JOOLS Holland has been championing her. If you turned up early enough to his Royal Concert Hall show before Christmas you may well have seen Imelda May's set of doctored jazz that has led to glowing comparisons with Amy Winehouse.
"Well, we're both women," laughs the Dubliner.
She's right to mock. Her music is less jazz and more rockabilly. The quiff isn't just for show.
"I nicked my brother's tapes," she says of her early influences. "He had Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Elvis, Billy Fury, Gene Vincent and all that stuff and I just loved the energy. They were letting it rip on songs. I thought it was so cool.
"I got myself a little quiff and my little check shoes and my turn-up jeans. I thought I was the coolest thing in the world. And yes, I did get some stick."
May, who re-released her debut album Love Tattoo late last year on Universal, began 2009 as a tip for success.
"In some ways being with a big record label does put pressure on. You have to deliver, obviously. But it takes some off as well because they push us along."
It's been a long road, one that started with her singing in church, then clubs with various bands, even as a burlesque singer. She has shared a stage with Kirsty MacColl, Alison Moyet, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross and Van Morrison.
"We opened up for Van Morrison at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. He came out to watch us, which he doesn't always do and we got the thumbs-up. Dionne Warwick was lovely. She gave us a few tips."
Holland gave May her big break. It was after being on Later With... that Universal signed her. And supporting him last year brought her to Nottingham for the first time.
"We found a great chip shop down the side of the theatre. A great little place. A little jewel."
Did you have mushy peas?
"No, just a big bag of chips full of vinegar."
May has already made steps towards a career on the big screen, singing in forthcoming fantasy musical Dark Streets, which stars Mad Men actor Gabriel Mann.
"I somehow got to be sitting next to Dr John. We had a lovely chat."
Not that she hasn't acted before.
"Everybody is digging that up," she says when I ask about the fish finger advert she did aged 14.
"I'm going to turn into 'the fish finger girl' or something...."
Did you get any free fish fingers?
"Thankfully not. I'm a vegetarian. We got £40. I'd do it for that now..."