Imelda May has become one of Ireland's most celebrated female artists. Since being discovered by Jools Holland, who invited her to support him on tour, she has gone on to perform alongside legendary artists including Lou Reed, Bono and Smokey Robinson.
She is now touring the UK with her latest album 'Life. Love. Flesh. Blood', released earlier this year in May, and includes dates at Leicester's De Montfort Hall and London's iconic Royal Albert Hall.
She said: "The tour is mostly about the new album. I toured the UK, Ireland and Europe earlier in the year and I will be curious to see what this time is like as people will have had the album for a while. Earlier in the year, my show was more about introducing people to the album and I am looking forward to people's reactions to the songs six months on.
"Everyone has been really positive about 'Life. Love. Flesh. Blood'. I was never really 100 per cent rockabilly before but it was what I was best know for. I am really more roots, blues and jazz so I don't feel that this album is a departure from my past. For me it's a natural progression from what I've written before. Although I have gone more rootsy than ever before.
Born in Dublin in 1974, Imelda is the youngest of five siblings and began her professional career in 2003, forming her band and releasing No Turning Back. In 2007 she signed with Ambassador Records and recorded her second album, Love Tattoo which received critical acclaim and caught the attention of Jools Holland, who she later supported on tour. Her third studio album Mayhem was released in 2010.
In 2012, Imelda and her then husband and band member Darrel Higham welcomed a daughter and then two years later, in 2014 her fourth album, tribal was released.
But it's not just Imelda's music which has seen a transition - all five albums have a very different sound and feel - her trademark blonde-accented pompadour has been traded in favour of a dark brunette shag - and she looks fantastic
She said: "Lookswise it wasn't a strategy, it was just how I felt at the time. It wasn't a big deal for me. I am one of those people who follow their gut. Always have and always will be."
Over the years Imelda has honed her craft touring smaller venues and priding herself on her individuality.
She said: "I have always been my own person. When I was young I was offered a pop record deal but I said no. I wanted to be true to what I loved which is all kinds of music. When I was told not to go down the rockabilly road, I pushed along more with it.
"My record company are great and very supportive, but when people have expectations of what they want you to do, I say 'hang on, the next album will be what I want it to be'.
"For me I feel that I can't write for someone else or for a business plan or for fans. I have to write it on a personal level and that's the only way I can truly make a connection. Each album was important at different times of my life and reflected that.
"I am constantly writing down lines, choruses, and I take it whatever way I get it. I go along with what comes to me and then delve back into the books when I want inspiration to write new music. It then becomes more refined and then the album is here.
"I am always happy for a song to arrive, but you have to have the time to open your mind. I can't write when my brain is full When there's a tour and live, and being a mammy. I have to let my brain calm down and clear it.
Imelda's advice for someone trying to break into the business is that you have to be good at what you do and to work at that and practice.
She said: "You have to be slightly obsessed and you have to be willing to believe that you may never get into the industry. I have been gigging since I was 16 and it took 15 years for me to break into the idustry. Even if I hadn't I would still be writing my own music and performing.
"You have to be willing to work hard and have to be willing to take critique. You have to have a passion for it. Even if it doesn't go well you have to have passion. Don't chase fame, there is absolutely no nourishment in it. You need the love for your talent. It's the best way to fall in love with music. Fall in love with that and then whatever will be will be.
"The only way to connect with someone is be yourself. You have to write for yourself. Audiences aren't stupid, they can tell if you are faking it and if you are bing honest. People react to that better and you get a better connection.
"When you are in a venue performing and looking into the audience, there's always someone singing away - it's wonderful. Being human is having empathy and connection with your audience
As part of the tour, Imelda will perform at Leicester De Montfort Hall on Monday, November 20 and also, the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday, November 22. She supported The Who at the iconic London venue earlier this year in aid of the Teenager Cancert Trust.
"I'm so delighted to perform at The Royal Albert Hall again," she said. "It really is a very special place. You can feel the history in the walls and the excitement in the air. The beauty of it takes my breath away. And I've got the best view in the house!"
Tickets and more information about Imelda's tour are available at here
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