Dolores O'Riordan: 'You get to the point where you want to die just to get peace'
Singer has put the dark days of the pressure endured in her early career behind her
YESTERDAY afternoon, if you'd been in Bruff, Co Limerick, you'd have been treated to a scene straight out of Mary Poppins.
Dolores O'Riordan walked along the banks of the Morning Star River with her mother Eileen. The 42-year-old was followed by a flock of fairly lively ducks – who didn't so much waddle as dance along beside the rock star from The Cranberries.
Years ago it was personal demons, restless in their malevolence, that followed Dolores inside her head wherever she went. She felt helpless and wanted to be dead.
Thankfully that dark pain for Dolores has long since passed, but the memory, like her most famous song, lingers. The multi-millionaire singer and now mentor on RTE's The Voice of Ireland seems like she's about to cry.
Sitting on a bench by the river next to her famous daughter, Eileen recalls a troubling incident, many years ago now: a prominent music business executive came to the O'Riordan family home – just up the road from where we're talking now – to see Dolores "who was very sick", Eileen says, meaning anorexia.
"He told Dolores that she would lose everything and that she couldn't break her contract. She came home to me and she was in the little box room. He was telling her you just have to do this tour.
"So I got so angry and I said: 'I have fed her all my life and I can feed her now! She has her own little room. That's all she wants.'
"I got really mad. I was going to hit him. I said to him, 'If anything happens to her, I will kill you.' I looked in his eyes. And I meant every word of it."
"They just saw me as a commodity, as a cash cow," Dolores says now. "I was very, very lonely."
Eileen adds: "I remember my own mother – who was 92 when she died in 1997 – saying to Dolores one morning: 'You'd have been better off if you'd kept your little job in Cassidys in Limerick.'"
"I worked there part-time when I was in fifth and sixth year," Dolores recalls with a laugh.
Eileen also remembers Dolores' fast unravelling sanity when she visited her in Dingle in 1993. "Dolores came to the door. She was in tears. She said, 'Will you help me, mammy?'
"I said, 'What's wrong with you?' She said nothing, then said: 'Nobody can help me now.' I didn't know what she meant and I was very worried about her. She was unable to tell me or explain or communicate very well. It was a long drive home and I thought about it all the way home. That was a turning point for Dolores.
"You told me that you felt so pressured with the music business that you didn't want to work any more," Eileen continues. "You just wanted to hide in a corner."
"You get to the point where you want to die," Dolores says, "because you think that you'll get peace when you're dead and you can't get any worse than you are.
"We built a house in Dingle that we never lived [in]. It was around the time of the third Cranberries' album To The Faithful Departed. All the songs were depressing and I was very depressed and I was extremely anorexic on that record and as it came out I got progressively worse.
"Looking back now I never thought that I'd be here with two boys and two girls – a beautiful 22-year-old, a beautiful 16-year-old, a beautiful 13-year-old, and a beautiful nine-year-old," Dolores says, referring to her children Mollie, Dakota, Taylor and Donnie.
"I realise now that life isn't about money, fame. Actually, all that crap. It's simply love that's important," she says.
Mammy and daughter O'Riordan take me across the road to The Bake House Bistro for a delish bite of lunch. Lorrying into her prawn and salmon salad with a healthy abandon, Dolores says she is looking forward to the grand final of The Voice of Ireland tonight on RTÉ One at 6.30 and hopes that her act Kellie Lewis wins.
Dolores says she got on best with "the boys" on the show, meaning other mentors Kian Egan and Bressie. The implication being that she perhaps mightn't have got on with her fellow mentor on the show, Jamelia .
"It wasn't that I didn't get on with Jamelia," she says. "We get on grand, like, diplomatically but there is no chemistry between us at all. There is no spark between us. We are completely polar opposites.
"I'm a feminist and she's not," Dolores claims. "Someone who uses their sexuality to be heard or to be seen or to get attention – I don't think you need to do that.
"I think women should be equal," she says referring to misogynistic elements in the pop industry internationally as well as sexual inequality in Ireland.
"I think that is an area where Ireland needs to get with the programme, to have more equality sexually. I think Ireland is behind North America definitely – and that is one of the reasons I bring up my girls over there. I think it is more equally sexually for girls. In fact, I don't think – I know it."
In terms of her own act, Dolores says that "Kellie is a kind of a suffragette kind of a woman. She is a feminist. She doesn't have her boobs hanging out. I love her for that. She has self-esteem and respect. That is good for women."
Asked whether she feels that Jamelia, as has been alleged, has given Kellie Lewis low scores on the shows for reasons other than artistic, Dolores says : "I think Jamelia was grading her low because Kellie is very pretty and she knew she was good. She was intimidated by her beauty. So she was giving her bad grades to try and influence the public."
All will be decided tonight, of course. Dolores says she will be surprised if her suffragette Kellie doesn't win. Eileen says that while Dolores is watching Kellie sing on The Voice tonight she'll be singing in the choir in Ballybricken Church for 7pm mass.
When Dolores goes out to her car with Eileen, a group of local young girls rush up to the star on the main street in Bruff and ask her for autographs and to get her photograph taken with them. She hugs them. This time tomorrow Dolores will be on a flight home to her own kids in Canada.