See Imelda May's 'Should've Been You' Video - Rolling Stone
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See Imelda May’s Empowering ‘Should’ve Been You’ Video

U.S. premiere of Women’s March-inspired clip is potent sneak preview of Irish singer’s style-shifting LP, ‘Life Love Flesh Blood.’

Longtime fans of fiery Irish singer Imelda May might not immediately recognize her without the dramatic two-tone swirl of blonde and black hair atop her head. But the absence of that distinctive coif is hardly the only noticeable difference in May these days.

Previously known for a quartet of raucous rockabilly albums, three of which topped the Irish charts, May’s revivalist movement earned her a fervent following throughout Ireland and the U.K., and also in the States, where she counts Bob Dylan among her most vocal fans. But in her latest video, for the powerful “Should’ve Been You,” and on her upcoming LP, the raw, soulful Life Love Flesh Blood, produced by T Bone Burnett, May redefines herself as an artist with the same extraordinary results that followed k.d. lang when she transitioned from country torch and twang to the Grammy-winning, star-making Ingénue. For May, Life Love Flesh Blood chronicles the end of her 13-year marriage. It also touches on motherhood (she and ex-husband, musician Darrel Higham have a 4-year-old daughter, Violet), and in the video for “Should’ve Been You,” addresses the issue of female empowerment in the increasingly toxic Trump-led era. Watch the U.S. premiere of the video above.

Filmed in Brixton Market in London – in one continuous take – and featuring a group of May’s fans, who responded to a Facebook post, the clip was inspired by the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., which took place in January and inspired marches and other protest events throughout the world. May tells Rolling Stone Country that the women in the clip “represent a cross section of wonderful everyday women – superwomen from all walks of life. They are not victims or aggressive towards men but are powerful and positive representations of the female spirit and solidarity.

“I wanted to ask the question, ‘Who takes care of us?'” she adds. “We are 50 percent of the world and it’s the people in power’s responsibility to take care of women as well. I wrote ‘Should’ve Been You’ as a personal story of heartbreak, regret and eventual empowerment but when making this video I wanted it to reflect current feelings of solidarity amongst lots of women worldwide in response to events unfolding around us, such as the Trump administration’s approach to affordable health and maternity issues. It still seems like it’s a man’s world and in 2017 that’s shocking. And I have young daughter, which changes your perception of how you want things to be. You want to leave her a better world, you think ahead that way.”

Thinking ahead, however, was not necessarily part of the equation when it came to crafting her latest album, which weaves a tantalizing tapestry of jazzy blues (“Call Me,” “Black Tears”) bubbling over with sensuality (“How Bad Can a Good Girl Be,” “Sixth Sense”) and touches of bittersweetness (the LP’s tender, folky closer, “The Girl I Used to Be”). “I just basically wrote what I needed to write,” May tells Rolling Stone Country. “I’ve always done that. It wasn’t that planned a change of direction. It’s probably a change of direction from what people knew me as but I’ve been gigging since I was 16 years old. I suppose a lot of people will only have known me in the last seven to 10 years. So, they would have me in that niche, that rockabilly box, and think, ‘Oh, that’s what she does.’ But I started by singing blues and jazz and country and rock & roll, all roots music. Then I was into rockabilly and punk and I’ve been in many different bands. So, I’m just continuing to do that.”

“It still seems like it’s a man’s world and in 2017 that’s shocking.”

Fans of vintage country music will find that influence not only in her earlier work but here as well. “I was brought up in a family that always played lots of music,” says the singer who was raised in the central Dublin neighborhood known as The Liberties. “The earliest country music [I remember] was probably Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash,” she says. “I remember finding the Million Dollar Quartet record when I was about 8 years old and I went crazy for it. Then I got into loads of other stuff. I’m a massive fan of Johnny Horton and Carl Perkins and all those great innovators.”

Discovered by musician, bandleader and U.K. TV presenter Jools Holland, May has performed alongside legends including Lou Reed and Smokey Robinson, and guitar great Jeff Beck makes an appearance on her LP, playing on the exceptional “Black Tears,” which she wrote in Nashville with Angelo, co-writer of Trisha Yearwood’s “Believe Me Baby (I Lied),” along with cuts by Martina McBride, Brooks & Dunn and many others. May admits that the co-writing process had an energizing effect on her productivity, saying, “It sped it up, 100 percent! It made me discipline myself because you have a start and a finish time, which, when you’re writing on your own, you don’t.”

Another of the album’s most striking tracks is the slinky and sensual “How Bad Can a Good Girl Be.” “As women, we’re often split into two categories of good girl and bad girl: the woman that you marry and the one that you bring to bed,” May explains of the song’s origins. “I was toying with the idea that we all have, hopefully, a mixture of both in us. It’s never black and white like that. Good girls can be bad, too, and vice versa.”

The closing track on the album is the sweet, nostalgic “The Girl I Used to Be,” which May wrote with Paul Moak for her young daughter. “Being a mother changes everything,” she says. “It changes your view on things and it certainly changes your time management, that’s for sure. I find that I actually get more done because I manage my time way better because I have to make the most of all of it for songwriting and for my daughter. She’s great. Being a mother has made me a stronger person, not vulnerable at all. I get incredible strength from it because I need to be strong for her in the way that my mother was for me.”

May’s trips to MusicCity, she notes, always include a stop into Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop on lower Broadway, and a special request from her daughter. “The one thing I have to get, I’m under strict instruction to get her a tub of Goo Goo Clusters,” she says with a laugh. “I have to bring home a lot of those or I’m in trouble.”

Imelda May’s Life Love Flesh Blood will be released on April 21st, followed by a series of U.S. tour dates:

June 20 – Richmond, Virginia @ Richmond Raceway Complex*
June 21 – Charlotte, North Carolina @ Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre*
June 22 – Vienna, Virgina @ FileneCenter At Wolf Trap*
June 24 – Boston, Massachusetts @ Paradise Rock Club
June 25 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania @ Union Transfer
June 27 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
June 28 – Toronto, Ontario @ Danforth Music Hall
June 30 – Chicago, Illinois @ Park West
*supporting Elvis Costello

In This Article: Imelda May


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