Sinéad O’Connor maintains her proudest day is the one in 1992 when she tore up the pope’s photo on Saturday Night Live. Some suggest she’s been struggling ever since, but it seems the problems started much earlier, with an abusive childhood at the hands of a deeply religious mother. Nearly 30 years later, at age 53, after four marriages, four children, and a series of physical and mental health issues, she’s transposed her anger and anguish into music — headlining a series of sold-out shows on the east coast of the US (now postponed due to Coronavirus). Read Geoff Edgers‘ excellent profile at The Washington Post.
There are still moments when O’Connor will break down, either in fury, tears or a kind of self-loathing. But during her most recent hospital stay, which ended last May, she learned an important concept, which has become her mantra: radical acceptance. As a girl, she suffered abuse from her deeply religious mother that remains with her decades after her mother’s death. In the past, she’s tried to fight and deflect it, sometimes by lashing out at others. She’s learned that this doesn’t help.
“Because that kind of pain doesn’t go away,” O’Connor says. “You only learn to live with it. Music is where I can manage it.”
She sat there quietly. Even as O’Connor finishes a memoir aimed for the spring of 2021, starts work on her first album in years and awaits the second leg of a tour — a string of sold-out East Coast shows, including at the Birchmere, which have been postponed due to coronavirus concerns — there is a bigger project underway. How to live.
O’Connor doesn’t have a home studio or notebooks lying around filled with song drafts. She writes, she says, largely in her head. A melody will strike, the words will come and she’ll repeat the whole thing until it’s ready to be laid down as a demo.
Reynolds, her longtime producer, remembers O’Connor composing virtually all of 1994’s “Universal Mother” in a single night, simply singing into a tape recorder. She isn’t afraid to share her inspirations, whether the therapy time in “Milestones” or “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance,” about her relationship with former manager and onetime partner Fachtna O’Ceallaigh.