No May-be about Imelda’s success

Alan Owens


Alan Owens

IMELDA MAY is chasing a wasp around the room.

IMELDA MAY is chasing a wasp around the room.

“It’s as big as a beach ball,” she roars, the laughter in her voice discernable even down the phone line.

Her voice itself is discernable in so many ways; speaking, she fills her words with the lilting - and quite unique - Liberties accent; singing, she can lift the roof off a venue with her powerful, yet playful, jazz-vocal.

She is a rockabilly queen - a coiffured rhythm and blues siren - an eye-popping performer. No doubt she’d laugh at all of these descriptions, such is her easy going nature, her ambivalence at any level of fame she has achieved.

Fresh from entertaining Barack Obama in Dublin’s College Green last week - “everyone was sweaty-palmed and excited and it was great that everyone was getting such a buzz out of it - it was brilliant for the country,” she says - May is coming to Limerick this weekend, becoming just the second act to play in the ‘Big Top’ at the Milk Market, a gig that will be heaving, such is her level of popularity in her home country where she has two albums certified triple platinum and gold respectively, and is as close to a bankable musician as they come in these uncertain times.

“It’ll be great, I’m looking forward to it, I love going to Limerick,” she laughs easily.

It is a credit to the Liberties born performer that she retains a self-deprecating sense of humour amid a near constant slog of touring and promotion, today alone she will host dozens of phone interviews, on a rare day off after a sold-out tour of Germany. Asked when her last day off was, she laughs: “I had a week recently, and I had about four or five days last... August”.

“But it is all going good - so I am running with it while its good. I love touring, I love travelling around and thank God I am able to get a tour bus now, rather than the little van, and we can spread out a little bit more,” she laughs. Not that she will hear a bad word said about her band, which includes husband and guitarist Darrel Higham, a group she eats, sleeps, plays music and celebrates with, chief among her achievements seeing her second album, ‘Mayhem’, secure number one in Ireland and number seven in the UK charts - a staggering feat.

“I have a terrific band, the best band in the world, they are brilliant musicians and great lads and we have such a laugh, absolutely, really silly, childish stuff,” she explains.

“In Ireland when the album went to number one we had a good celebration, so good that I can’t remember it! We were roaring laughing about (the UK chart), it was like horse racing - 53 today, 170 tomorrow, then Inside Out, the single came out and it was 76, 52, and a different number, 15, 10 and then 7 and we were freaking out - it was very exciting.”

Her unassuming nature and guise brings a smile to the lips, but there is steel within, no doubt. She bristles at the suggestion that third album ‘Mayhem’ was the stepping stone to where she is today, anxious to remember the success of her second album, ‘Love Tattoo’, released in 2008; its success largely achieved without the record company support she has today.

“Love Tattoo did very well considering there wasn’t much promo or commotion, it wasn’t advertised, the record company bought that off me after I had made it, I wasn’t signed to them when I made it,” she explains.

“Then they were looking forward to the next album and saying concentrate on that, but Love Tattoo started to take off and went mental, so that was really exciting. When Mayhem came out then, we did loads for it and it was brilliant to have it at number one in Ireland, two albums in the top three in fact,” she laughs.

Imelda freely admits she never expected success of any kind when she was a teenager starting out performing in clubs when she was just 16 years old.

“Absolutely not, it feels like someone is going to pinch me and I’ll wake up, I couldn’t have imagined it,” she says.

“I am surprised everything has gone so well for us, because I thought we would be just doing what we do forever, gigging around and we were struggling at times with no gigs, so I am very happy with that,” she adds.

Imelda May plays in the Milk Market this Sunday, doors at 7.30pm.