SHE was the queen of rockabilly with the stylised quiff and Fifties’ fashions.
Now Imelda May is back with a new look, a new album and a new sound.
As she prepares to showcase her new album Live Love Flesh Blood at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Saturday, the Irish singer admits: “I’ve always written honestly but this does go to the bare bones at times.
“I just wanted to sit down and write. I didn’t want to know what kind of album it was going to be.”
At the time of writing her album, Imelda was undergoing upheaval in her personal life as she and husband and Darrel Higham - also her guitarist - split up.
“I kind of wrote the songs like a diary. as a way of therapy.
“But I didn’t think that one through did I?” she laughed, “as now I’m having to talk about all those songs and I’ll be singing them live. I’ve shot myself in the foot there.
“It could have sent me over the edge but now I’m all good with it.”
Imelda is clearly in a good place. Our conversation is often punctuated by her laughter and she’s genuinely excited by her new bluesier sound.
Gone is the whole rockabilly vibe. In its place comes a sleek new look - “I changed my hairstyle months ago and yet people still want to talk about it,” she groans.
But the music is what’s really catching people’s attention, evoking late nights in smoky nightclubs all with a hint of danger thrown in.
“I know I might lose fans and I might also gain fans and I’m OK with all of that,” she said.
“I can’t speak for anyone else but it’s an album I had to write. On the previous album, Tribal, I pushed things as far as I wanted in terms of punk and rockabilly.
“I did that purposefully, knowing that I wanted to step away but I didn’t know where I was going to step away to. It was liberating really, just going with it.”
Critics have been unanimous in their praise for Live Love Flesh Blood and the writing and recording process, working with legendary prducer T Bone Burnett has clearly energised Imelda.
“Me, I’m ready to write the next album,” she said. “I told my manager that and he nearly fell of his chair. He was like ‘you have to tour this one first, don’t give me a heart attack’.
“But I am raring to go. I really want to get out there performing the songs live now.
“We recorded the album last year so it’s been a long wait to get that out there.”
Imelda admits the personal nature of the new songs adds an extra challenge to playing them live.
“The album is like a diary of my life and some of songs are hard to revisit,” she said. “But that’s always the problem when you write honestly but that’s the way I need to write.
“But life is good now. I’ve gone through a tough time and hopefully come out the other end. It’s the same for Darrel as well. He’s got a new album coming out and it’s a fantastic rockabilly album. He’s got Robert Plant singing on it and I sang backing vocals on it. We’re good, it’s all going really well.
The couple have a four-year-old daughter Violet who they clearly dote on.
“She’s happy as Larry and she rules the roost,” said Imelda. “She’s a strong character. My family think it’s hilarious.
“They say ‘it’s payback time. Now you know you what we had to deal with when you were four!’”
Imelda May, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, Saturday, May 20. Details from 0161 907 9000