Go to New Orleans and you get why so many people have written songs about it. There is nowhere else like it. It has magic and mystery and voodoo and it’s colourful in every way. I was immediately spellbound.
The city has very much influenced my work. I’ve been listening to blues and jazz since I was a teenager. Phil Parnell, a dear friend and great piano player, was from here. We used to sing Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans together. He loved that song and I got it when I went there. Every time I sing it, I go back to his face.
Every morning I would go to Café Du Monde in the French Market as a bit of a ritual. It’s one of a few places you can get beignets, little square doughnuts in icing sugar to go with coffee or hot chocolate. It’s nice and old-fashioned, with staff in crisp, white uniforms. The queues go down the street but it’s worth the wait.
Food in New Orleans is phenomenal. For lunch you have to go get a po’ boy: it’s a giant sandwich with meat or seafood and it’s just the heaviest thing. You can walk it off with a stroll along the Mississippi.
The Presbytère museum has fantastic displays about the parades and festivals. It also has an exhibit about Hurricane Katrina. It’s worth a look just to see what people went through – photos, recorded things, 911 calls – and also how the city got things back together again … or is getting there, anyway.
It’s a place that takes over all your senses. An experience, rather than somewhere to look around, it hits you in the face and I love that – the clowns, street performers, the smell of the food. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a brass band going past.
At night the music is wonderful, with some of the best bands I’ve heard in my life. Just follow your ears: you’ll hear music coming out of a bar and find one of the best sessions ever.
The House of Blues is a great place with an amazing vibe. I performed there once and there’s so many bits and pieces of memorabilia backstage. Everyone’s played there. I got to sing there with Dr John, one of the best piano players around. And check out Trombone Shorty: he’s maybe the best trombone player in the world right now.
• Imelda May’s UK tour starts on 13 November, with a final date at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 22 November, imeldamay.co.uk
• This article was updated on 14 November to replace a photo wrongly captioned as Trombone Shorty.