Dolores O’Riordan goes it alone
“Stop it,” Cranberries frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan chides. “Is it that gorgeous there? You’re making me jealous now. We could be in the boat out on the lake.”
Calling from Dublin late one April evening, the lithe singer-songwriter retreats downstairs eager to hear news about Toronto, her home-away-from-home. “You know, my husband’s from there,” she says giddily. “We moved over to Canada for a bit, lock, stock and barrel. The kids went to school there and everything.”
In between packing for a trip to Hong Kong to promote her first solo album – “Are You Listening?” – since the Cranberries went on an indefinite hiatus a few years back, O’Riordan says it was her solitary walks near her northern Ontario cottage that got her creative juices flowing again.
“I was kind of writing as a hobby, it’d gone back to being a hobby for me, and I found I got a lot of material done up there in Ontario in the middle of the forest,” she says.
After auditioning and winning the lead vocalist gig with the Cranberries in 1990, O’Riordan, 35, was the voice behind some of Ireland’s most memorable songs during the ’90s. While U2 flirted with electronica, and Sinead O’Connor watched her career get eclipsed by her erratic personal life, the Limerick, Ireland, quartet etched out a spot for themselves on alternative radio dials across the continent with their alternating mix of slow-motion pop (“Linger”) and explosive rock (“Zombie”).
Sporting a spunky new hairdo with each new release following 1993’s wildly popular, “Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” the band went from playing tiny clubs to packing Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre in a few short years. But following 2001’s “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee,” the group went their separate ways to pursue solo projects.
O’Riordan made “Are You Listening?” at home while raising her children. “One second I could be upstairs hanging with the family and then if I got an idea, I could go downstairs and lay it down,” she says. “I’d sit down once every few weeks and start writing and then when I had six or seven songs, I’d call Dan Brodbeck (the album’s co-producer) and we’d put down everything with Pro Tools, then send them off to the musicians. After they’d had a chance to be with the songs for a bit, they’d fly in and join me in the studio.
“There was a lot more room for artistic freedom and scope for experimentalism. It wasn’t the same as being in a big studio with all those overheads where you’re aware of time and how much it’s costing.”
Affecting a vocal delivery that’s vulnerable, musically, the record’s 12 tracks mine the same folk-rock territory as the Cranberries. Some of the cuts have interesting stories, but mostly, she says, the songs are messages to herself.
“Most of it’s just personal,” she says. “Really, I think I decided to make (a full album) because I had buckets of songs and I thought, ‘It’s now or never,’ ’cause I’m not getting any younger.”
Recording the album over the last four years in two of the places she lives – Toronto and Dublin – O’Riordan says the whole process was liberating. “I had a great kind of flow, whereupon there was no pressure,” she says. “No time pressure, no pressure to be away from the family. If something didn’t work, I could just scrap it and move on.”
She hasn’t ruled out a Cranberries reunion in the future (“We never really shut the door on the band, so who knows,” she says), but there’s an unmistakable glimmer in her voice when she gives listeners a glimpse into the studio.
“After 14 years with the Cranberries, it was fun to have the whole palace to myself and work with a completely clean canvas and a brand new set of brushes and paints,” she says. “Lots of brushes, actually, and lots of paint.”
“Are You Listening?” is in stores May 15.
Here are Dolores O’Riordan’s upcoming North American tour dates:
5, 6 – Montreal, Quebec – PDA Theatre
7 – Toronto, Ontario – The Phoenix
9 – Boston, MA – Avalon Ballroom
10 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza
12 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
13 – Philadelphia, PA – Theater of Living Arts
15 – Chicago, IL – House of Blues
17 – Denver, CO – Gothic Theater
19 – West Hollywood, CA – House of Blues
20 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
22 – Seattle, WA – Showbox
23 – Vancouver, British Columbia – Commodore Ballroom
It is a surprisingly entertaining disc!
Dolores O’Riordan goes it alone