Posted On 30 Jun 2017
“Life. Love. Flesh. Blood” is the name of the Irish singer-songwriter Imelda May’s most recent and fifth studio album. It was released on April 21st via Decca Records.
This record was more stripped-down than previous efforts, with an accompanying shift in her image that found her eschewing her trademark blonde-accented pompadour in favor of a dark brunette shag. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, it also featured guest performances from friends and collaborators Jeff Beck and Jools Holland.
Learn more about Imelda May in the following All Access interview:
I know you’ve been very busy so thank you for your time today!
Yes, I just landed in Dublin from London. Doing the summer thing where I’m going to see my mother now and I’m glad to be home for a day or two.
So, how would you describe this year for you and your music?
Liberating. Exciting. It feels great.
Did you approach this year any differently than you did last year? Did you have a plan for this year? Did you know that you wanted to release an album and tour?
I never have a plan. I never do those … I never have structure where I need to achieve this or that. I don’t do that. My only thing is to write the best album that I can write. I wanted to not know what album I wanted to write, which gives you freedom. You’re not restricted then so I just didn’t want to know what it was going to be.
So I could just write without any preconceived notions about what it should be or what was expected even of myself. So that was lovely. I wanted to make the best album I could make. Then I wanted to go out and work my ass off gigging and touring and all those things have happened. You know, I’m happy with it so it’s kind of …
I don’t think, “Oh, this year I have to do this.” I just think, “I want to make the best music I can make and then play it.”
What was it like making this fifth album, Life, Love, Flesh, Blood? Was there anything different about the process for you this time around?
Yes. I did some co-writing on this album, which I’ve never done before. So, that was nice. I wanted to try, to see how other people work, you know? Because I always write alone and that is quite a solitary thing and I find it really good but I think it’s good to get out of your comfort zone a little and I wanted to see how other people write. I wrote with about three people. The sounds that I used are new as well.
What was it like working with T-Bone Burnette?
It was a no-brainer for me. I was really delighted when he said yes. It was just great working with him, learning from him and getting to know him as well as working with him.
He’s a great guy so it was all great for me. We recorded it in about a week. In 7 days! It was all just so fresh and exciting, you know?
Was it kind of like therapy writing these songs and putting this album together because so much of it was about your personal life and what you had been going through?
You know all of my albums are about my personal life. Most of it. I write and I hide things in there and in this album I wanted to highlight what I’m thinking about. I wasn’t scared probably because I was blissfully ignorant. If I could write it again, I don’t know. I might be a little bit more guarded. I’m not sure.
Some of the interviews, not this one by the way, but some of the interviews have been very cut throat like gossipy headlines. Sometimes I worry that maybe I revealed too much. I hope it doesn’t effect how I write in the future. It might though. I don’t know. I don’t know but we’ll see. I’m glad that I did what I did and the audience seems to like the album by being so honest. I think you can connect more with people by the whole truth. Listeners can kind of relate to what you’re saying if you say it honestly.
It’s just an album that I had to make. This was the album that was in me. I’m really glad I did it.
How has all this touring been going and how do you keep up the energy, all these shows you’ve been doing?
Coffee, coffee, coffee. (Laughter) Every night I still get energized. The adrenaline is pumping like crazy. I gave up most of my adult life, all of my adult life. This is what I love to do. You write an album and you make it and you do all the promo, all the promotion, you just want to get out on the road. I just love it. It gives me energy. I feel like I’m flying sometimes you know. It’s when you get home, that’s when you collapse. When you stop, that’s when your body falls apart. So while I keep going, it’s all good.
Have you been able to spend time with Elvis Costello yet or are those still to come?
I’ve gotten to spend some time with him before so that was nice. I got to sing. I sang in London for a big celebration for the Century, 100 years and celebrate the Irish Freedom.
We sang ‘What’s So Funny’ and I really enjoyed singing with him. The next time I was in Nashville. He’s a good guy. A really good guy. So I’m thrilled to be going on this tour and opening up for him. It’s a great honor for me. He’s a phenomenal song writer too, you know? I hope I get to sing with him again.
I’d like to write with him.
Who are some other musicians that you look up to for inspiration and that you’ve been loving since you started making music?
Blake Mills, I cannot get enough of Blake Mills at the moment. I’ve been listening to him non-stop. He’s just such a great songwriter and producer. His gift is fabulous. All the great songwriters inspire me.
I was just looking at your Instagram and your Facebook. I love that your social media is really showing the behind the scenes of your tour life. Is that something that you put an effort into doing?
No. I just like to joke about … I like to have a bit of fun and if that’s what comes out, that’s how it goes.
A lot of people see the glamorous side of it and that’s all smoke and mirrors, you know? A great lighting guy. Just great lights and a stage and great musicians. It’s a lot of work. We have a lot of fun. Yeah, otherwise there’s no point in life.
You talked about this a little bit but at the end of the day I think a lot of people we all look to music to lift us up and to make us forget about our problems or make us think about our issues. What do you hope that people, your fans, continue to take away from your music?
Oh wow. I hope they connect with me. That’s what I want. Connection. We’re on this planet for a short period of time. It’s a very strange planet at the moment. I want to connect with people. Especially like minded people. If we can get to the goal where we have something in common.
We all feel the same at certain times in our lives I think you know? Stuff happens and you know … In my album I wrote over a period of the year in my life. Like a part of my life. There’s heartbreak and hope and joy and guilt and regret and desire and all those things. We’re all human. We all feel and think those things. I wrote all of that in one of my songs called ‘The Human’. So many songs where you hear my baby, my darling, my angel, my queen, my princess…. I can’t be any of those things. I must be a human. We all have our ups and downs and our faults and if I can write that and articulate that, somebody else is feeling it and not being able to put it into words. If I can be their words, then we can have some kind of connection, then I’m happy for that.
Yes well said. Well thank you so much for your time Imelda. I really appreciate it. Best of luck on the rest of your tour.
You can listen to the full interview here on Soundcloud as well: