Imelda May trails her new album ahead of Irish Centre's St Patrick's event
- Credit: Eddie Otchere
St Patrick's Day is virtual this year for The London Irish Centre with an evening of chat, storytelling, music and film.
Chef Richard Corrigan, Derry Girls actor Siobhan McSweeney and singer Imelda May are among the guests taking part in the live event, which includes a tribute to Irish frontline workers by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Founded in 1954, the centre in Camden Square is a cultural, educational and support hub for the Irish community. Dermot O'Leary and Ed Sheeran are patrons and Dublin-born singer May has long been a supporter. When the centre held a fundraising auction last year she offered the chance for a budding singer to perform backing vocals on her sixth album.
Hannah Roddy's uncle Michael, who sits on the board of trustees, successfully bid for her to sing on uplifting rock'n'roll belter Made To Love.
"I was invited to sing at an event and had a lovely time," says May. "I was about to start recording the album and when the auction started, on the spur of the moment I said they could add a lot for someone to sing on my record. I saw a guy on my table bidding away for his niece and won."
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May is just sad the pandemic meant the 18-year-old had to record her contribution from her home in County Meath.
"I would have loved for her to come into the studio. She was robbed of that but hopefully we can work something out when this is over."
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May spent lockdown in Hampshire home-schooling eight-year-old daughter Violet.
"As a single mum trying to work, I'm very glad she's back to school. Some people were saying 'isn't it lovely to take time?' but I didn't have enough hours in the day. I was frazzled working, trying not to ignore my child, putting the dinner on. By the time I got to bed I was nearly passing out. Every time someone told me how boring it was I wanted to throttle them!"
And with tours cancelled, live music's loss was her local cows' gain.
"We are always singing around the house, myself, my daughter my boyfriend, all in different rooms, in the bath and literally serenading the cows."
She adds: "I've had three tours cancelled and I don't know what's happening next. There's another tour in April a whole year away, it's bonkers but I've given up trying to think ahead.
"I had a bit of an awakening after coming off the road last time. A bit of a meltdown or burnout. At the time it felt awful but you realise it was good for you. Now I say things can wait until tomorrow, it doesn't matter."
Noel Gallagher joins her on track Just One Kiss, and feminist activist Gina Martin and guitarist Ronnie Wood feature on Made to Love, which is written "from love's perspective".
"It's about love in all its forms. If love could speak to us it would remind us 'I am you, I am them, I am every person that you meet, I am in all of you'."
And while the album was written pre-Covid, she says "my friends are calling me a witch because so much of it fits what's going on now".
"I am very earthy, I notice the clouds and the trees. Breathe will chime with people who have had more time to notice nature around them."
"Luckily" lockdown has been a "fabulously creative time" for the Dubliner, who started performing on the city's club circuit aged 16.
She has enjoyed performing online with musician boyfriend Niall during lockdown but her first studio performance on the Graham Norton Show was "overwhelming".
"With the lights and cameras it took a few seconds to focus but I went into myself and was able to perform. I've done this since I was a teenager and it kicked in."
As for her immediate plans, it's been hard "singing about love when you are missing everyone so much".
"I don't care about holidays. I just want to see my family and hug them."
11 Past The Hour is out on Decca Records April 16.
The London Irish Centre's St Patrick's Day event is https://londonirishcentre.org/2021/03/09/stpatricksday/