zemp, otherwise known as Heidi Happy, is a delightful exponent of today’s Swiss indie music scene, delivering a fresh, cheeky, homemade lo-fi folk/pop with an electronic edge. Her ethereal voice is seductively irresistable and has been entrancing audiences in and around Switzerland for the past 10 years. Her latest LP, Golden Heart (Silent Mode/ Irascible), is a creative project of 14 compact songs that float by like a breeze, each full of deep, beautiful melodies as well as a hint of melancholy and “sonic heartbreak”. The album’s received very warm reviews, has sold out and is currently being re-pressed.

Is the name ‘Heidi Happy’ some kind of strategic Swiss marketing trick?

Heidi Happy Funnily enough no, though I did love the Heidi stories as a kid. It was more a question of visual design because my first ever solo live performance was at a party of some graphic designer friends who wanted my stage name to look good on their flyers. There were many to choose from but they decided that Heidi Happy had a nice symmetry to it.

You’re from a small village outside Lucerne, what kind of music did you grow up listening to?

Heidi Happy Everyone is musical in my family: my father is a choir singer, my mother is a classically trained soprano, all my siblings play instruments, music was always happening in the house. As a teenager I loved everything soulful like Aretha Franklin and the funky jazz sound of Jamiroquai and Incognito. My first group was a funk band, I sang, wrote the lyrics and arranged the horn section. During my exchange year in America at 17, I discovered Jimi Hendrix and got into a dirtier, rockier sound which I still appreciate now. In recent years I’ve been very inspired by singers like Feist and Wallis Bird, at home I usually listen to old vinyl records with big voices and orchestra, like Lee Hazlewood or Nina Simone.

How did your career take off?

Heidi Happy I recorded my first CD with the funk band in 1998. Then in 2003 a producer asked me to do an album with him based on my own material. I learnt a lot about what I can/can’t do, what I really want to do and what I’m best suited to. I did so many things on that record that I’m still deeply ashamed of that I decided to not let others convince me to do things (like rapping!) if I’m not sure about it myself. It helped me to listen to my heart and trust my intuition and hence, I have produced all my subsequent LPs. I’ve been lucky to receive some funding from the city and canton of Lucerne which has allowed me to do my own thing. After having released my records on labels like Little Jig and Two Gentlemen, I set up my own label Silent Mode in 2012 on which I have released my records abroad (often in collaboration with other labels and promotors) and in Switzerland.

You’ve been described as “one of the most influential Swiss voices of the moment”. How would you describe your sound/your voice?

Heidi Happy I had a distinctive folk/pop sound at the start that was rather safe and constructed, but now that I’ve branched out into electronic music things feel freer, more open to surprises. My voice is very precious to me after surgery to remove a polyp on my vocal chords in 2001. The operation has given it a slightly more crackly tone, but I’ve learnt to like it and appreciate it more. I always take care of it nowadays and warm up before going on stage.

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You are quite a multi-instrumentalist powerhouse on stage.

Heidi Happy Each tour is different. I’ve had duo shows where I sang, played guitars, drums, melodica, piano, glockenspiel and used a loop station, or shows with an entire symphonic orchestra where I just sang and played the guitar. It all depends on the songs, location, audience and financial possibilities. Right now I usually perform with my four-piece band or solo with my loop station, guitars, glockenspiel and a synthesizer.

 How is Heidi Happy received abroad?

Heidi Happy I’ve played the most abroad shows in Germany, Holland, Canada, England and in Russia. People abroad seem to really appreciate our music – we get very enthusiastic feedback. Radio stations in France, Germany, Austria and USA have put my songs on their playlist. Thanks to my collaboration with Yello, some people know me without me ever having played there.  We’ve just been on an Austria tour with Clara Lucia, an Austrian singer very similar in style to me. We’ve been friends for a few years and it was a wonderful, perfectly matched tour.

What are you working on at the moment?

Heidi Happy I’m currently writing some film music which has always been a big love of mine. I’m also rearranging my repertoire for a big show in spring next year where I’ll be playing in my hometown Dagmersellen with the local brass band. I’m constantly gigging, writing and looking for new distribution deals abroad to get my music heard.

 

Forthcoming gigs:

12.12.2014 Zauberwald Lenzerheide (solo)

24.01.2015 Filmtage Solothurn (band)

29.01.2015 Gaskessel Bern (band)

30.01.2015 Moods Zürich (band)

31.01.2015 Kreuz Nidau (band)

27.02.2015 Kulturkarrousel Stäfa (band)

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