The phrase ‘down to earth’ fits Imelda May perfectly. She shares the roots of her optimism and how she refuses to let go of it as a guiding principle.
[00:00:00.13] ... slow and into ??? or whatever (or we have) Mike Scott (who were) the big heroes for me and they were who I looked up to and quite idolized and worshiped and kind of looked to for, I don't know, guidance or whatever. So the whole point of this series is to kind of get life lessons from artists.
Jesus, you have (fucked).
[00:00:22.19] I'm asking the wrong people, do you think?
Yeah, yeah, one hundred percent, probably the most messed up people on the planet.
[00:00:35.06] Pretty fair point, actually, because I'm such an altruist I never thought of that.
[00:00:41.00] Oh, my God. We better just stop now.
Yeah. It's over.
[00:00:45.03] Let's just forget this as a bad idea.
Not only ??? interview ... I helped him have a change of career.
[00:00:56.06] So, like, where do you stand on the optimism spectrum, where do you sit on it, are you an optimist, are you a pessimist?
Oh, I'm an optimist. Yeah.
[00:01:03.10] Were you always one?
Yeah, I'm known for my optimism, I think, I mean -
[00:01:07.11] What do you attribute it to?
- amongst friends. No, I'm - What?
[00:01:12.00] What do you attribute that to, like, was there any, you know, were you always like or do you remember people who influenced you or like where did it come from do you think, where does your optimism come from?
That's a good question, I don't know. Life - I like to see the good sides of life, I like to try and see the good in people, sometimes to my detriment, so I’m always trying to find the good in there, you know. And, yeah, I believe in love and, actually, one of the songs that I wrote on this album, there is a line on it that I said 'Good people do bad things and bad people do good, but if the choice is between love and fear, I choose love'. Because I think if we put into little boxes of that's a good person and that's a bad person, and I think, I don't feel that's true, I think there is - Well, once in a while.
[00:02:11.28] Yeah -
But I think most leads to gray area that you can have really bad people have just had a really bad time.
[00:02:17.29] Yeah, I think you've hit a nail on the head.
And they can do good things, you know. And then, I think really good people could be made out to be saints and then they do something bad and everybody goes 'Huh, oh, my God, they are human, how dare they', you know, and -
[00:02:33.21] But you grew up in a very tightened community just like I did where nothing anyone did went unnoticed.
One hundred percent, but I was brought up - My dad is an optimist one hundred - He is very much an optimist. He is very rarely down about anything, he is always laughing and smiling, he'll find a joke in everything, and as a teenager that was just extremely irritating because you're so miserable as a teenager, and you want everyone else to be miserable too, you know at those ages, like 'Stop laughing, dad, it's not even funny'. It would make him laugh more and you'd hate him.
[00:03:16.10] That was some parenting advice somebody -
[00:03:17.18] Somebody said to me recently 'If your kid is ever annoying you just laugh at them or hug them'.
Oh, God, he used to drive me mad, all of us, he used to think that it was hilarious to wake us up with pots and pans and thus freak out and then he got 'God, you're in a bad mood'. You might have a hangover, you know, seventeen, eighteen but bang, bang, 'Good morning’, you'd got ... ‘Ahhh, I want to murder him’, and he’s laughing, you want to kill him.
[00:03:46.09] And how many of you, of ... how many of you were, where do you come in the line-up?
I'm the baby out of all of us. I was the surprise and it's a pretty optimistic family, I think, you know, we laughed a lot, we argued a lot too as a family which I think is really healthy because I learnt healthy argue and that sounds mad, but I learnt that it's not the end of the world and it ends, so you just get something out of your system, argue it out and it's done within ten minutes and then you're all to love each other very much and it's actually not that big of a deal, where I've met people who never argued within the family and they think that's the end of the world, but I think most Irish families aren't like that, you know, like, so I'm living in England and people go 'What, you've raised your voices at your parents?' and I would go 'Yes.' and then they go... So then you realise it's quite healthy, you could early - You know, even if a politics or something we'd have big arguments or debates about stuff in the world and try to fix it then somebody would say 'God, you're a moron, for God's sake', and then it would turn into 'So, you want a cup of tea', you know, and then you would move on.
[00:05:00.27] Those people listen ??? 'Oh, my family was normal -
Yeah, 'What did you call me? Hang on, who is having tea?' 'Me.' And then you're all 'Do it again'.
[00:05:14.02] Were you not spoiled rotten as the baby so were you dote (?), everyone's ... dote.
Well I'll say no and they'll say yes, isn't that the way it goes?
[00:05:19.13] What's the gap between you and the next eldest, (what) years?
I think it's about fourteen years.
[00:05:25.22] Oh, my God, that's some surprise.
No, between me and the next is six years, six years, yes, and it's - Yeah, I have to say I'm, you know, I'm very, very lucky with them all, they're great, and I like to think I'm an optimist with my daughter and we jump around and we dance during breakfast and things like that, you know. My neighbour thinks I'm mad, you know, and I'm quite happy, if she wants a cranberry juice in a fancy cocktail glass, I think why not.
[00:06:01.17] Give it to her, yeah.
You know, she's (be) fancy cocktail glass with cranberry juice because it's wine, mom, you know ... that's good or not, am I teaching her bad things I don't know, but she just loves the fanciness of it.
[00:06:12.08] Our kids love acting grown up, anyway, don't they?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:06:14.09] Anything they can reach to that, like, makes them feel like -
Yeah, they just try and copy.
[00:06:19.05] - They're more adult. I become in kind of almost, I don't know if the word is (addicted?) but you know all these sayings that I used to reject as a kid, like, 'Oh, you know, enjoy your youth while you have it because...'
Youth is wasted on the young.
[00:06:33.01] Yeah, and I used to hate all those when I was a kid and now I'm looking back to them going 'Oh, my God, they are all true.'
I don't agree.
[00:06:40.13] You don't agree?
No, I don't – sorry, I'm eating chocolate – I don't think youth is wasted on the young at all.
[00:06:52.14] It's more 'the old' having the lack of it.
Yeah, the timebacker in a way, but I think young people have a good time and they should do, but I think - I was talking to a taxi driver the other day, yesterday in London, and I think it's just how you look at life, you say 'Oh', he was playing, (not) my voice ??? he said 'I like the old stuff, your music is - The youth, the today, and music for the young, music these days’, and I cannot tell you how much I hate that conversation. I've had it a million times with people and I completely disagree and I said to him I think, normally I keep my mouth shut, and I said ‘I think what you're saying is a load of rubbish’, and he was like 'All music these days...' and I was like 'Then name me music these days, have you looked into it?' And he couldn't name anybody and I said 'You'll find - You just happen to be back to what you're familiar with, it doesn't mean that there is no great music creating, you just don't know it'.
[00:07:55.02] For sure, for sure.
So if you investigate you will find somebody at least one if not a lot of artists that you love, and he was saying he loved Sam Cooke and things like that, like, I was saying 'Great, have you heard of Gregory Porter?' 'No', I said 'I think you'll find you probably love him', you know, not that Gregory Porter ??? but he has that beautiful velvet tone in his voice -
[00:08:17.24] Oh, his voice is incredible, yeah,
But what I'm saying is, it's not a competition of past and future and young and old, I think it's, for me, there is two types of people in this world, there is open-minded and not open-minded, and that's what it boils down to for me.
[00:08:38.03] Yeah, that's for sure.
You can get young people that are not open-minded as well as old, and you can get old people that are incredibly open-minded and ready to live well.
[00:08:47.01] But you mentioned in that lyrics the choice between love and fear and, you know, for me fear is literally at the root of all evil.
Well they've proved it, there are two basic emotions and it's not love and hate, it's love and fear, and that's what I wrote that song about and I was -
[00:09:03.18] Who did that study, what did you - Did you read something or where did it come from?
Well actually I went to see U2 in - I was in Paris and I got a note from Bono saying they would do the gig, and I went to the gig in Paris and had a wonderful, wonderful evening, and then the next day it was the Bataclan shootings and in the - One of the record company guys that worked on my last three albums was shot in the - And he was about to work on this album and he was at it, he worked at Universal and he was within the International Department so he worked and everyone coming in and -
[00:09:46.21] Sorry to hear that.
Yeah, it was awful sad, I mean he wasn't a personal friend of mine, I knew him from work, you know, from turning up and saying 'Oh, good to see you again', I was looking forward to seeing the team, you know, when he got back to each country, you'll sit in, you know, cars going around, doing all your interviews and you really get to know people a little and I was sad, very sad to hear it. And I knew exactly where he would have been standing because he stood in the same place for my gigs. And apparently then the next gig that U2 plays they had this preacher turn up, anyway, the week after - A few days after I was invited to lunch because, I suppose, probably a bonding thing, you know, I was invited to lunch by Bono and by U2 guys and I think they all - Everybody felt incredibly lucky, you know, you do, you think we're incredibly ... we're all okay, everybody is safe, all the crew, because there is a lot of crew working and people, merchandise and, you know, you think everybody is safe and then they had - I think it was a preacher with them who said this poem and they said ‘Do that poem again, please, for the dinner’, he'd wanted to say Grace and they said ‘Could you do the poem he said it was beautiful’, and he started reading out this poem 'All but love and fear'. And it really, because it was only about a week or so after, and it just hit me like a ton of bricks, I listened, just went right into me listening to this poem and then I wrote a song about it afterwards and it was basically saying there are two primal emotions, all hate comes from fear and, you know, all good things come from love, it's love and fear, and basically that's our choice isn't it.
[00:11:34.19] (Waitress comes in)
[00:12:02.14] (Imelda continues) So yeah, the lunch had that lovely preacher do that lovely poem and that's basically our two primary emotions which I found very interesting.
[00:12:18.15] And how do you think we can limit the influence of fear?
Oh, God, I don't know, I have no idea, having more love? It's quite an optimistic and maybe a naive way of looking at things but I'd rather be optimistic and naive, I think, if that was -
[00:12:35.03] Yeah, well I think one of the reasons why I really wanted to do this show was - For me adulthood, a big part of it, is try to stay as optimistic and open and naive as possible but yet not be a moron about it, and I guess I was trying to find out how other optimists did that, you know, when you're surrounded in a world that has stuff like the Bataclan happen and all this stuff that is going on in the world and all the stuff with the environment and all the stuff around, and I kind of refuse to react to bad things, what I mean 'react' is, I refuse to be reactionary, I don't let my life be influenced by what bad people do, I try and stick my own path.
Well that's all well and good for you if it doesn't, you know -
[00:13:16.11] Affects me?
You're lucky in that way.
Because a lot of people have terrible bad things being inflicted upon them, you know, so you're lucky that you have that choice but -
[00:13:25.14] I know, that is extremely important for me at the moment, yeah, it's very easy for me to say that.
[00:13:29.06] But what if I'm in the middle of the crap, how do I cope, and what do I do to help people who are in the crap?
Exactly, but then, you know, there is, you know, it's lovely to have the innocence of a child and I think a lot of this stuff that we have, a lot of the negativity that we have has lowered.
[00:13:50.07] For sure, yeah.
I think when you, you know, when you have a child or when you're around kids and they could be mean as hell when they are small, but overall their not as prejudiced as adults are, like, they will just hate somebody because they took their car or their doll, you know, but it doesn't go into any deeper than that and I think if we could hold onto to some of that as opposed to learn bad ways, somebody was talking to me the other day, I was saying how could somebody be so mean, you know, he was ... Imagine if you were just surrounded by that for all of the childhood, would you - how do you know how you'd be, and that's true because I think a childhood has a lot to do with it, you know. I'd watch the movie "Lying" which I could not believe how amazing that movie is.
[00:14:54.01] I haven't seen it yet.
And you know, this little kid lost, you know, I was thinking people not helping him, I was thinking, how could you not scoop up a little, you know, a little child, how are people that mean, and that's what he said you don't know how you'd be if that's all you had surrounded in it all of your life, you know, and that's true. Very true. So we're looking, we're seeing it from quite a good angle.
[00:15:24.24] But whenever anyone does anything that I don't like or that upsets me or I try and -
[00:15:33.02] Ah, presidents, yeah, but, and I try to understand why they’re doing it, I try to take a few steps back and just look at what they are doing as a symptom rather than the thing, and try to imagine why, what consequences might, you know, what steps might lead them to that.
[00:15:49.10] Exactly. Exactly.
It's always fear, fear of the unknown, fear of your life changing, fear of like a power, fear we're going through a weird time at this moment in time, we're going through major world changes, and there’s a lot of fear involved and I don't like it.
[00:16:08.07] But you're an artist, you deliver lots of things to people - well, before I tell you what I think you deliver to people what do you try and put into people, like, how do you want people to feel because of you or do you think about that?
Oh, wow, don't put that on my shoulders please.
[00:16:32.05] Too much pressure.
I know, some people could walk up to me and say 'You're a role model to me', I would say 'Please, no, no, I don't want to be, take it away, make it stop'. You see, I don't - I just write, you know, I write and it's quite a selfish process, you know, I write for myself, I don't write for the people, I don't write to save people or anything like that, you know, it's not - I write for myself and I'm very human and I have major flaws like everybody, I don't know all the answers, I don't any answers, I don't even know the questions and I muddle my way through like everybody else, you know, and you're trying to take up upon all the good times and hold them to you more than the bad times, you're trying to see the good and be thankful for the good times for me, you know, and I think just to be human and have compassion, that's what drives me in a way, trying to understand things or people mostly. But then, once I finish writing and then I record it, then there is the point where I let it go, it's almost like a child, you've raised it and you've nurtured it, you know, and you've made it and it has to stand on its own two feet and go out to the world and that's how I feel with a song, it has to go out, and then it almost - I feel like it doesn't belong to me anymore and it belongs to others, it's weird. And then when I see people singing along to a particular song in the audience that song belongs to that person, if it means something, in the same ways as when I go to see an artist, that song means something to me, maybe a time in my life that I needed to hear that song and I connect with that artist because I think 'Oh, my God, you felt exactly the same and you put it into words exactly how I felt in that moment in time'. So if I do that for someone else, than that's great for me, it's not the reason I write it but I get huge amount of comfort in that, that we've connected, me and that one person, and all the audience has just connected on a human level for just a few moments in time, you know, and that song that I wrote really about my life belongs to them and I like that.
[00:19:10.00] And do you ever see people react in the ways that you didn't expect?
Oh, God, yeah, yeah, sometimes you see people break down in tears during songs or -
[00:19:21.10] But of course, the song -
I'd be joyful if I had people propose at gigs and have a - I've had one woman coming, it was her last gig before she died, her daughters brought her and then I saw her come back to the next gig without her, singing 'It's good to be alive' or whatever it was, and they said that was a great memory that we had, you know, with her. So people live their lives and then they come to gigs and you get to see familiar faces at gigs around the world that keep turning up all the time and it's quite nice, you know, you see them coming back or -
[00:19:58.09] And you'll recognize them, like, -
You recognize them, especially if they're, you know, in front where you can see them and you see them bringing their kid or whatever, having a new girlfriend or boyfriend or, you know, it's -
[00:20:08.27] That's mad if you're like catching up with the gossip just by seeing them.
You just can see people, you don't know them or anything.
[00:20:15.17] That's brilliant.
And you just see them and you think 'Oh, that's the one that comes to that gig in Madrid every single time', you know?
[00:20:21.03] That's brilliant.
And it's, you know, whatever, yeah, it's lovely, isn't it?
[00:20:25.02] Yeah. There's one thing I'm intrigued by and perhaps you can help me, but maybe you can't, so when I was kid I was into, like, The Smiths and The Cure and I was never -
[00:20:36.09] But I was never into, like, I was never a Cure-head or I never went too far in any one direction, I don't know why was it, fear -
What's too far?
[00:20:44.22] That's too far?
What's too far?
[00:20:48.05] Like, I never committed myself to a look, you know, so there was one friend of mine Colum Limes(?), six foot tall, and Colum, you know, don't ask me how many cans of hairspray he used in a year, but he would have the hair for, like - and Colum, the bad thing was that Colum was kind of shy, but all the attention that Colum brought on himself - and he wasn't even a Cure-head or a goth, Colum was Colum's version of Colum and every time he walked up and down through Ballinasloe he would generate attention, and I never nailed my colours to the mast.
[00:21:19.05] And I'm into - And you probably even, like, might resent me saying that you were rockabilly or, I mean, you're probably like 'Don't label me' or whatever, but I just want to, like, what, like, that whole thing of being a thing and that, I mean, it's something I've never done and I'm always trying to understand, like, how does that come about, like, number one: am I allowed to say the term 'rockabilly', is that acceptable?
Yeah, you say whatever you want to say.
[00:21:49.04] But did you, like, do - Was there a moment for you when you had 'Oh, yeah, this is my tribe', or like - I'm just very curious about that whole thing, I don't really... And I feel like I don't want to insult you by saying 'Oh, you're rockabilly.' or 'You're this.' or 'You're that.'
No, no, no, no, you're not insulting me, no, I -
[00:22:07.11] Do you know what I'm asking about, it's kind of that -
I was always drawn to people who - I always liked left to centre, you know, as a teenager, we used to go to Mcgonagall's, I think it was the main place that we went, and Barkley Dillon’s, and that's where I went to all these clubs that I suppose because I remember feeling different and dressing different to whatever different ways and then turning up to the normal clubs and I remember when you meet similar minds, you know, when you're around sixteen, probably even younger, fifteen, sixteen, you meet similar minds and then you think 'Yes! At last!' you know? I get you and you get me and it's a wonderful time and I got really, you know, really into all that, but I was into blues, jazz and roots music and, you know, traditional Irish and, you know, all kinds of, rhythm and blues and rockabilly as well. So I've always sang a lot of different music, but I never felt drawn to one tribe. I liked to be different not for the sake of being different, but I just liked to feel like myself whatever that way that was and be able to express myself whatever way that needed to be, and I remember going to art school, I went for year to art college, and I just always wanted to express myself and I always - I think I was always creative and I was always encouraged at home, you know, but I always felt - I don't remember - there was longing in myself or unsettled feeling in myself until I could be creative and then I felt satisfied, you know?
[00:24:07.07] So this was, kind of, the birth of you as a singer or -
Yeah, as a singer or as a writer.
[00:24:11.22] Songwriter. When was that?
So I realised there was this satisfaction in me, I felt, when I create something, it was in need as opposed to I'm going to decide to be this, it was more a longing and a need which I think a lot of people who are creative - and I'm not saying you necessarily have to work, I think, like, that's your job, I'm talking about anybody -
[00:24:36.17] Yeah, yeah.
If you have a creative streak in you whatever your job is I think if you don't fulfil any of that creativity in you , one - it's an awful shame, and two - I think you feel like something is missing and I think anybody, you know, who is listening to this that has that whether it's, you know, painting or writing poetry or telling stories, knitting, sowing, you know, any kind of, making the Christmas cards, you know, there is a huge amount of satisfaction in that and pride, you know, in being creative and coming up with some kind of finished product, I think it's a huge, wonderful thing to be able to and I think the Irish are particularly good at it.
[00:25:16.22] It's in everyone though, I mean, that's something -
It's everyone, in Ireland we embrace it way more, you know, when you go around Ireland, you know, and you talk to anybody, you know, taxi drivers and they'll tell you they're a poet, you know, you don't get that all over the world. We love that and I think we're very good at it, you know, I do like that about us, but I never had a tribe, I think people will put me in it, in a tribe, but I suppose I - Yes, I had a hairdo -
[00:25:47.29] Well that's just what I was going to say, I mean -
And I loved that, I loved that, but that was - I've always changed, I've had many hairdos in my life, but I think people only got to know me with one, I've had quite a few before that as well.
[00:26:04.03] Right, so that was the hairdo of the first of your albums(?) so -
I'm a - No, it was the - Yeah.
[00:26:08.15] Or when you got known of it.
When I got known so I suppose people only knew me like that, but I've had - I wasn't born with that hairdo, and I've had many and I hope I'll have many more. I think the key for me is to just feel like myself and I needed a change in order to feel like myself again, you know, and I'm sure I'll do it again.
[00:26:30.24] And when you were - this longing to create, like, what kind of age are we talking about because I try to, you know, the whole process by you of kind of going 'This is what I want to do and I actually could do this', I mean at what kind of age and what was that like?
But do you know, one thing I kind of regret in - I was talking to somebody about this the other day that I - Not regret, by find it - I don't think music was ever pointed out to me as a career choice in school, I don't think it often is, it seems to be not like a real job, a frivolous stream, you know.
[00:27:10.00] Well it is get a real job, yeah.
But there is all kinds of - There was a - I did a photo shoot for magazine earlier today and there was a young girl doing work experience and her eyes were open to, you know, and I was saying it's a great industry and there's many, many sides of it, certainly in anything creative and I think a lot of schools are just academically lead and what happens to all the creators? There's yourself, you're sitting there doing your, you know, your radio show, somebody else, you know, will be editing it, there will be producers and there will be people working out the sound and there's a huge amount in the entertainment industry, there's lightning technicians, stage design, set design, and the photo shoot today, there was a photographer, there was lightning, somebody else doing make-up and hair and fashion and it's wonderful, there is so many jobs, there's, you know, merchandise, t-shirt designs, and there's so many ways to be creative just in that one business, and it was never laid out as career option in all of its forms, you have all that in acting and painting -
[00:28:16.24] And what were you expected to be growing up, what was the path that was the default?
Oh, I was lucky, nobody - My parents never forced anything. My mother just said 'You can do whatever you put your mind to, but do it well', you know, put your mind to it then if that's what you want to do, don't have to, and I started writing songs at thirteen, my sister wrote - Yeah, she still does, and plays guitar and she taught me my first chords on the guitar... My sister's boyfriend at the time, now husband, he was a musician and he encouraged me as well and I had an old uncle who was a singer and my dad was a dance teacher and my mother was dress-maker, so there was always creativity in the house, it was always encouraging, nobody ever said 'Get a real job', so I'm lucky with that.
[00:29:19.18] So from kind of thirteen onwards was there, like, no doubt in your mind that that's what you want to do?
I've had no idea, I was already gigging at sixteen and I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but I was already doing it, I never thought - I thought it was just something that I enjoy doing, I never thought it was a job, I never thought it was an option, and I was doing that thinking 'What am I going to do with my life?' while I was gigging every weekend, you know, and writing and coming to rehearsals and stuff and being completely committed to it and then still thinking 'I need to find out what is my calling'. I think that can happen with a lot of people, it's right in front of your nose, but you can't see it, you know?
[00:30:06.11] When did that stop, album number three or like -
Yeah, exactly, God, I don't know, I think it was only when I was immersed in it that I realised 'Oh, yeah, I can do this'.
[00:30:22.25] So like all those years - Can I just vision of, like, you having this big lager hard slog to make it and break it and all those years you were just like 'Oh, well, I do something else.'
I loved - I just - I could not do it what I was doing, I loved it, I loved gigging, I was drawn to it, I loved meeting people, I was always broke, I mean really broke and - But I just loved that, I remember joining bands and I was a backing vocalist and we toured around Ireland in a van with - It was Jon Angel and Dave Gooding from No Sweat set up a band and me and a great singer Josie Doherty did backing vocals and we toured around and -
[00:31:11.20] Oh, yeah, Josie from Derry.
Yeah, we toured around in this - Back of this van and we were only kids, you know, we turned up to these country pubs, I remember turning up to some place and the families all had their wellies on, I mean, it was in the middle of nowhere, we were in doing this rock, I think I was wearing a leopard print jumpsuit.
[00:31:33.07] Oh, my God, so the leopard print thing, that's stuck with you, the hairdo might have changed, but the leopard print had a bit of a legacy.
Rock and roll, I thought I was Ziggy, you know.
[00:31:46.15] Wow, I used to meet Josie with Bronagh Gallagher years ago, I haven't met Josie in years.
That's right, Bronagh Gallagher, ... Josie, Josie and me were in a band with them when we were - I think I was about seventeen.
[00:31:57.02] Wow, and was it like hair rock, was that the kind of, because No Sweat were hair rock, weren't they?
It's like 25 years ago, huh?
[00:32:02.03] They were like hair rock, they were like Ireland's first Bon Jovi.
It was a good band, it was a great band and great songs and we rehearsed and I think we went to record, there's recordings of us somewhere, we went to record and we - I think I remember we slept on mattresses just we'd sing until we just passed out, we'd doze on the mattress and then wake up and start singing again because you have to pay for your studio time so if you rent it that's what happens when you're for a lot of bands, you know, if you're broke, you rent your studio and you'll get it for twenty four hours and you want to use that twenty four hours so you'd might just try and have a little doze of couple of hours and start singing again because you can't afford to do two days of it, so you'll just use as many of those hours as you can.
[00:32:46.25] Because I have visions, like, is it 'Kentish Town' your ???
'Kentish Town Waltz', yeah.
[00:32:50.28] Like, for me that song is kind of quite a sad song because it feels like, you know, the kind of wet, broke London, that's what that song makes me feel like, it's just that heart slog in London making 70 quids a week for a long, long time and that's what I associate your years before success with that song for -
[00:33:13.01] So that's true, right?
Yeah, it is true.
[00:33:15.00] But you're painting a much brighter picture now, like, I thought it was like a grame, hard slog over a long time.
No, you're absolutely right, but I'm an optimist.
[00:33:28.02] And that works backwards as well as forwards.
So I just enjoyed the, you know, I enjoyed the journey of it if you like, rather than just the destination, not trying to make all the time, well, you know, you're trying to do better than you do, but, no, it was a hard slog, but I just loved it, I was just drawn to it, I loved meeting great musicians and writing songs and the buzz of learning new songs and travelling and touring and then I got, well I was broke, I got to see the world, you know, I joined a swing band and, you know, you might get paid not much money but I got to go and see Finland and Italy and France and all these places, you know, and you'd come home with, you know -
[00:34:16.16] A fiver in your pocket.
A tan and maybe 50 quid in your pocket if you're lucky, you know, and I remember one place in Finland we turned up at and there was - That's right, there was eleven in the band and I was the singer, it wasn't my band, and I was the singer, it's a swing band, and the guy, the promoter, because you get, you know, just people putting on a gig, a promoter putting on a gig in his local hall and we'd say 'Sure, you know, if you can pay us we're there'. And I remember we turned up and he put us, we turned up to this hotel and it was a budget hotel, you know those like really bright, white, pink, orange places, you know them? I don't know if you have as many of them in, the Scandinavian countries have them, and you might see the likes in Japan, tiny, tiny, bright little rooms, and we turned up and he handled us three keys and we're like 'There is eleven of us.' and he booked three rooms and he said 'You can stay with me' to the leader of the band.
[00:35:25.06] I thought he said to you.
No, to me he said 'You can stay with my friend who turned up in a banger outside’, and I said 'I'm not getting into car with him, I don't know who he is', so I sat with all the other lads, they said 'Oh, he'll go', so I went in and I thought I'd rather stay with guys that I know than this strange Finnish guy that I've never met, and yeah, he booked three rooms for, it was nine of us, and two of us staying elsewhere and it was three to a room and there was one bed in this tiny, tiny box room, and lo and behold another bed slid out from beside the single bed and then another one came out of the wall and the toilet was the shower, it was a toilet with a showerhead over so you could actually sit on the loo and have a shower at the same time, that small, so we were doing those gigs and they were adventurous, you know.
[00:36:17.15] And did you at any stage become desponded and go 'Oh, come on, I'd given up', or you see, what really like(?) I was wondering, you know, what stage did it go 'This is me trying to make it', or 'This is me going well, I'll do something else', or you know, is there like a -
[00:36:37.03] What was your lowest ??? is probably what I'm asking.
[00:36:40.01] No, I know, like, what was the, like, 'Oh, Jesus, I just, like, got to jack this in', you know, because you were an over-night success after a long time, you know.
What happened to me probably around when I turned thirty, I think, I'd been doing it a while, long while, a long time and yeah, I was singing in other people's bands and I was writing and writing and writing myself and I just remember feeling unfulfilled creatively, I was just bored and I was starting to make mistakes while I sang which I didn't like because I was - I liked to pride myself on being professional, I always learnt my songs very well and I'd be prepared. And I remember while I was singing my mind drifted because I was just bored and it was a covers band, loads of covers, lovely stuff but I just wasn't being fulfilled at all and I thought 'Okay, this has to stop, this has to change'. Maybe I do that every decade, maybe it's a thing, and then I just ... 'This has to stop, change of plans', and I thought I'm going to throw myself into it and see what happens now and ever, and I left the band that I was in that was making money, at last I was a professional musician, I was able to quit my jobs in the restaurants and I was at last making money in a band and I quit it.
[00:38:22.17] And how long was music your full time job in this band before you've had enough, like, so giving up all your side jobs how long have you full time making money out of music?
Probably a year or two.
[00:38:34.12] A year or two, and then when you left the band -
I was in that band for four or five years because I was used - I was doing jobs at the same time and eventually we started to get enough gigs that I could get rid of all other jobs.
[00:38:43.06] And how abruptly did you leave? Like, how, how, like, what was that?
Oh, pretty quick; I got offer to record deal and I sent tapes away around to people and stuff, like, you do, I invited a few people to come to gigs and I got offer to record deal by, nobody asked me this, I got offer to record deal by a guy who ran Candid Records, a jazz label in London, small label, and I went there with the intention of getting a record deal for me and the band because it wasn't my band and he said 'No, I'm signing you, I'm not signing the band'. So I worked it out that he would have my name and the name of the band in it and he said 'That's the only way that that's going to happen', so I'm back to the band and I said - I told them what happened and they said 'Absolutely not, this is the band or nothing' and then I knew I had to leave the band because I knew nothing was going to change so I handed my note saying within one month I'd - I think it was a month, I said I'd stay until they got replacement singer and I think it took about a month or two months and then I had no income.
[00:39:58.04] And you had this back other songs, literally, you were writing songs all the time and you're going 'Why am I writing all these songs and sing someone else's?'
Yes, and then I called around members of bands that, friends of mine that I've been in bands with and I asked them to set up some rehearsals, I asked them would they like to join me for some rehearsals and the piano player knew of a room - they lived in Birmingham - knew of a room in old like a dancehall that they did, like, bingo and things in and they said they'd rent it to us for a five run hour (?) so I said okay. So I used to get train up to Birmingham and rehearse there for the day and get a train back and sleep on somebody's floor and come back and that's not that long ago, it's about ten years ago.
[00:40:52.02] And what where the -
And then I remember the feeling of hearing my own songs and working on them and I think it was one of the greatest feelings in the world, and then that was it, I couldn't go back.
[00:41:03.00] You knew you were home.
I just felt fire, I felt a fire in my belly that I'd never felt, you know, it was just fabulous. I just felt like I was very thirsty and I was having a lovely long, cool drink, you know, and I felt really good and I thought 'This is what I need to be doing'. And I just went for it and luckily it all started to pay off, I could feel the vibes change immediately and then people started coming to the gigs and it changed very quickly, you know, the gigs, it started with 20 people, then 50 people, then 100 people and I could feel something was happening and, yeah, ???
[00:41:51.00] What were those songs about? What were you putting out into the world at that point, like, what did you feel that it was all worthwhile, you know, you're putting yourself out there, you stand on stage, you're bearing your soul, what are you saying, what's coming out of your mouth?
Oh, God, everything, everything, and then I recorded 'Love Tattoo' and then got record deal and stuff like that after that, but just writing about everything, anything influences you as a writer, you know, life, other people's lives, your own life, things you hear from people at the bus stop chat and then just, doubts and love.
[00:42:27.00] And if you would be filled with fear, aged thirty, and gone 'Oh, I just hate this cushy existence that I have and not risk it'.
I've never been one for that, I'm not one to sell and I do try to, you know, I do, I think I have a mixture of, you know, kind of, traditional and salt of the Earth mixed with one to fly in the clouds, you know, I have that kind of ..?. odds .?.. in myself at all the times and I think I often will, you know, knuckle down and get it on with it, I'm one of those. But then there comes a point where you think 'No, I'm not going make deal, you have one life and this isn't working and I got to change it', you know, and I did that then and I've done it since and probably will do again.
[00:43:31.19] That feels like it's almost like a thing to have tattooed on your wrist 'We have one life'.
Yeah, we have, I mean, we make the most of it, but you have to learn from as well, you have to learn from mistakes and, you know, you can make the most of stuff to a point and then if you're, you know, deeply unfulfilled you have to do something about it and not at the expense of everybody else, I'm not one of those you have to make yourself happy at all costs, not at the expense of everyone else, but you can't overly compromise until, you know, it doesn't work so when I was in, you know, the other bands and working along like that, I could have said 'Well, at last I'm making my money and this is good enough, you know, I'm not feeling fulfilled, but this is better than waiting on table so this is good enough'. I don't think that, I think push it to the limit, you know, go for it, I do gamble in life, sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn't, but I'd rather regret what I do rather than regret what I don't do.
[00:44:37.24] Amen, amen, yeah.
Yeah, and that's the optimist, I think, again, you know?
[00:44:46.19] It's funny, I think there's a great place in the world for pessimists as well, like, I think a world with just optimists could become a little bit imbalanced so for reason as pessimism, like, you could rebrand it in a way that it's almost like just - Because I think, I can only speak for myself, I rush in a lot, and, you know, sometimes without considering all the facts whereas sometimes it's good to have the influence of somebody who can hold back and take a wider view.
And we all balance each other out, we all balance each other out. I think you have to have people around you that will tell you the truth as well, good friends that can tell you when you're being an idiot or when you're right or when you're wrong and you have to, you know, that's why I said you can't do things at all costs, you have to listen to people around you that can see clearly sometimes, you know. If you have close friends or family, if they're saying 'Go for it', then you'll go for it; if they say 'Absolutely not, you're being mad', but if they're people you respect, you know, you'll listen to them. But we all have to be, I think we all balance each other out if we can, I think my parents are always - I loved the way that my dad had said that my mom is - He's the kite and mom is the tail and they balance each other out, she keeps him grounded, otherwise he'd fly off into the wind, and he -
[00:46:15.28] How does she feel about being the tail?
No, but she - He lifts her above the ground, you know, otherwise she wouldn't fly and it's a lovely ??? that the two of them together make a kite, one without the other wouldn't be any good and I think we all need that, you know?
[00:46:33.01] Yes, lovely.
I'm sitting here with David Hockney booked in front of me, I went to see his exhibition the other day and he is from up north in England, quite a working class, I mean, mining town, you know, and look what he is created; do you think he could have created that by being a pessimist? Absolutely not, to think he would even try to do what (have?) been, when I'm thinking 'I can do this' or 'I can give this a go', definitely where he is from and what he ended up achieving is, you know, making history by being one of the greatest living artists.
[00:47:14.29] And he went to LA and soaked in the sunshine.
He took gambles, that mustn’t been easy to do, you know, mustn't been an easy, I don't know, but mustn't been an easy transition, he must have been wondering 'Am I doing the right thing?' at some point.
[00:47:30.25] Well 360 days a year of sunshine -
And he was gay, you know, which wouldn't have been harder for him where he was from at that time, you know?
[00:47:34.21] Oh, where he is from, for sure, but going to LA where you've got 360 days of sunshine is a nice cushion, you know, it's got to help you ease the pain of being away from home, for sure.
That's true, that's true, yeah.
[00:47:46.26] But then, when you go away to somewhere like LA, and I don't know, I mean, you're not living in Ireland, you say you're living in London, like, when I go to place like LA that I really love I'm still like 'You know what, I still love Ireland for all its false and I don't know why'.
I love Ireland, I love Ireland, I'd like to come back. I know why I love Ireland, I love people in Ireland, the people in Ireland are phenomenal, I like, lyrical way of speaking, I like the rhythms and the way people talk and the language how people express themselves, I love the humour, and I love that people can be both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time, people don't limit themselves in Ireland as much as other countries might think, 'Ah, you know, I better just be this', where, I think, everybody you meet is a poet or a storyteller and it's a very, very creative place, Ireland is, I think it always has been.
[00:49:00.20] And do you see yourself as being, like, in temporary exile, like, I mean, are you, like, are you in England for good or, like, is it just where you happen -
I never even planned to go there, it just worked out, life works out that way sometimes. I went there for a while, I fell in love and ran off to England and then I ended up staying there, getting married and have a child and I'm still there, but I went there for work as well, you know, there was - There was ??? going to, yes, I fell in love and ran to England with an Englishman, but I wanted to push myself with singing because I gigging in Dublin.
[00:49:47.12] Yeah, there is only so far you can get in Ireland, I mean -
Well, I think, no, I mean, you can do really well in Ireland, but I know personally I've gotten too comfortable in that, you know, you're doing the same pubs at the same circles, you're meeting the same people, and that was my own fault, I'm sure I could've done more things here, but you get familiar and it's nice and it's comfy and I remember really enjoying and thinking actually knowing I need to really push myself and when I went to London I found the competitiveness alluring, you know, it drew me to it, 'Oh, I like this, I better open the game'. And it made me scrub up because there was so many more people going for the one, you know, singing job or whatever, if you'd hear there was a band going you get - You know, you get in there quick before someone else got it and then somebody else that be trying to be the backing vocalist or singer and they'd be really good and have learnt everything and I thought 'Ah!', so it made me scrub up.
[00:50:46.18] It's like 'New York, New York', if you can make it there you can make it everywhere.
Yeah, yeah, and so it was good for me, England was good for me to be in a new, big city to not know anyone and push myself as a singer, anyway, and learn as much, meeting new people, I like meeting people, so I found that very important, it wasn't a plan to stay there and then that's what happens, life happens like that, who knows, maybe, you know, maybe I'll come back, maybe I'll go somewhere else.
[00:51:18.28] I kind of feel for you at the moment in terms of, like, the new album and, like, I don't know how you steeled yourself for putting it out into the world because, you know, everyone is listening to every lyrics and analysing everything and then, and you know that you've to face people for days and days and days and I know, I suspect that you just can't wait to just go and play live and bypass all that.
Yes, and then just have - I mean, you have to do interviews in order to get - It's part of the job, I suppose, unless you're, you know, you get to the point where you don't have to them anymore.
[00:52:00.20] Yeah, you just do Instagram clips like Beyonce, yeah.
And I think it's - You have to, in order to try and connect with people to let people know you have a new album, but ultimately you want people to come to your gigs and then that's where you get the more intimate connection and it's weird when it's intimate and it's loads of people, but you do get that electricity in the room and -
[00:52:22.00] But was it hard to face inter?
It is, not 'was', it is, I mean, I've just - I did my run of interviews and stuff in England and France, Germany and going to France and going to America next week, I've just done my first – I’ve just finished an interview here and I just burst into tears afterwards when the fellow went because it's just so personal, they ask questions do you think -
[00:52:49.06] That you're best friend wouldn't ask.
Yeah, I know, and it just got me in a big not inside my belly and I answered them fine, and he wouldn't have known, but as soon as he left the room I just burst into tears (??? record ??? I was going 'I'll be grounded' I'm just ??? overcome???), you know, complete stranger just saying 'So, tell me why didn't your marriage work?' and you’re like 'Gulp, khm khm, oooh, did you just ask me that?’
[00:53:11.20] 'I'm still dealing with it myself.'
And then he was saying 'Well you got to give me something, it's an interview', and I'd say 'But, you know, you don't want to talk about it', 'But it's in your songs', and I'd go 'Oh, that's true'. And it's just trying to get the balance right of 'Yes, I wrote stuff in my songs, I don't want to pour my heart out to a stranger for everybody to read on their newspaper while they're sitting on the toilet or wherever they're reading it', but I do know in order to do an interview you have to give something, I'm not a fool, you can't just glaze over everything, I'm just trying to get the balance, I'm just a normal person trying to muddle through -
[00:53:54.07] But you were saying earlier that you don't really think about what you're writing when you're writing your songs, but the album for me it feels really timeless, but it feels like - There's a line in one of the song 'A tear shed for every good year', I don't know if I got it exactly right, but it feels like -
'Black tears, one will fall for every good year'.
[00:54:12.22] But it really feels that a lot of tears are yet to be shed over this album, not just to you, but I think there'll be a lot of hugging the pillows listening to this album.
There's a lot of happy songs on there as well because -
[00:54:25.16] Takes a while to get to them, but people, like, I just have that vision of somebody, like, literally crying themselves to sleep with the album on.
Well I wrote some of them like that; I remember singing 'Should've Been You', I still have it on my phone, I sang it into my phone underneath the covers in floods of tears, you can hardly hear what I was saying, I sound like a wailing banshee, but then the writer has to - You have to put me writer's hat the next day and turn it into a song.
[00:54:57.18] So you'd wake up next day 'Oh, I got some good material'.
Yeah, yeah, so you got to - It's trying to get the balance of the connection keeping it raw and turning it into a well crafted song and that's the balance for anybody who writes a song, because if it's too well crafted you lose the connection because it's too clever, you know, it's - and then you lose people along the way if you try and get too clever with it, too cerebral, you know, whereas if you're writing a song you want to keep the connection whereas just simple, but you want to craft it. I mean, you said I didn't know what I was doing, I knew - Yes, I wanted to work on each song, they didn't accidentally happen, you know, I will work on each song, but I didn't want to have a plan when I was writing the album and stuff, I didn't want to think 'Oh.' - On the other albums, I think, I knew, I know what this album is going to be, on this one I didn't know what it was going, I didn't know what was going to come out of me and I liked that, I didn't want to know. I wanted to just write and see what came out, and I was quite happy with how it was going and I - It was just honest and I hope people will connect to; there are heartbreaking songs there, but then there's happy songs not because I was trying to write, I wasn't trying to write an album, I was just trying to document the feel-like or go with what the feeling was at that particular day, and some days, for everybody have good days and in some case you have bad days so I'll be heartbroken one day and I'll write a heartbroken song and then another day I think 'Oh, I feel, it is nice' so you might meet somebody nice, they go 'Oh, well that's nice' and then you think 'Oh.'
[00:56:45.27] Maybe that's one of the secrets of remaining an optimist, is to, kind of, confront the things that hurt you.
Yeah, maybe. Go with it, go with it, that's what I wanted to do on this, go with it, don't go against it, don't try and make it happen and make it not happen, just go with it and see where it takes you. And I wanted the album to almost lead me, you know, the songs to lead me, that's what the album was going to be and I was quite happy to follow what was just naturally coming out of me, but there are loads of optimistic songs on there because that's the journey, if you like, for one for better word, you seem to have taken enough of the Americans.
[00:57:25.04] An X factor.
It's the journey, yeah, that was the journey that I was taking,
[00:57:30.04] Well I think 'Go with it' is a great slogan to finish with.
Yeah, you have to go with it.
[00:57:38.03] And I appreciate your time, I know you've got, like -
Thank you for taking the time and asking me such lovely questions, not making me burst into tears. My next album is going to be about interviews, the trauma of interviews, 'Make it stop' I'm going to call it.
[00:57:59.19] So from 'Go With It' to 'Make It Stop'. Imelda, thank you, thank you so -
Thanks very much.