Dolores ORiordan and her former band, the Cranberries, achieved huge mainstream success in the 90s with the singles Linger, Dreams, and Zombie, but then the band virtually disappeared. The new and improved Irish rocker discusses her first solo record, being a lesbian icon, and being voted the fourth worst singer in the world.
The obvious question: Why did you decide to release a solo album?
Well, it wasnt a calculated or conscious decision initially. I had been in the Cranberries for 14 years, and we had done so much together. I would do a Cranberries album, and then do a tour, and towards the tail end of the tour I would become pregnant. I would stop touring, and seven to eight months later I would have my baby, nurse my baby for three to six months, and then I would go back in the studio and back on tour. I wanted to spend some time at home. In 2003 I moved to Canada, and it was very inspiring because I was away from the concrete jungle and the tour bus. In the evening I would start playing the pianowhen the kids were asleepand it became a hobby again. Then I got Dan [Broadbeck, who co-produced the album] to come and stay at my house. In the evening I would put down my ideas, go downstairs, and then I would ask him, Could you structure them with Pro Tools, put some beats on them, try to vibe them up? Then Id go back upstairs with the kids and mash the spudsvery practical! Then I would go back downstairs in an hour and say, I really like what youve done with that, or maybe its too hard there.
Do you think your home life hinders or helps your songwriting?
Its definitely helpful. I had a nervous breakdown in 1995, and then on the [Cranberries] third album I lost tons of weight. I couldnt sleep or eat because I was overworked. Having a family doesnt just fill your life with love, it also gives you something to do when youre not touring. One day you can be all dolled up in your garment, and the next day you walk in the door and its like, Can you empty the dishwasher? It brings you down to reality. I need balance because it just keeps me sane.
How would you describe this album?
Its more experimental because I had Pro Tools. I could work from my house without going into a big studio, which costs a fortune. Having all these people around you is intimidating. Suddenly youre in your own room and that element is gone, and theres no rush. You dont have to get somebody elses opinion and waste all that time hiring people. [With this album] I was at home for four years, and I wrote for the laugh, for the hobby, for the emotional release, I suppose. At home I would really experiment. I could really be myself.
The albums first single, Ordinary Day, in which you reference your daughter, seems really uplifting, but its still gloomy. The video is very moody, with you chasing a little girl through the streets of Prague. What was the concept behind it?
After my mother-in-law passed away, we were thinking that we wouldnt have any more kids. Later, we thought it would be great to turn over a new leaf in our lives. We had Dakota, and when she was born I realized how quickly my other children are growing up. I kept telling myself not to be insecure, to think happy thoughts. At the same time, I dont want them to have any difficulties in their lives. There are always thorns with the roses, so Im just reflecting on that. Then Angel Fire is saying that I want to get older because I want to get wiser, but I dont want to lose any more loved ones.
I read a Spanish gay Web site that declared you a lesbian icon, to which you replied, Hey, I want everyone to like me! What do you think your gay appeal is?
Well, I think a lot of it is probably the way I played with my wardrobe, but I also write about spiritual issues and deeper things, and theres a lot of sensitivity within the gay and lesbian community. Theyre emotional people. Probably for fans its just a deep emotional connection because Ive tried to be comfortable in my own skin and not change myself (even though Ive had three babies!). I suppose I try to accept myself.
Youre very religious. Have you struggled to reconcile the Catholic belief system with your own convictions?
I dont agree with everything that the Catholic Church says. I take my pieces out of the Bible, but then I wouldnt be the type of person that would say, Dont do this, thats wrong. Who am I to say whats wrong? I dont really conform to the conventional beliefs; I have my own beliefs.
What are your thoughts on gay marriage?
I think its cool. I think that people should be allowed to do what they want to do. I think we shouldnt be so judgmental, but unfortunately there are a lot of judges.
In 2005, MTV Brazil viewers voted you the fourth worst singer in the world (after Whitney Houston and Robert Plant). Did you know this?
Why do you think you were chosen (particularly by Brazilian viewers)?
No matter where it happens, I just think people are flavors of the month. One day everyone loves you, and the next day everyone hates you. Theres always going to be banter going on, but you cant let it affect you. You cant let criticism knock you off your horse.
The Cranberries scored big with Linger, Dreams, and Zombie, but after their third record, sales started to trickle. What do you think happened?
Touring always helps sales, but the tour was pulled because I had a breakdown and because I was quite sick as well. I had this accident the year I got married, in 1994, and they put metal in my knee. On the tour [for To Our Faithful Departed] I was extremely underweight and I had really bad atrophy in my hip. Onstage it was very painful. The paparazzi would say that I was only acting. I had problems, but they took their angle on it, and it just hurt me more.
Then you went into hiding and stopped doing publicity?
After the meltdown I was creeping back to the fire that burned me. I wasnt going to jump into it and put any pictures of my face on the cover. So we hired an artist to do abstract stuff. I didnt want anyone to know what I looked like. The artist suggested doing an abstract image that was metaphoric to being overexposed. On the Bury the Hatchet tour, I only did select dates, and with no press. You dont have that awareness behind you that you obviously have when youre doing the media and press on the radio stations. After that, it was nice and easy, I was low-profile, and the paparazzi left me alone.
How will you regain exposure for Are You Listening?
Well, this time Im doing press, radio, and TV. I havent done that for about 10 years. Spiritually, Im ready to open up againIm not afraid. It can never be as bad the second time around. You know what to expect. Its like having babies.
What musicians are you listening to right now?
If we put on music well stick on something nice in the background and cook dinner. If were socializing we might put on a variety, from Aerosmith to Depeche Mode. My husband and I always have these competitions because my taste is completely different from his. When we met I was a Cure-head with black varnish, a skinhead with pink streaks. My husband was Stetson and cowboy boots.
Youre touring this spring and summer.
I have 15 dates across America, then 12 dates across Europe, then Id like to go back and do more detailed tours. Id like to go to Australia to do some more shows there as well. Well have to see how it goes, play it by ear. Ill get myself out there and jump into it.
Are You Listening? hits stores May 15.