Naomi Penn reviews the impressive Slam Dunk Festival, bringing a host of alternative artists to BirminghamWritten by Naomi Penn on 24th June 2018
Redbrick Meets: Imelda May
Zoe Screti chats to Imelda May about her upcoming album Life Love Flesh Blood and tour
Her signature hairdo which was so quintessentially rockabilly has been replaced by an edgy fringe, and her music also has a new edge to it. One of the striking things about ‘Call Me’, the first track from Life Love Flesh Blood, is the sheer emotional rawness which beautifully runs through the core of the track, something which was only enhanced in the stripped back version of the song Imelda performed for W! Magazine. Speaking of how the album came together, Imelda said, “I just wrote and wrote and wrote and was as honest as I could be. It was almost therapeutic in a way. I wasn’t thinking about anyone else. I just wanted to stop, be still and start again and write and see where it went.” It is this reflection on life and change that appears to have infused Imelda’s new music with heartfelt honesty and raw emotion, perfectly suiting the album title by reflecting the highs and lows of life. And according to Imelda, fans can expect the emotion of ‘Call Me’ to run throughout the remainder of the album.
Whilst the album may have a raw, emotional heart, Imelda was keen to reject notions that the album is a ‘break-up album’, as has been reported. “There are break-up songs on there” she explained, “but there are also happy songs, in love songs, falling in love, falling out of love, guilt, lust, songs about spending too much, songs about my family… I just let life influence it and influence how I wrote.” It is therefore clear that life with all its beauty and pain is really central to this album. One particularly poignant moment on the album is based around an event that impacted many people, Imelda included: the Paris terror attacks. In Paris at the time of the Bataclan shooting which killed a man who had worked at International on Imelda’s previous albums and would have worked on this one, Imelda noted how surreal and sad that moment was. Shortly after whilst at dinner with U2, who had also been in Paris at the same time, a preacher stood and read a poem which said that there are only two emotions in life, not love and hate but love and fear, a moment of poignancy which would lead Imelda to write a song currently called ‘The Choice’ (although Imelda warned that she is still changing some song titles), which is featured on her upcoming album. “Everything influenced this album - things people would say and my experience. I just wrote everything down and put my heart and soul into this album,” Imelda concluded.
“Everything influenced this album - things people would say and my experience. I just wrote everything down and put my heart and soul into this album
“Before I wrote the last album, Tribal,” Imelda continued, “I knew what kind of album I wanted to write, so it was intentionally as heavy as I wanted to go and it touched on a lot more punk. I knew I wanted to write Tribal and go as heavy as I wanted so that then I could step away. So in that sense Life Love Flesh Blood was intentional in that I knew I wanted to change. But on the other hand, I didn’t know what I wanted the next album to be and I loved that. For each album I knew what I wanted to write, except perhaps the first one, Love Tattoo. I had a lot of freedom with that one and I wanted to get that back. I wanted to not know what the album would be and just write and see what came out.” If ‘Call Me’ is anything to go by, what came out of Imelda’s bid for freedom was sheer musical genius and beauty.
Many fans are supportive of Imelda’s attempt to be “creative with boundaries” and let the songs lead her rather than the other way around, and her band are no different. Whilst the band do not feature on the album, which was produced with T-Bone Burnett and his own band alongside outstanding and renowned musicians such as Jeff Beck and Jools Holland, the band nevertheless supported Imelda’s decision to alter her musical direction. Talking about the decision to use a different band for the album, Imelda said, “I was working with T-Bone Burnett and I had wanted to work with him for a long time; he is a brilliant producer and a wonderful man and I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. I produce my own albums and I love producing so I was interested to see what he could bring to my music and I wanted to see how he did it. I was lucky enough to do that - he is an absolute genius. But one of the things he said was that he wanted me to use his band, and I thought about it for a long time and then I said ‘OK, let’s do it’.” Whilst this wasn’t an easy decision for either Imelda or her band, the result, as seen with ‘Call Me’, is sublime, allowing Imelda the opportunity to work with some incredible musicians.
“My band wanted me to make the best album I could make and now we’re in the process of making the best live show we can make and we’re doing that together