Exclusive! Rock star mum Imelda May: ‘I give my daughter roots and wings’

Globally revered soft rock Queen from Dublin, Imelda May, makes an eagerly awaited return with her new studio album 11 Past The Hour (out on Decca Records) this spring. Her brand-new single Just One Kiss is straight down dirty rock ’n’ roll, joined by close friends and music legends Noel Gallagher on vocals and Ronnie Wood on guitar. I have caught up with her.

When I first listened to Imelda’s new record I felt an instant connection with that music. Imelda delves into desire, both romantic and carnal with most songs – deliciously lustful low-slung blues and a mesmerising voice. 11 Past The Hour is a record that brims with sensuality, emotional intelligence, spirituality and intuition, showcasing Imelda at her most authentic. Our frank chat bursting with energy reveals such a gentle and sensitive soul. I felt a connection like with a long-lost friend.

Imelda, what does love mean to you?

Love is not just a feeling but is action!

Once the pandemic will be over we will be so eager to hug and kiss people. Your song Just one kiss could not be more topical. What’s the inspiration behind it?

Just before lockdown I got a text from a friend wanting to meet up and I knew it would be trouble. He asked me out for just one kiss but I said no. He wanted me for just a hot night and I got a hot song out of it.

That little tiny moment before a kiss has so much electricity. With this song I wanted to express how many single people are feeling at the moment, missing the snogging more than ever. We need to be patient but we’ll get back to kissing. In the meantime, I’m happy to write songs to remember us that those moments are going to come again.

The lyrics about kissing really resonate with me. “That moment you know it can go either way /The split second decision you know might change everything/with Just One Kiss/Could you resist?” – A kiss change the course of people’s lives … We should be responsible about it, but yet it is impossible to resist that sometime. Is this album more about love or rebellion?

There’s no theme in the album, but hope that people can identify with all my emotions that I have expressed in this album. Lockdown has magnified a range of feelings.

My song Never look back is all about being rebellious and dangerous. It is about all the different personalities who live within us. I am a goddess, I am freak, I am everything in myself. I need to tap in to these different parts of me. Learning from the past but moving forward. The past shapes you but we need to move on.

Lockdown has taught us that whatever moves us we should do. Sometimes we leave what we love the most for the end of the day but instead we should put them forward in the list of priorities.

On the track ‘Just One Kiss’ you have joined forces with her long-time pal, Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, and the former Oasis rocker. How did the collaboration work out during lockdown?

We recorded the album in social distancing mode but in the same room when we were allowed during the pandemic. I have great people collaborating on this album. I texted my pals Ronnie and Noal about it and they loved it. We get on well and hope it comes across in the record.

Slip Of The Tongue, the Poetry EP and your song ‘Home’ are all about love and are poems. Is poetry now the new way to start a revolution? I wonder …. Are words becoming more and more important now that we have had less chances to talk to our friends out there stuck in our houses for such a long time.

Maybe. I hope people get the chance to read more and put down their phones. I have poetry books all over the house in every room. If you haven’t much time to read a whole book, a poem can be so inspirational and makes me think for the rest of the day. It can take you on a wonderful journey from beginning to end in just one page. Poetry can get under my skin. I also find it very therapeutic. My favourite poets are Rupi Kaur, Kae Tempest, Charles Bukowski, Leonard Cohen, Sylvia Plath. I have their books all over my house. They bring so much joy to me every day. I just deep into a couple of poems when I wait for my daughter to put the coat on before we go out for a walk. Scatter the poems everywhere, all over the house – in the kitchen, in the toilet. If you put them in the shelf, you’ll never read them.

11 Past The Hour is an album of grit and glamour. Of poetry and power. Of love and sex and fun. How would you define your music genre?

I don’t define it and I don’t want to define it. I did that before and I got trapped in a category and I could not get out. Whatever I feel writing in any day, that’s what I write. It doesn’t matter what kind of vibe it is. I am very true to my own self not upon a label I put on myself or somebody else does. I do what I want when I want. That’s how I define my album.

11 Past the Hour is my truth. I always write with meaning and from my heart as that’s the reason I write, to connect with my own story at each particular moment and I hope therefore I connect with others during theirs, even if just for a while. I’d like to think I can put into words and music what we all feel sometimes. We all laugh, sing, love, cry, dance, kiss, care. We all experience lust, anger, joy, worry, sorrow and hope. Sometimes we stay silent and hold it all in and sometimes we dance and throw it all to the wind with abandon, but one thing is for sure is we are in this life together. Each song is a moment in my life. Each life is a moment in time. Every minute counts.


How’s the life of a rock star’s child like your daughter?

In some ways, she has a different childhood than mine.

In some ways it is very similar. I come from a working-class family in Dublin – born and raised in The Liberties area of Dublin. The similarity is that I was surrounded by creativity and Violet is also surrounded by creativity. It doesn’t matter whether you are a rock star or not. But creativity for me is the key. Children are really suited to that life because we are all born with that creativity and freedom, but somewhere along the line life can get in the way and make us loose that. We need to look to children to learn how we should behave so openly to art.

Before school she was with me all the time. I was breastfeeding on the tour bus and before going on stage. While on stage my breast would change size and look like I had a boob job. Then I had to run off stage and feed her. Tours are now sporadic. So, I try to bring her with me when I can.

Once we were at the Guggenheim Museum for a gig. Violet was 4 when she run into a room where a Mark Rothko’s contemporary painting was and started screaming for joy. She did a dance all around and security told me off and asked me to keep her quiet. I refused categorically and I almost got kicked out. No way I would have done that. If Mark Rothko had been there, he would have been very happy to see that raw, simple and pure reaction. She was so happy to see a painting she was familiar with. For many rock stars’ children, it’s not much different than for Violet.

I am glad I can pay my bills with my music now, as I have had many years where I couldn’t do it. I still have to work hard. I am lucky because I can do what I love. I encourage my daughter to do the right things but also follow her dreams.

 

What kind of mum are you?

My mum has always been rebellious and always did her own things. My parents gave me roots and wings. I never heard them say anything bad about anybody. They taught me to accept individuals for who they are. I was brought up without fear. Fear of change makes people react badly and violently. I am bringing up Violet in the same way.

Where would you like to go on holiday once the pandemic is over?

I’ll be happy to go back home to Ireland to visit my family. I need people more than a beach right now.

 

What are you up to next?

I am promoting the album but later on I’ll publish my poetry book, beautifully illustrated by my friends and myself.

 

I love Italy! I remember when Jack Savoretti and his band once ‘kidnapped’ me in Venice after a gig. I had booked a couple of days of holiday in Italy but instead they took me to Genova for a gig. We had the best time in Italy and would love to go back there soon.

 

11 Past The Hour is out on Decca Records on 23rd April 2021.

Take a look at the interview in the London Mums Spring 2021 magazineRock ‘n’ Love Special

 

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