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VH1: Interview (2002)

A new baby seems to have brought the Cranberries some much-needed joie de vivre. Their new record bursts with a celebration of life. Dolores O’Riordan and Fergal Lawler talk about all the factors that led to making Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.

Don’t ask the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan about her nervous breakdown or what it’s like to be a 29-year-old siren with four multi-platinum albums to her credit. What she really wants to talk about is her new baby – and the Irish quartet’s post-natal new disc, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. Dolores and drummer Fergal Lawler sat down with’s Jon Weiderhorn to explain how their quest for success nearly drove them crazy, and how raising their families resulted in this very young band’s most carefree album yet. Here are their thoughts on pressure and pleasure. .

VH1: Wake up and smell the coffee is a warning of sorts. Did you have a revelation? What’s there that wasn’t there before?
Fergal Lawler: A realization that life isn’t all about work, work, work. Life is to be enjoyed. You’ve only got one chance, and it’s too late when you’re 60 or 70 and you turn around and say, “I should’ve done this, or I should’ve done that.” Follow your heart.

VH1: You were work-obsessed. Was there some straw that broke the camel’s back, when you said, “Wow, this is out of hand. I don’t have a life.”?

Fergal: It was in the States, a couple of weeks into the American tour. The four of us sat down backstage and asked each other how we were feeling. Everyone agreed that it was not fun anymore.
Dolores: You can even tell by the songwriting the direction that the mentality was going in. On [1996's] To the Faithful Departed, I suddenly realized that a lot of people had died, and I hadn’t even been to their funerals. My grandmother died and I didn’t go to her funeral because I was on tour. It was a really sad tour. All the songs were so sad. A lot of the audience related to that particular album because they had lost loved ones in their lives, too, but it was depressing. We all just cracked up in the middle of that tour.

VH1: There were reports in the press of exhaustion, cancelled gigs. Did you have a collapse of some sort?

Dolores: I had a breakdown and I had to see a psychiatrist. When you’ve signed contracts to do massive tours that are sold out months in advance, a lot of money is at stake. It’s made very obvious that the money is very important to many people around the world. They have worked very hard to get ready for the show, tickets go out, and the whole world is pumped. That’s an extra pressure. You’re feeling really sick, but thinking, ‘There’s millions at stake. If I cancel this tour, it’s going to cost these people all this money.’ You’re stuck in the middle of it all, trying to go along with it. But physically, you’re drained. I was so thin. I was like ninety pounds, a nervous wreck. There was a lot of speculation … she’s very thin; she has anorexia. I was going, ‘No, no, no, I’m just depressed. I want to go home. Please, please, please, let me out of the public eye, no more cameras. Let me get out of here.’ People were saying, ‘You’re fine. Just get up there and sing now.’ It was a weird time. There are lots of people that don’t really care about you. So I went off with my husband to this tiny Caribbean island with just one shop.

VH1: It must have worked. This sounds like it was an enjoyable record to make.

Fergal: Very much so. Everyone was really relaxed. We recorded eight or nine songs in the first segment, while Dolores was pregnant. They’re the softer ones I’d say. We took some time off while she had her daughter. Then we went back into the studio in April and did the heavier stuff.

VH1: It’s funny you did the louder songs after you had your baby. Did you have to let off some steam after the baby kept you up all night?

Dolores: I couldn’t really sing rock songs because it was quite a big little lump in there. To use your stomach muscle is really hard when you’ve got a baby sitting there. I don’t want the poor child to be thinking, What was my mother doing rocking around the place? But they do feel rhythm and stuff like that.

VH1: It shows on the album. There’s a greater distinction this time between the gentle ethereal songs and when you guys rock out.

Dolores: When you’re pregnant there’s an inner peace that you have. You’re preoccupied with these things that are happening in you. My husband would say something to me and I’d be like ‘Huh?’ We’re with the fairies because you’re in heaven most of the time, you know? That’s a certain thing you capture in your voice, in your spirit, that you’re kind of a bit in heaven. It’s a very big high really.

VH1: The first single “Analyze” seems to be saying, “If you dig into things, you ruin them.’ Do you think in the past you’ve overanalyzed situations?

Dolores: I did definitely. I found my first pregnancy was definitely harder than my second ’cause I started analyzing what I should and shouldn’t be doing. It’s like your first relationship. You’re paranoid, but when you stop analyzing things and just follow your heart, you really enjoy everything more. It’s something you learn with a little bit of experience. I’m glad that I’ve come to that conclusion now, because it means that I’ve started to enjoy life like I’ve never done before.

VH1: What are some of the little things that you enjoy more about life?

Dolores: Things like just going out and lying in grass and looking at clouds, and making shapes out of the clouds in my head. I know it sounds terrible, but in [Wake Up and Smell the Coffee's] “Never Grow Old,” the lyric, “Birds In the sky/ They look so high” is from a personal experience. I was walking along a countryside road with my children in a pram. My little girl was asleep and my son was holding on. I was looking at them, and I was thinking, ‘God, this moment’s perfect. I hope it never goes.’ As I was looking at my kids I had a flash, and I became my mother and my daughter became me. I suddenly thought, ‘Jeez, I’m moving a generation here… aah.’ I got scared. It was like, ‘I’m not a child anymore.’ But as I was thinking about my childhood, I remember that when I was in the pram I used to look up. I started looking up at the sky and the birds were flying around. I thought, ‘Those birds look really high.’ They just perch somewhere, have a little bit of a crap, fly off, perch somewhere else and eat a worm, so carefree. I thought, ‘Birds have a great life. There’s no stress.’ Sometimes when I’m feeling stressed, I look at birds. It helps. My children opened the doors and took me back into my childhood for a few minutes, and that’s a great thing. So many adults are always trying to return to that beautiful naivety and that freedom. It’s almost an out-of-this-world kind of experience, where you’ll have a flash from your childhood.

VH1: Are you only as old as you feel?

Dolores: I’m going to be 30 this year, so it’s funny. When I was 20, I felt 30. Now that I’m 30, I feel 20. In the early days when we were working, I always felt like an older person. Now I feel younger. It all paid off, because I can really relax and enjoy things now. I’m 29 years old and I have two kids already. I’ve been married seven years. For me now, it’s like I have started my family. I’m well on the way, so I can really enjoy it. I guess it was all meant to happen.

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