Why We Love: Sinead O’Brien

Sinead O’Brien is the Irish ‘punk poet’ that thrives on the edge; denying herself of anything cosy or familiar and instead opting for a ‘heavy heavy, busy busy life’ consisting of travel and new adventures. 

Always doing things differently, her spontaneous attitude and lifestyle result in a lot to be grateful for; helping her to deliver marvellous songs, exploring the beauty in darkness, that we can’t help but love and believe that you will too.

Born in Dublin and raised in Limerick, the singer has never felt much of an attachment to a particular place but has always sensed a calling from further afield. This free spirit and ability to adapt to new ways and places feed their way into her consistently evolving songs. Using expansive language and sounds that vary from punk and folk to a hint of soul and funk, she expertly provides tracks that take you on a journey where, just like her, you’re kept on your toes every step of the way.

Despite her desire for re-location though, there’s absolutely no denying O’Brien’s Irish roots. The moment that she opens her mouth, she has you hostage; her divine accent delivering mesmerising words with equal parts grit and beauty. Painting a picture with every line, including desolate wonders like I feel like the daytime chasing the night” to relatable longings for motivation with “Days like this are the wildest way, to tame the flames, to get the head to higher…” she always leaves you longing for more.

O’Brien is currently living (but most definitely not ‘settled’) in London; the city where her real musical journey began. Upon her move, she fully embraced her desire for fresh experiences by taking a page out of Jim Carrey’s book and simply saying ‘yes’ to any opportunities that arose. Fortunately, for music fans, that included attending a spoken word night in Brixton where she first performed her poems up on stage. Subsequently, the natural lyricist joined forces with current bandmates Julian Hanson and Oscar Robertson and began to put her words to equally grand music; turning dreams and expressive thoughts into songs.

Her talent in doing so was undeniable right off the bat which led to Chess Club Records; the same label as fellow alternative rockers Wolf Alice, signing O’Brien up. She then began to release her hypnotising tracks with them, before stepping up a level from South London pubs when king of the punk poetry game John Cooper Clarke invited her on tour. The two immediately hit it off (which is no surprise when you listen to each of their gutsy works), and, thanks to JCC O’Brien was introduced to Mark E. Smith who she describes as one of her “most valuable references ever”. 

As well as meeting one inspiration (who showed her the work of another), the tour with Cooper Clarke was also an opportunity to try a stint of something different once again, as like him she performed solo. After doing so she was told by a gig-goer that they could still “hear the music in it” which both she and myself completely agree with. Even without physical music present, you’re always touched by its essence thanks to her rhythm and heart, which is testament to the skill she has for her craft; consistently turning words into something so much more.

Her gifts don’t just stop there either, describing herself as incredibly determined from a young age, she pushed herself to excel in a range of areas both academic and creative- which even resulted in her moving to Paris to work for Dior. Just like her Irish upbringing, this motivation and affinity for style are also evident in her music; producing ambitious tracks that are sleek and well-tailored with a real artistic edge.

A sparse feeling is present in Sinead O’Brien’s songs, similar to that heard on Unknown Pleasures where space is intentional and meaningful; a bold move that not many even attempt to pull off. Each track contains an aura of magic, whisking you away on a different experience, that can vary from a trip to the dance floor on the snappy rhythmed ‘Taking on Time’ to dark dreams thanks to the strutting guitar and twinkle of keys on ‘A List of Normal Sins’. In doing so, she has laid the foundations to progress in any direction she wishes and seamlessly built her way up to releasing recent EP ‘Drowning In Blessings’; which to listen to feels like exactly that. 

O’Brien’s intense voice cuts straight through the musical foundations of Drowning In Blessings’ tracks, her strong delivery inducing chills and making every word hit. Exploring the cynical side of modern culture in the likes of single ‘Most Modern Painting’ she generates such existential excitement with her observations on this and ‘Roman Ruins’ that you can’t help but feel riled up and ready to rock. She perfectly balances this edge and gloom with slightly more gentle elements though; resurfacing distant childhood memories of lullabies and carousels on ‘Fall With Me’ and closing with ‘Strangers in Danger’, her packed song on relationships between people and life- a perfect opportunity for reflection after the journey.

Filled to the brim with talent and creating songs jammed with ideas that are not only personal to her but can also touch each listener, O’Brien creates worlds within her work, and I firmly believe that it’s about time you’re swept away into them.


Take a listen to Sinead O’Brien on Spotify.

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