Covid Lockdown Provides Impetus for Return to Solo Recording and Live Shows
Like so many artists the world over, acclaimed Irish singer Róisín O watched as her plans for 2020 turned to dust in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdowns. As weeks turned to months, she used the down time to rethink her musical trajectory and return to the solo work she had once left behind.
The result is COURAGEOUS, a ten-song collection of original material that charts a course through love, heartbreak and redemption, all taking shape during isolation. It will be released on April 29 by Blix Street Records.
COURAGEOUS began when the lockdown gave Róisín something she had not experienced since she began recording and touring more than 10 years ago: time. It became the impetus for creating new music. “All of a sudden, all plans were cancelled, and all I could really do was sit at home and write music,” she says. “I was able to lock myself away, and the songs just started pouring out of me when there were no other distractions. I wasn’t writing with a purpose in mind, and that honesty is what’s intriguing about the songs that emerged. I felt the songs that were coming out were completely for myself.”
As the pandemic raged, Róisín took refuge in her family’s vacation home in Dingle, the bucolic coastal fishing village in Ireland’s southwest, sometimes sharing the space with her musician brother Danny O’Reilly who fronts Ireland’s popular band The Coronas. The Coronas, for their part, were dealing with the trauma of sharing a name with the virus that was shutting down the world.
The first song to emerge was “Heart + Bones,” co-written with Danny. It’s a powerful anthem with poignant lyrics that began as a song for The Coronas until Róisín realized it was her own voice she was hearing in it. “It’s a confession, a truth that I’d been suppressing for a long while,” she explains. “It wasn’t until I got those lyrics down on paper that I began to understand some things about myself. It’s the most honest thing I’ve ever written.” Released as a Róisín O single in January, 2021, “Heart + Bones,” which RiffMagazine.com referred to it as “a catharsis personified,” became the foundation for a new solo project. “It felt like it was the right time to get back to Róisín O,” she recalls.
One of Ireland’s most exciting and talented exports, Róisín called upon a team of Irish musical talents to bring the project to completion. Producer Philip Magee (Kodaline, Wild Youth, The Script, The Academic) did much of the heavy lifting, joined by True Tides’ Cian McSweeney who also co-produced two of the tracks with Magee and co-wrote the second single “2023,” released last May, with Róisín. Grammy®-winning producer/ engineer Ruadhri Cushnan, along with Róisín’s long-time collaborator John Broe, with whom she shared the passion project called Thanks Brother, held the reins for two of the songs: “Still Gold,” which was released as a single in September, and “Call It Love.” There are additional production and writing contributions from notable musicians such as Danny O’Reilly, Cormac Butler, Gavin James, Cormac Breslin, Lar Kaye and Eliot James.
While the ups and downs of relationships dominate the themes of COURAGEOUS, there are also songs that convey an unbridled optimism about what the future will hold, perhaps the result of the world slowly opening up after such a long and frightening lockdown. Hope appears to be the resounding consequence of uncertainty and despair, as evidenced by the title track. “‘Courageous’ is the last song I wrote for the album,” Róisín explains, “so when it came to picking a title for the album, this track stood out instantly because it relates to the circumstances of the album’s creation as a whole. With this album I really dove into the lyrics without much restraint, and it became an autobiography of the last few years of my life when I’ve dealt with a whole range of emotions. Deciding to return to my solo career was a huge step for me, and it took courage I didn’t know I had.”
Imaginative videos have always been known to accompany Róisín’s vibrant music, and those for tracks from COURAGEOUS are creative and artistic. The recently released fourth single from the new album, “Stolen,” is accompanied by a visual feast created by Irish director Johnny Wolff. The video was filmed atop Binn Diarmuida at Three Sisters in County Kerry, a location used by director J.J. Abrams for scenes from his “Star Wars” films. View it here:
Following her 2012 debut album THE SECRET LIFE OF BLUE, Róisín O went on to release a number of successful singles, among them the originals “Give It Up” and “Warn Me of Silence” and her take on Sia’s “Chandelier,” which received over a million online views. In 2017, she formed the band Thanks Brother with collaborator John Broe, for which they built a large fan base and released a strong debut called EP -1 in 2018, which included the singles “‘We Are Different,” “We Caught It” and “F*ck My Life.”
Additionally, Róisín O has appeared on the bill with such diverse artists as Lionel Richie, Brad Paisley and Brian Ferry and has also toured extensively in the U.S. as the support act for Mary Black. There were tours of Ireland, the UK and the U.S. set for Thanks Brother when everything came to a halt.
But 2020 was most certainly the wakeup call that brought Róisín O back to her roots. After receiving an enormous response to a video of her cover of Selena Gomez’ “Lose You to Love Me,” she recorded and released the studio version of the track during lockdown in addition to the initial singles for what would become COURAGEOUS. She was also part of the standout success of Irish Women in Harmony, joining a cadre of 38 Irish singers on the Dolores O’Riordan (of The Cranberries) classic “Dreams” to raise money for SAFEIreland, an organization that provides support for victims of domestic violence and abuse. It reached #1 on Ireland’s Official Homegrown Chart and was Ireland’s most downloaded song of 2020.
With COURAGEOUS set for release, Róisín O finally has live shows in Ireland coming up as well. Her first show, on April 14, is already sold out. “Getting to sing these songs live is a prospect that has been keeping me going this last year through Covid,” she says. “I feel so lucky to have some amazing Irish musicians in my band—Rob Kennedy (James Vincent McMorrow/Gavin James) on drums, Cormac Curran on keys (Hozier/The Villagers) and Caoimhe Hopkinson on guitar (April/Soulé)—who give me space to sing with and without a guitar in my hand during gigs. I cannot wait to get on stage with them.”
Confirmed shows are as follows with more to be added shortly.
April 14—Mike the Pies, Listowel
April 22—The Pav, Cork
April 29—Dolan’s, Limerick
April 30—Opium Live, Dublin
May 6—Monroe’s, Galway
May 20—Kavanaghs Bar, Portlaoise
May 21—Seán Óg’s, Donegal
May 27—INEC Acoustic Room, Killarney
2. Call It Love
3. Still 17
4. Heart + Bones
6. Night Stretches Through
7. Better Now
8. Still Gold
9. Better This Way
Official Website: www.roisino.com