The Verse’s Kate Horrobin interviews performer Imelda May
I had never conducted a phone interview before. Nervous having been a big fan of Imelda’s since seeing her perform live with Sinead O’Connor on the Imelda May Show in 2014, I waited to be connected to Imelda’s private phone. A soft voice with a gentle Irish accent answers, ‘Hi is that Kate?’ Imelda says. ‘Imelda! That’s amazing, I know it’s you from your accent.’ A mortifyingly embarrassing moment for me yet Imelda is charming and laughs off my outburst, telling me she is just sitting at home on the couch with her collie.
Imelda’s video for her single Black Tears from her new album LIFE. LOVE. FLESH. BLOOD premiered earlier this year, and followed from her powerfully moving New Year’s Eve performance on the Jools’ Annual Hootenanny show. The song is emotional, heart wrenchingly honest and insightful. Black Tears was written after Imelda went through a difficult goodbye, and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror with black tears running down her face. She confesses, ‘It’s a sight and situation most women have unfortunately seen themselves in at some point in life.’ I ask why she chose it as her first single from the new album. ‘I wanted to set the mood out, and change things,’ she tells me. ‘I don’t want to do what I’m expected to do, I have to follow my heart. Its emotional but I simply wanted to write what I am feeling.’
With such a radical first insight in to the new album, what can we expect from the rest of it? ‘There’s all kind of things. I listen to different things hourly,’ and so understandably the album is not just one genre. ‘Blues, jazz, soul, rock, all sorts. I have to be fulfilled creatively and for this album I wrote what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted.’ And so Imelda, rejecting the expectations for a new album, retains her defiant uniqueness in creating her art solely on her terms. For any artist this is an impressive feat. And to anyone trying to impose their expectations; ‘You just kind of what to tell them to stoooop!’ she shouts, chuckling.
Imelda is also a commanding performer. Her insatiable attitude and energy make for many interesting live stories. ‘I once electrocuted myself,’ she confesses. ‘I started to feel a buzz on my lips off of the microphone and then I was fired across the stage. We had to stop the gig.’ Although thankfully Imelda wasn’t badly injured. She has since been able to add another live show mishap story to her repertoire: ‘I fell off stage at the Olympia. I was wearing a Santa suit and heels. Yes, there may have been some alcohol involved.’ Unfortunately there is no video.
Following from the end of her 18 year marriage, the new album LIFE. LOVE. FLESH. BLOOD adopts a different, fresh direction for May, independent of any sharply defined genre. She describes the album as honest and also a kind of therapy for her. LIFE. LOVE. FLESH. BLOOD is released on DECCA on the 17th of April and we can’t wait to hear it.
Her final words of the interview inform me that she is coming to bury me with a shovel after revealing the Santa suit story – ‘but good luck with your studies!’