May performing live at Madgarden 2015 in Madrid.
|Birth name||Imelda Mary Clabby|
10 July 1974 |
|Genres||Rockabilly, blues, jazz, pop, soul|
|Occupation(s)||Singer-songwriter, composer, television presenter|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, bodhrán, tambourine, bass guitar|
|Labels||Foot Tapping, Ambassador/Universal Ireland, Decca|
Imelda Mary Higham (born Imelda Mary Clabby; 10 July 1974), professionally known as Imelda May, is an Irish musician, producer and singer-songwriter. Born and raised in The Liberties area of Dublin, May began her career in music at 16 by performing with a number of local bands and musician, before she formed her own band in 2002. She released her debut studio album, No Turning Back, in 2003 and relocated to London with husband, guitarist Darrel Higham, after its release.
Although known primarily as a singer, she also plays the bodhrán, guitar, bass guitar and tambourine. Described as "a unique vocal talent," May is known for her musical style of rockabilly revival and has also been compared to female jazz musicians such as Billie Holiday. She won the Best Female Artist of the Year award at the 2009 Meteor Awards.
Early life and career
May was born in Dublin on 10 July 1974 in the Liberties in the south inner city. She is the youngest of five siblings, with sisters Edel Foy and Maria O'Reilly, and brothers Brendan Clabby and Fintan Clabby. In 1991, She attended Senior College Ballyfermot, where she studied Art, Graphics and Printmaking. Her early musical influences were folk and rock and roll, especially the music of Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. By the age of nine, she was a fan of Rockabilly and Blues, particularly Elmore James and Billie Holiday. At fourteen, she sang in an advertisement for Findus Fish Fingers; of which she told Graham Norton on his talk show that she and her friends as a result "got known as the Fish Finger Girls." However, her career began at age 16 when she began touring the Dublin club circuit and she was occasionally barred from her own shows at Dublin's Bruxelles club for being underage. "I was getting tips from the best musicians in Dublin," May said. "One of them said, 'your voice is great, but it needs to roughen.'" It was around this time, when driving a tearful Imelda to a gig after a boyfriend break-up, that her father asked her, "Is your heart broken? Excellent. Now you can sing the blues." After moving to the UK in 1998, May began singing with Mike Sanchez.
May began her professional career in 2003, forming her band and releasing No Turning Back (Foot Tapping Records) under her maiden name, Imelda Clabby. Specializing in rockabilly music, the album was later re-recorded and re-issued by Foot Tapping Records under her married name in 2005.
In 2007 she joined a recording contract with Ambassador Records (a subsidiary of Foot Tapping Records), and recorded her second album. Love Tattoo reached No. 1 in Ireland and received wide critical acclaim. It caught the attention of Jools Holland, whom she later supported on tour, which led him to request that she appear on his well-known music show Later... with Jools Holland. She was well received in the United Kingdom, performing to an audience that included Jeff Beck, Elbow, and Roots Manuva. Her first two singles, "Johnny Got a Boom Boom" and "Big Bad Handsome Man", were released on 23 January 2009. She performed on Ireland's best known chat show, The Late Late Show. She won Female Artist of the Year at the 2009 Meteor Awards. May has also toured the United States including, most recently, a tour with Jamie Cullum. On 14 August 2009 she appeared on RTÉ's Other Voices singing "Johnny Got a Boom Boom" and an unplugged version of "Big Bad Handsome Man".
On 31 January 2010 she performed at the 52nd Grammy Awards with Jeff Beck in tribute to Les Paul. After some promotional performances at festivals, such as the Eurosonic Festival in Groningen, Netherlands, she released her third studio album, Mayhem, in Ireland on 3 September 2010 — again reaching No. 1 in the Irish Album Charts — and in the United Kingdom on 4 October 2010. On 18 July 2011 May made her network television debut on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, performing "Mayhem", to promote the album's recent release in the U.S.; she appeared on Conan on 8 August and on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson later that month.
In a Mojo article in April 2016 - she announced she was in the middle of mixing her upcoming album - recorded in LA and produced by T Bone Burnett, no release date has been announced.
Performances with other artists
May has recorded/duetted with a huge variety of artists - including Lou Reed, Jeff Beck, Jools Holland, Smokey Robinson, Tom Jones, Paul Brady, Damien Dempsey, Meat Loaf, The Levellers, Thomas Dutronc, The Chieftains, Mary Black, The Dubliners, Sharon Shannon, Thomas Dutronc
May has shared the stage with David Gilmore, Jeff Beck, Jools Holland, Smokey Robinson, Bono, U2, Tom Jones, Marc Almond, Sinead O'Connor, Paul Brady, Damien Dempsey, Meat Loaf, Lulu, The Boomtown Rats, The Levellers, Thomas Dutronc, The Chieftains, Mary Black, The Dubliners, Elvis Costello, Paolo Nutini, Michel Legrand, Wanda Jackson, Jamie Cullum and Kodaline.
In 2009 she recorded the official Children in Need single at Abbey Road Studios, alongside Cara Dillon, Terry Wogan, Hayley Westenra and others. In 2010 she participated on the Emotion & Commotion album by Jeff Beck, singing on the track "Lilac Wine" and also on the Japanese CD bonus track "Poor Boy". On 11 November 2010 she appeared as a guest on BBC2's comedy panel music show Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
In 2010 she performed with Meat Loaf as part of the UK leg of his Hang Cool Tour. That same year she and her band, along with Jeff Beck and several other notables, were honoring Les Paul at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, where the session was recorded. During 2011 she and her band toured with Jeff Beck.
On 16 December 2011 she played to a capacity crowd of 12,000 in the O2 Dublin, with Bono making a surprise appearance as her guest.
On New Year's Eve 2012, May performed at a New Year's Eve Concert in College Green, alongside Bell X1 and The Coronas. She performed "Johnny Got a Boom Boom", "Mayhem" and many more. She also announced to Miriam O'Callaghan that same night that, after she was finished touring, she would go back into the studio in March and hopefully have an album out by the end of the year.
On 4 July 2015 May performed in Marlay Park, Dublin as a special guest at Paolo Nutini's concert, singing with him a duet on Ben E. King's "Stand by Me". That year she guested on the Tom Jones album Long Lost Suitcase, performing a duet with him on "Honey, Honey".
May was the surprise guest in Dublin for U2's homecoming show on the world-famous 360 degree tour in 2015 - Bono called her 'the other queen of Ireland' as she came on stage to perform 'Desire' streamed live online to millions of viewers.
May married her guitarist and band member, Darrel Higham, in 2002. In February 2012 the couple announced that May was pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter on 23 August 2012. May and Higham announced their split on 17 July 2015, and Higham also decided to leave the band to focus on his solo career.
- Studio albums
- Imelda May – vocals, bodhrán
- Al Gare – double bass, bass guitar
- Steve Rushton – drums
- Dave Priseman – trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion, guitar
Awards and nominations
|2009||2009 Meteor Awards||Imelda May||Best Irish Female||Won|
|2010||RTÉ Radio 1||Mayhem||Album of the Year||Won|
|2011||Choice Music Prize||Choice Music Prize||Nominated|
- Forbes, Anna (3 March 2011). "Choice Music Prize Preview". State Magazine. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
- True, Chris (2010). "Imelda May". Allmusic. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
- McGreevy, Ronan (8 January 2010). "Meteor Ireland Music Awards: The Nominations". The Irish Times. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- "Imelda May returns to Ireland". Hot Press. 26 January 2009. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- "About Imelda May". Imelda May. Archived from the original on 29 September 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- "Fashion Fix with Imelda May". RTE. 9 December 2008. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- "Quotes of the year". The Irish Times. 31 December 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
- "Rock-a-beauty Imelda May has the Jools Holland seal of approval". STV Entertainment. 11 July 2010. Archived from the original on 22 July 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- Ayers, Mike (31 January 2010). "Jeff Beck, Imelda May Honor Les Paul at Grammys". Spinner. Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- Meagher, John (15 January 2010). "Loaded: A choice line-up". Irish Independent. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- "'Mayhem' is No.1 in the Irish charts!". Imelda May. 10 September 2010. Archived from the original on 19 December 2010.
- "Tour Rescheduling". Imelda May. 19 August 2010. Archived from the original on 30 October 2010.
- "Special Announcement". Imelda May. 16 February 2012. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
- "Imelda May reveals her baby joy". RTÉ TEN. Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 19 February 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
- Butler, Laura (25 August 2012). "Imelda May's delight at birth of baby girl Violet". The Herald. Dublin. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
- Butler, Laura (17 July 2015). "Imelda's marriage breakdown has been tough on her religious parents". Evoke.ie.
- "Album of the Year 2010". RTÉ Radio 1. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
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