p8 Imelda May comes home for Christ­mas. She talks to Lauren Mur­phy,

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

IMELDA MAY would like to make one thing clear: if she has to an­swer one more ques­tion about Fin­dus Fish Fin­gers, she might re­gret her ac­tions.

You can’t blame her, re­ally. Who wants to spend time talk­ing about a throw­away ra­dio ad un­der­taken as a teenager, when you’re one of Ir­ish mu­sic’s big­gest exports since... gulp... Westlife?

In many ways, the rock­a­billy queen’s dom­i­nance has stretched even fur­ther afield than that of the pop pup­pets, par­tic­u­larly since the last year’s for­ti­fied a fan­base won over by 2008’s break­through al­bum

Gram­mys per­for­mance? In the bag. US prime­time chat show ap­pear­ances? No prob­lem. Ego kept in check through­out? Ab­so­lutely. Life may be lived in­side some­thing of a bub­ble these days, but Imelda May Higham is as nor­mal as they come – for a su­per­star-in-wait­ing.

“Maybe if it all stopped, you’d think ‘God, we’ve done this and done that’, or some­times – say when we were do­ing when he’s in­tro­duc­ing you and he starts say­ing every­thing that you’ve done – then I get im­pressed! I say ‘That does sound good’,” she says with a glee­ful ma­chine-gun cackle.

“In a way, it’s been all very grad­ual for me – and I sup­pose, be­ing that lit­tle bit older as well [she is 37], you take it as it comes.”

Has she been starstruck by any­body she’s met along the way? “I thought I was gonna be starstruck by David Bowie, but he was so nice that he made me feel at ease. I sup­pose Clint East­wood. When I met him, I couldn’t string a sen­tence to­gether, apart from ‘I love yooouuu!’

“And the other was Eartha Kitt. She told me off, be­cause I told her it was a ‘great gig’ and she said she doesn’t do those any­more: “It was a show, dar­ling.” Then I went to shake her hand and she put it out for me to kiss it. So that was a bit odd. But yeah, I’m get­tin’ around. It’s mad, isn’t it?!”

It’s hard to imag­ine May get­ting ideas above her sta­tion, although many peo­ple won­dered if per­haps fame had changed her when sto­ries sur­faced ear­lier this year of her al­legedly kick­ing sup­port band The Ettes off a US tour for al­legedly trash-talk­ing her in an in­ter­view.the Dubliner tells an­other side of the story.

“I’m not one of those peo­ple who do tit-for­tat sto­ries; they were do­ing in­ter­views left, right and cen­tre, so I said I’d just leave them to it,” she says.

“I like to help sup­port bands out in the ex­act same way I’ve been helped out. You’re try­ing to get out there to a big­ger au­di­ence, a dif­fer­ent au­di­ence. And I al­ways pay the sup­port band well; a lot of bands won’t pay them, or use a DJ or co­me­dian, or what­ever. I make sure they’re fed, and that they have plenty of beers in the fridge, and make sure they can sell their CDS.

“In say­ing that, I’m also a big believer in sup­port bands be­ing easy to deal with, so when I’m turn­ing up to my own gigs, I have no prob­lems. And I just can’t say that for that band. I sent a mes­sage to them ask­ing them to turn up and we’d have a chat, smooth it all out, and it’d all be fine, and they never turned up.

“They went men­tal in­stead. So I said, OK, for­get it. It wasn’t worth it for ev­ery­one who was work­ing for me, they were hav­ing a hard time too.”

Much has been made of May’s roots in in­ner-city Dublin, her sup­port­ive fam­ily and her proud neigh­bours. Yet be­cause of her back­ground, the press has con­ve­niently molded her into a “work­ing-class hero”. Isn’t that un­com­fort­able for any mu­si­cian who wants to be judged by their mu­sic alone?

“It’s def­i­nitely about the mu­sic, but there’s no point deny­ing who you are, ei­ther,” she shrugs. “You can’t pre­tend you’re any­thing that you’re not, and I’m very proud of be­ing

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