The Inventory: Imelda May

Platinum-selling singer-songwriter Imelda May, 39, fuses rockabilly with jazz nuances. She has released four albums, her first in 2003 and her most recent this year.

What was your earliest ambition?

Music was always part of my life – my mother says I came out singing. I wanted to be Gene Kelly – or Judy Garland.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

Holy Faith Convent, the local all-girls Catholic school in Dublin, run by the nuns. I loved the choir practices, with Sister Hilda on the accordion, but I was dying to fly. It was straight into music for me, very young. I’ve been gigging for 24 years now.

Who is your mentor?

My husband. He’s the one I go to for advice. We’ve been together 17 years. He was a very successful rockabilly guitar player when we met, and he also had a very good business head on him. I didn’t know anyone in England but he persuaded me to come over. He’s very good to lean on.

Earliest ambition: to be Judy Garland (Photograph: Getty)

How physically fit are you?

Normal. I walk the dog and the baby for an hour every day. I’m not an athlete and I’m not a slob.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?


Have you ever taken an IQ test?


How politically committed are you?

I never miss a vote, I think that’s the power of the people. A lot of people fought and died for us to have votes, for women to have votes in particular – your vote is your one weapon.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

Yes. I’m a normal consumer but try to do the best I can. I try to buy locally and I mostly avoid supermarkets.

Do you have more than one home?

No. I have my home – and my suitcase, which I also live out of.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

My husband is looking to buy me an emerald ring for my 40th birthday. I don’t have an engagement ring, so it’ll be an engagement ring, eternity ring and birthday present all in one. The emerald will remind me of Ireland.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

This sounds really sad but a bubble bath. Time to myself!

In what place are you happiest?

With my family, my husband and daughter.

What ambitions do you still have?

To be the best mother I can be – that’s trial and error, you’re guessing all the way. To have a long and happy career and keep making music for as long as I can. I’m just about to start my own TV series, in Ireland, to try to help other bands. And when I was a child, I wanted to be a trapeze artist in a circus – so if I could get just one day with a million harnesses to keep me safe . . .

What drives you on?

I love to make music, I can’t not make music, and I love to be busy.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

My baby. Nothing tops her.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

Not being a trapeze artist in a circus.

Biggest disappointment: not becoming a trapeze artist (Photograph: Getty)

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

“Wow, you’ve done well.”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

I’m a big believer in pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

For me personally, it’s a no. God calls you when it’s your time.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Yes. Absolutely.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

Nine and a half. It’s always nice to leave room for improvement.

Imelda May performs at The Love Supreme Festival, Sussex, on July 6 ( Her new album ‘Tribal’ is out now.

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