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Friday, September 21, 2007

Dolores O'Riordan Interview

FOUR YEARS AFTER THE CRANBERRIES SPLIT, DOLORES O’RIORDAN RELEASES HER DEBUT SOLO ALBUM. ROB TOWNSEND MEETS HER FOR A DRINK

“I wanted to get away from the music industry, cut all ties with the planet and go and live in the forest to be a human spirit, a mother, a wife and a daughter and make up for all the time that I spent away singing.”

It’s been four years since The Cranberries went on indefinite hiatus after shifting an incredible 40 million records, and now frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan returns refreshed with her excellent debut solo album, Are You Listening? “When you come back, you’re not really expecting anything,” the friendly Irishwoman says about the fact that her record is gaining critical acclaim and making hefty dents in charts across the globe. “You come back for the love of it, and if you’re doing it for the right reasons rather than because you are contractually obliged to do so, then it turns out better.”

Sipping a beer in a plush Sydney hotel, O’Riordan is a picture of happiness as the sun sets over the majestic view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge behind her. Her cheery demeanour suggests that the mother-of-three is enjoying life and, despite being tired at the end of a hectic day of promotional appearances, she talks lucidly about her effervescent new record, her upcoming tour and her surreal existence as a young megastar in the 90s. Upon hearing her story, I discover that her strength is born from the most awful adversity.Since the birth of her first child in 1997, O’Riordan has been healthy and content, but prior to that things were far from rosy in her garden. As we discuss her new long-player, she contextualises the joyfully uninhibited sense of freedom that she has as a returning solo artist by explaining how the pressures of fame nearly destroyed her. “The first Cranberries album was a massive success, so everyone said: ‘Now do it again.’ I said: ‘I’m really tired, I have no friends, I haven’t been at home for years, but…ok, I’ll try.’ When (second album) No Need To Argue (above) came out and was even bigger there was stuff happening to me emotionally which I never dealt with because I was always working. So by the third album I started to lose the plot. I was exhausted and I had all these demons. I tried to keep going and hold all that crap inside, but you really can’t because it eats you up.”

In her distinctive Irish tone, she continues: “I got really sick. I couldn’t stop either because I’d already signed contracts to tour for the next two years. There was a lot of pressure from the record company but I was saying: “I’m serious. I’m really sick.’ They would say: ‘Oh, you’ll be fine. Just get out there and sing.’ My leg kept breaking because I was so emaciated. I had metal in my knee from major surgery and I never did enough physio because I went straight out on tour. All these things just got on top of me.”

Eventually, her diminishing health led to industry bigwigs reluctantly entertaining the idea of cancelling the tour. “I had to go and see these nine doctors for insurance reasons. I felt like a piece of meat. In the end they sent me to a psychologist and I said to him: ‘Am I mad?’ He said: ‘No. The world around you is crazy and it’s affecting you. You have to stop.’ So the tour was cancelled. Then the paparazzi started chasing me and saying there was nothing wrong with me because they saw me shopping in the grocery store. I couldn’t get better because they kept chasing me. It was terrible.”

Realising that the only way to inch her way back to health was to escape from the glare of the media spotlight, she disappeared off the radar. “My husband and I went and stayed in these places that were almost like retreats. At first I couldn’t walk along the beach on my own, I couldn’t eat and I was really nervous. But with time I started to get better. I’d walk on my own for five minutes and I’d come back and say: ‘I did it! I’m not scared.’ One time I smelt a flower and it was seven years since I had last smelt a flower. I almost started crying because I’d forgotten to do the simple things in life.”

Fast-forward a decade, and the Dolores O’Riordan who recorded her solo album from the comfort of home is a million miles from the person that the music industry chewed up and spat out. However, she believes that if she were to do it all again she wouldn’t change what happened. “I think everything I went through was for a reason, to make me who I am today. If I went back and said to myself: ‘Don’t do this and don’t do that,’ then I wouldn’t be as tough as I am at 35 years old, because you have to go through some crap in life to get strong.”Considering her past struggles, I ask her whether, during the four year gap, she thought about staying away from the music industry for good. “Initially when I stopped (working with The Cranberries) I was staying at home. Then Adam Sandler asked me to go to Hollywood to appear in the film Click and I got a taste for it again. I thought: ‘I miss this travelling. Maybe I’m not ready to be a recluse forever.’”

As well as being a delightfully catchy listen, Are You Listening? is a powerful juxtaposition of the darkness and light in O’Riordan’s world. Her song Black Widow was inspired by the death of her mother-in-law, while current single Ordinary Day is a paean to her daughter. In Human Spirit she sings: “Don’t let life consume you/It could eat you up inside,” and it is clear that Dolores O’Riordan is now wise, worldly and ready for phase two of her musical adventure. “When you’ve learnt as much as I’ve learnt, the second time around you see the error of your ways. I’m not saying I’ll never make a mistake again, because I will, but not the ones I’ve already made.”

And with that, Dolores bids me a fond farewell and promises some Australian gigs in the spring, but for now there are European and American tours to embark on. “I’m back on the old treadmill,” she laughs. “I’ll stay on there as long as I can, and if I have to hop off, then off I’ll hop.”

Interview by Rob Townsend

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I used to like The Cranberries when I was a kid. Zombie and all that. Yer yer. Not heard her new album yet tho. Might get it.

andy said...

yep yep.

Johnny said...

good piece. Well done six.

Anonymous said...

Still gutted White Stripes have pulled out though.

Anonymous said...

I'd heard that Dolores is well nice and friendly

bobbysix said...

She is absolutely lovely. I was very nervous beforehand but she turned out to be so freidnly and warm. It was a special evening for me. It really was.

Anonymous said...

Lucky bastard!! She is a complete angel and TRUE LEGEND. This gal has the most unique voice to which I have ever listened. Her dictioned has become clearer as she has aged. One questioned you should have asked HOW her dictioned changed i.e. living away from Ireland or lessons?? My "rule of thumb" to decide whether someone is a great singer is to hear them sing "Little Drummer Boy" (no, I am not kidding)..David Bowie did a duet with Bing Crosby, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, the list goes on. I heard Dolores sing "Little Drummer Boy" on a Xmas carol show a few years back, and her version made me cry (which is hard to do as I am a 41 year old heartless legal practitioner!). Thank you for your interview with the lovely Dolores, who if she was to ask me out, I just might say "YES". Sincerely Antonio

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