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“A whipcracker of a voice … Songs describing rumpuses, stalkers and sexual predators are delivered with oodles of energy….dangerously rocking” –
“Imelda May’s time to shine has come, as she delivers a sophomore album that oozes musical brilliance…one of the strongest and most eclectic albums of the year.” – Clash
“Can Imelda conquer the world? There’s no May about it.” – News Of The World
The rise and rise of Imelda May has been unstoppable since the release of her album, “Mayhem” last year in the UK. Already hugely popular in Ireland (with a triple platinum album under her belt) the release of Mayhem in the UK has set her on the same path here.
2010 saw Imelda release the now gold certified album “Mayhem” on Decca Records, perform at The Grammy Awards with Jeff Beck as well as touring the US with him, play an extensive festival circuit both at home and abroad - including a storming Glastonbury performance; as well as winning Best Breakthrough Artist at the Classic Rock Awards. So far 2011 has proved just as exciting, if not more so: “Mayhem” once again climbed the album chart hitting the top ten - peaking at number seven in February, Imelda has appeared on several prime time TV shows including The Graham Norton Show and she has completed a headline tour of the UK including a night at The Roundhouse with special guest Jeff Beck.
Born in The Liberties, Dublin, Imelda is the youngest of five siblings and was the most susceptible to the various influences from her older brothers and sisters, which she could hear constantly through the walls of their two bedroom house. There was folk, the obligatory chart pop, and then there was Elvis. “My brother was a mad Elvis fan, and I found a tape in his room with Elvis, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. I thought the music was fantastic.” By the age of nine Imelda had fallen in love with rockabilly and the blues – singing along at home and recording herself with a plastic Fisher Price tape recorder! “I started singing in a church with my sister Maria when I was four and I’ve been singing pretty much ever since. There was no stage school or musical colleges – just variety club competitions – but I was determined as I love singing so much.”
Imelda began performing in clubs when she was 16 years old and had the honour of being occasionally barred from her own shows at Dublin’s Bruxelles club for being underage. “I got really obsessed about going to those clubs even though I was way too young to be allowed in. The security guards would turn a blind eye because they knew I was just there for the music. I used to stand at the side of the stage, hoping to get asked up to join a jam session, writing the keys on my arm so I knew what to sing.”
After fifteen years of singing in other peoples bands Imelda finally took the plunge and set up her own band in 2006. Acclaimed guitarist (and also Imelda’s husband) Darrel Higham took the role of lead guitarist, although Imelda was unsure at the beginning if it was the best idea. “History doesn’t bode well for married couples in bands – look at Ike and Tina Turner, Sonny and Cher, but we tried it and it worked out great. Life and the band is all one mish mash, but we do get time together as husband and wife and time apart – it just works.” The band recorded their previous album, “Love Tattoo” independently and only expected to sell a few hundred copies at gigs, but one Jools Holland performance later and the album had sold triple platinum in Ireland.
The current album, “Mayhem” released last year on Decca Records has Imelda’s trademark rockabilly sound but it’s lyrics are firmly set in the here and now. “I’m always observing people so my songs are an amalgamation of my own life and watching the craziness out of the window. The title track came to me after leaving a gig at 3am and seeing two guys having a fight and a girl standing there crying. It happens in every town on a Friday or Saturday night. – Mayhem!” Another of the album tracks, “Kentish Town Waltz” was re-recorded as a duet with the legendary Lou Reed for release as a single last year. The bittersweet love song lends itself well to the duet format while Reed’s gravelly tones sit perfectly with Imelda’s powerful yet playful voice. Describing the song Imelda says, “We were badly broke and the bailiffs were knocking on the door but we were mad about each other so we got through it.”
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