Imelda Mary Higham (born Imelda Mary Clabby; 10 July 1974), professionally known as Imelda May, is an Irish musician, producer and singer-songwriter. Born and raised in The Liberties area of Dublin, May began her career in music at age sixteen—performing with a number of local bands and musicians— before forming her own band in 2002. She released her debut studio album, No Turning Back, in 2003 and relocated to London, United Kingdom with husband and guitarist Darrel Higham after its release. Following an appearance on the BBCmusic programme Later... with Jools Holland in 2008, she released her second studio album, Love Tattoo (2009). May collaborated and toured with a number of artists following its release. Her similarly received third studio album, Mayhem, was released in 2010 and earned her a nomination for the Choice Music Prize.[1]

Although known primarily as a singer, May also plays the bodhránguitarbass guitar and tambourine. Described as "a unique vocal talent," May is known for her musical style of rockabilly revival and has also been compared to female jazz musicians such as Billie Holiday.[2] She won the Best Female Artist of the Year award at the 2009 Meteor Awards.[3]


 [hide*1 Early life and career

Early life and career[edit]Edit

May was born in Dublin on 10 July 1974 in the Liberties in the south inner city.[4] She is the youngest of five siblings, with sisters Edel Foy and Maria O'Reilly, and brothers Brendan Clabby and Fintan Clabby. In 1991, She attended Senior College Ballyfermot, where she studied Art, Graphics and Printmaking. Her early musical influences were folk and rock and roll, especially the music of Buddy HollyEddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. By the age of nine, she was a fan of Rockabilly and Blues, particularly Elmore James and Billie Holiday. At fourteen, she sang in an advertisement for Findus Fish Fingers; of which she told Graham Norton on his talk show that she and her friends as a result "got known as the Fish Finger Girls." However, her career began at age 16 when she began touring the Dublin club circuit and she was occasionally barred from her own shows at Dublin's Bruxelles club for being underage. "I was getting tips from the best musicians in Dublin," May said. "One of them said, 'your voice is great, but it needs to roughen.'" It was around this time, when driving a tearful Imelda to a gig after a boyfriend break-up, that her father asked her, "Is your heart broken? Excellent. Now you can sing the blues."[5] After moving to the UK in 1998, May began singing with Blue Harlem and Mike Sanchez.[6]

Professional career[edit]Edit

“Some people think the only way of doing well or of having a career in music is to go the X Factor route, but a lot of people lose the joy out of music by going that way, possibly because they're so incredibly focused on other people's ideas of success.”

Imelda May in 2009, selected as a quote of that year by The Irish Times.[7][1][2]May at the Azkena Rock Festival, Spain, 2010

May began her professional career in 2003, forming her band and releasing No Turning Back (Foot Tapping Records) under her maiden name, Imelda Clabby. Specializing in rockabillymusic, the album was later re-recorded and re-issued by Foot Tapping Records under her married name in 2005.

In 2007, she joined a recording contract with Ambassador Records (a subsidiary of Foot Tapping Records), and recorded her second album. Love Tattooreached No. 1 in Ireland and received wide critical acclaim. It caught the attention of Jools Holland,[8] whom she later supported on tour, which led him to request that she appear on his well-known music show Later... with Jools Holland. She was well received in the United Kingdom, performing to an audience that included Jeff BeckElbow, and Roots Manuva. Her first two singles, "Johnny Got a Boom Boom" and "Big Bad Handsome Man", were released on 23 January 2009. She performed on Ireland's most popular television show, The Late Late Show. She won Female Artist of the Year at the 2009 Meteor Awards. May has also toured the United States including, most recently, a tour with Jamie Cullum. On 14 August 2009, she appeared on RTÉ's Other Voices singing "Johnny Got a Boom Boom" and an unplugged version of "Big Bad Handsome Man".

On 31 January 2010, she performed at the 52nd Grammy Awards with Jeff Beck in tribute to Les Paul.[9] After some promotional performances at festivals, such as the Eurosonic Festivalin Groningen, Netherlands,[10] she released her third studio album, Mayhem, in Ireland on 3 September 2010 — again reaching No. 1 in the Irish Album Charts — and in the United Kingdom on 4 October 2010.[11][12] On 18 July 2011, May made her network television debut on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, performing "Mayhem," in promotion of the album's recent release in the U.S. and later appeared on Conan on 8 August.

May contributed a cover of Buddy Holly's "I'm Looking for Someone to Love" for the tribute album, Listen to Me: Buddy Holly, released on 6 September 2011.

Performances with other artists[edit]Edit

May has shared the stage with Wanda JacksonAlison MoyetLou ReedBonoDavid GilmourSharon CorrThe SupremesBrian SetzerThe DublinersMadeleine PeyrouxMatt BiancoElvis CostelloJools HollandJeff BeckSharon Shannon and Meat Loaf . She has worked with producers Tony Visconti and Peter Asher. She also sings in The Candy Box Burlesque Club in Birmingham. She has appeared alongside The World Famous Palookaville Burlesque Orchestra at every Candy Box show since it started in February 2006.

May has sung for the Flashmonkey burlesque band, a popular night at Cafe De Paris in London, also featuring trumpeter/composer John Eacott.

In 2009, she recorded the official Children in Need single alongside Cara DillonTerry WoganHayley Westenra, and others at Abbey Road Studios. In 2010, she participated on Emotion & Commotion by Jeff Beck, singing on the track "Lilac Wine" and also on the Japanese CD bonus track "Poor Boy". On 11 November 2010, she appeared as a guest on BBC2's comedy panel music show, Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

In 2010, she performed with Meat Loaf as part of the UK leg of his Hang Cool Tour. That same year she and her band, along with Jeff Beck and several other notables, were honoring Les Paul at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, where the session was recorded. During 2011, she and her band toured with Jeff Beck.

In August 2011 she performed on The Tonight Show with Jay LenoConan and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

On 16 December 2011, she played to a capacity crowd of 12,000 in the O2 Dublin, with Bono making a surprise appearance as her guest.

On New Year's Eve 2011 she appeared on Jools Holland's Hootenanny on BBC2 Television in the UK.

On New Year's Eve 2012, May performed at a New Year's Eve Concert in College Green, alongside Bell X1 and The Coronas. She performed Johnny Got a Boom BoomMayhem and many more. She also announced on to Miriam O'Callaghan that same night that, after she was finished touring, she would go back into the studio in March and hopefully have an album out by the end of the year.

Personal life[edit]Edit

May married her guitarist and band member, Darrel Higham in 2002. In February 2012, the couple announced that May was pregnant with their first child, expected in August.[13][14] May is a vegetarian.[15]

It was announced on her official Facebook page that May gave birth to a daughter, Violet Kathleen Higham, on Thursday the 23rd of August, 2012.[16] The baby made a surprise appearance during the New Year Concert in Dublin.[17]


Main article:Imelda May discography;Studio albums

Band members[edit]Edit

Awards and nominations[edit]Edit

Year Organisation Nominated work Award Result
2009 2009 Meteor Awards Imelda May Best Irish Female Won
2010 RTÉ Radio 1[18] Mayhem Album of the Year Won
2011 Choice Music Prize Choice Music Prize Nominated
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