Cranberries singer reflects on ups, downs on solo CD

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Dolores O’Riordan — the voice of The Cranberries for more than a decade — has cut a lone path for herself with Are You Listening?, her debut solo CD.

It’s two in the morning — you’re curled up in bed or, perhaps, huddled in desperation at the bar for last call. But this is when Dolores O’Riordan is penning a line or tweaking a riff, humming a lyric that will soon be a song.

If the name isn’t familiar, the voice is: O’Riordan fronted The Cranberries with her brassy Irish, copper-throated vocals for more than a decade. With the band on hiatus since 2004, O’Riordan has now cut out a lone path for herself with yesterday’s release of Are You Listening?, her debut solo CD. But the petite, powerhouse singer and songwriter is actually moonlighting, literally, from her full-time work — mother of three. So when does she find time to write?

“When they’re in bed is a good time,” she says. “Midnight, one, two in the morning, maybe three.” And though she credits her family with easing some of the parental workload, she still admits: “You get a bit tired, all right.”

The album’s opener, Ordinary Day, basks on the sunnier side of the street as O’Riordan serenades her daughter: “Beautiful girl, won’t you be my inspiration?” But just as it appears the collection of songs will recede into content domesticity, the guitars come crashing down. The album’s swings from high to low, says O’Riordan, is telling of a tumultuous time in her life.

“There are a lot of ups and down, really,” she says, “but I think life is full of ups and downs for everybody. I wrote the songs about different experiences of the last four or five years, you know?”

One of those downs, she explains, was the passing of her mother-in-law. The song Black Widow tinkles along a halting piano riff as O’Riordan’s voice soars across, as if from a great distance — it’s an eerie lullaby that startlingly turns stormy. For O’Riordan, the song was a release.

“It’s like therapy,” she says of writing while grieving, “because it’s good to be able to express your emotions and you get a lot of your pain out that way. You get closure because then you’ve dealt with it in a way: You’ve talked about it, opened up.”

As for the fate of The Cranberries — and whether this depends on her solo success — O’Riordan admits she simply isn’t looking that far ahead.

“I’m not really sure,” she says of the band’s fate. “I don’t really worry too much about the future — this year’s enough to worry about. Be healthy, be happy, and whatever the future holds, the future holds.”

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