Sinéad OConnor is an artist who speaks her mind. Throughout her uncompromising 28-year career—in which shes released nine critically acclaimed albums—the Irish musician has never been shy about sharing her opinions.
From the incident in which she infamously tore the Popes picture in half on Saturday Night Live to candid recollections of childhood abuse or the recent disclosure of her struggles with depression and bipolar disorder, OConnor isnt worried about letting the public into her headspace.
And, until recently, her music relied heavily on that candor.
During the course of her discography, the Grammy Award-winning performer has written songs using direct personal experience as her primary inspiration; its been her go-to way of working out and healing the pain of the darkest moments in her life.
Yet with her 2012 release, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?, shes become less reliant on those personal experiences.
Some years ago, OConnor tells CityBeat from her producers London home and studio, I just stopped writing from a path that was so very personal. Im much more inclined to invent characters and act them out now. But there are always ghosts and aspects of myself in those characters.
Its not a protective measure, or even necessarily a conscious thing, she adds. Ive just gotten all that shit off my chest.
While its nearly impossible to imagine the 46-year-old mother of four completely abandoning the healing-the-pain game plan, she seems to be headed in that direction. OConnor—wholl play at Belly Up Tavern on Tuesday, Nov. 26, as part of her American Kindness Tour [editor's note: the concert has been cancelled]—imbues recent tracks like 4th and Vine, Old Lady and The Wolf is Getting Married with a newfound optimism. She also says that her next album—due out in summer 2014 and tentatively titled The Vishnu Room—is all romantic songs. Though, shes quick to add, its still funky as fuck.
Thats a pretty apt description for just about everything she does, whether its straight-ahead pop, reggae covers or songs based on the Old Testament. Theres no set way in how OConnor translates her inspirations.
I like to describe myself as a whore for songs, she says. I dont really care what or where they come from. I just want to sing them. And I love all styles of music. I dont know why anyone would want to stick to just one. Its always worth trying everything out, even if you fuck it up. Im really proud of the fact that I cant quite be categorized. I like that.
OConnor also seems to be warming to the idea of making regular live appearances in the U.S. again. After fewer than 10 concerts in North America since 2007, her current 13-date American run bodes well for a return visit when her next album drops. But regardless of where the shows are taking place, much of OConnors current excitement around touring can be credited to her backing musicians.
Im really enjoying the feeling of being in a band rather than it just being me, she says. Its really quite fun, especially when youve got a brilliant band and youre all really good mates. You have fun on the road together and you all get off on each others playing. Thats definitely what its all about and why I got into music.
Although OConnors newfound disposition has her happier and healthier than shes been in a while, it hasnt affected her penchant for sounding off. Shell likely never stop offering her two cents to oversexualized peers or making passionate statements on issues that are important to her. Fans can rest assured that theyll always get a healthy dose of unfiltered dialogue from the outspoken artist.
Perhaps its because Im Irish, says OConnor, but we were told you can put your hand up and speak. Whether you get the shit beat out of you for it, or youre just speaking, we were led to believe that we have the right.
I dont see myself, because of my job, as different from anyone else, she continues. I claim the same right as my next-door neighbor to write a letter to the newspapers, or write something and submit it, or blog, or express my opinions. Its not even that I think I can do anything about anything, because I dont. And its not because Im an artist. Its because Im a person.
OConnor has always been, and will always be, unafraid to give it to you straight. She continues to strike a singular path to a musical legacy that, for better or worse, is free of censorship and calculation. And on that journey, she clearly has no regrets.
I certainly have more songs to write, she says. Its just that I cant in good conscience go to my bed at night, or ultimately to my grave, having sat and done fuck-all while writing them. I think, as an artist, its OK to say what you have to say like any other person.
Because once you stop acting like a normal person, youre just not being true to yourself.
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