Interview with Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries: Familiar Faces

I first spoke with Dolores O’Riordan in 2007 around the time of her first solo album’s release and favorable acceptance. As Are You Listening? (Sanctuary Records Group, 2007) hit the shelves, O’Riordan hadn’t been a Cranberry since 2003 when she’d told original band members Noel Hogan (guitarist, songwriter), Michael Hogan (bassist), and Fergal Lawler (drums), of her decision to leave the industry and focus on (m)other matters.

“My priority was to be a full-time Mom for a few years, to put back in for the time I’d spent touring. I just wanted to make up for anything that I had lost. So I told [the band] to get on with their lives and I was going to relax and spend time with my family and forget about music for a while. It was nice to be able to get away from it, to switch off and to feel like a normal, anonymous human being.” Songwriting, then, became less of a job for the vocalist and songwriter, but was not neglected by any means. “I was seeing it as a hobby again, like starting off when I was a teenager. There was no pressure then.” Songs written after O’Riordan’s split from The Cranberries are featured, most recently, on her latest solo disc, No Baggage (Zoe Records, August 2009).

After joining the band in 1990, a teenaged O’Riordan rode radio waves to recognition on the success of The Cranberries’ hits like “Zombie,” “Linger,” and “Dreams,” among others. Calling on influences and elements from seemingly disparate genres (Celtic, punk, indie, indie-pop, everything plus the kitchen sink), the band’s unique brand of music is still no stranger to airplay, played consistently even after a decade of changes in music and industry trends. Their continued relevance and recognizable, influential sound might account, then, for the announcement of a much-anticipated reunion tour (and possible, hinted-at new album). Set to start on Nov. 12 and incorporate songs from Are You Listening? and No Baggage as well as the band’s hit collaborations, the reunion tour will begin with dates in North America before continuing on to South America and across the pond after the holidays. With tour dates scheduled and rehearsals in full swing, I spoke with O’Riordan on a busy Halloween afternoon about her “withdrawal” from the industry, her distinguished induction into Dublin’s Trinity College Philosophical Society, and her excitement over being a Cranberry crooner once again.

We first spoke a couple years ago when you were touring to support Are You Listening?. It’s good to talk with you again and of course I am very happy to hear about The Cranberries’ reunion!

Oh yes, thank you.

The Cranberries formed in 1989/90 so there’s been plenty of time for each of you to change musically as well as personally. You all have families now and must be approaching this tour differently.

Oh, of course. The band was formed 20 years ago next year so obviously we’re all very different than what we were 20 years ago.

What can you say about the reunion tour?

Our first show is in Baltimore at Rams Head Live! on Nov. 12. We’re on the road for four weeks then we’re off for Christmas. I think in January we’re in South America and in February we’re in Europe.

Can you tell me a little about how the reunion came to be? I saw something about you being inducted into Trinity College’s Philosophical Society, which was said to have started reunion considerations.

I invited [the band] to come and play with me. We just loved being together so I invited all of the group and their families to my son’s Confirmation. That was the first time we’d all gotten together since 2003. We got talking and decided we’d all like to get back together.

For people who may not know, what can you tell me about the Society? It’s quite a prestigious recognition and an honor to be a part of.

Well, it was founded in the 1800s in Trinity College and some of the other members are writers like W. B. Yeats and a lot of poets and playwrights. Then of course Mother Teresa and the boys of U2 are in there. It’s a prestigious society, really, for organized honor of the arts.

I did want to clarify something. Some articles I’ve seen make it seem like this reunion is luring you out of your log cabin in Ontario, like you’ve retreated from society and the music business completely. Is it that accurate or does it make you out to be some sort of female Thoreau?

Yes, I prefer the countryside and not being around too much pressure. I also chose to raise my children in the countryside, too. I’m not a city person. I’m not really comfortable with the whole city setup, concrete jungle and all that stuff. To me, it’s just that nature is so much more attractive without all of that sort of peer pressure. I just like it.

I looked back at our last interview and you’d said that the time you took to step away from the industry was a time when you approached music as a sort of hobby, not as a job. Is that still the case with the reunion?

When I go on tour that’s obviously my job. Every day I’ll get up and pack my suitcase and unpack it and put on makeup and go on stage. Now we’re planning on touring through the end of February, into March, beyond that we’re just waiting to see how it goes, taking it one day at a time really. I’m just going to have fun and not doing anything I don’t want to. I haven’t really played with the band in about seven years so we won’t know until we get into it, but I’m sure it’s going to be exciting anyway. I would imagine it will be a lot of fun. It’s been such a long time and we’ve had enough time off to start to miss it, you know? I’m excited about going back onstage and I’m excited about going back on tour. After a while you do get excited because you’ve missed it. If you overdo it, you can get sick of it but if you take some time out, you can miss it, too. It’s all about balance, really. And of course everybody changes, too.

Catch The Cranberries at the Count Basie Theatre on Nov. 16, Electric Factory on Nov. 17, and Nokia Theatre on Nov. 18.