Imelda May is bridging gaps and breaking boundaries all over the shop. Her debut album, Love Tattoo, is currently climbing the charts like nobody’s business and the level of critical acclaim that she has garnered is unprecedented: Beck declared at Imelda’s ‘Later with Jools Holland’ appearance that she was the sole reason for him being there. Perhaps the most beguiling aspect of Imelda’s music is its ability to appeal to a huge cross-section of people. Classic blues and rockabilly fused with modern tempos and attitudes transcend usual genre and audience confines, and shine a light on Imelda as one of the truest original musicians today.
Lazily referred to by some as Ireland’s answer to Amy Winehouse in reference to her soulful voice and her fun, non-sheeplike attitude to fashion, Imelda is the youngest of five kids, growing up in a house filled with the sounds of Elvis, Billy Holliday and Gene Vincent wafting through it. From the age of four she sang harmonies with her sister’s folk band; then she discovered rockabilly and the rest is history. Living in London for over ten years with her husband and bandmate, Darrel Higham, Imelda is easily the most exciting and refreshing songbird to emerge from Ireland in decades and, as a nation, we should be damn proud of her. She was kind enough to partake in a quickfire Q&A round with Totally Dublin and for that, we are thankful. Fire away Ms. May.
You grew up in the Liberties, who were the singers you most admired and did your surroundings have any influence on your style?
Luke Kelly, Billy Holliday, Gene Vincent.
My parents brought me up on Dean Martin and all the classics. I loved the rhythms of traditional Irish music which is probably why I’m attracted to Rockabilly – it’s country music which is a direct descendent of traditional Irish music.
Many are singing your praises at the moment, how do you feel about the attention you’re getting? Has it changed you?
I’m enjoying it – it’s all good fun. It hasn’t changed me except I demand a small basket of kittens at every gig!
Darrel Higham has a great reputation among the Rockabilly fraternity here, how did you guys meet?
We met in Camden (London) through a mutual friend . Darrel’s a big Eddie Cochran fan and this friend wanted him to meet my brother in law who’s also a Cochran fan. I tagged along and ended up as a guest singer to Darrel playing guitar.
What was your favourite tune of last year?
Serious by Richard Hawley
In the digital age we are living in, which do you prefer, CD or vinyl?
You appeared in a Findus Fish Fingers advert when you were 14; do you like eating Fish Fingers?
No – I’m a vegetarian
Where you do you stand on the international fishing laws?
Keep out – leave our lovely fish alone!
Where do you buy your clothes, do you have any favourite shop in Dublin?
Retro in Georges Street Arcade, Dublin
What’s your favourite thing to do when you come back home to Dublin?
See my family, have a good session with my brother and a proper pint of Guinness. Sing in church with my sister and her group CANA – fantastic harmonies.
One of Dublin’s top Rockabilly venues, the Voodoo Lounge, closed recently; any thoughts?
It was a great venue. I also loved the Dice Bar. It’s really sad – I had many a good night there.
Can we see you at any of the festivals in Ireland in the summer?
We’re playing more Irish dates in May, including the Inishbofin Festival. We’ll definitely be at the Electric Picnic too.
Gilson Lavis told you that you’re sexy in a trashy way. What do you think of that?
I replied to him that he looked like a pimp – but in a good way! We know each other from touring.