Sinéad O’Connor about songwriting: I write from a different place

Sinéad O’Connor is best known for her cover of Prince’s Nothing compares 2 U, and for tearing up a picture of the pope in the 1990. Over ten years on, she has recorded several albums, most recently “How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?”. In the Guardian she talks about her songwriting technique.

Sinéad O’Connor’s songs are quite personal. On her new album, which the BBC calls her “best album since 2000’s”, one of her songs is about a past lover of hers, another is about her difficult relationship with her son. The singer tells the Guardian that the song “I Had a Baby” deals with “the difficulties a child suffers from parental abandonment”. O’Connor, a mother of four, says that the song was written with her second-youngest son in mind. But she does not want to go into too many details.

She usually takes quite some time to write songs, and let’s them come to her naturally. “My creative process is quite slow. I hear melodies in my head while I’m washing the dishes and I allow my subconscious to do the work.” This explains why her new album thus contains songs about a lover written five years ago.

It takes away the magic

In general, O’Connor is quite open about her personal life (see her webpage). She has spoken in the past about her mental health problems, like being in hospital to deal with bipolar disorder and depression. When it comes to her songs, however, she does not like to talk too much about how and why she wrote them. “I don’t want to talk about the songs, because it takes away the magic.”

The Guardian asked her if the turbulence of recent months (looking for a lover in an open advert; getting married in December and splitting up quickly afterwards; getting back together) will be the basis for new songs. “I write from a different place now. There’s nothing in the recent past I want to write about.”


  • The Guardian | Sinéad O’Connor: ‘I define success differently’
  • BBC Review | The Irish songbird’s best album in years is full of vim and vigour.
  • My collection of what other singers say about songwriting: Ane Brun, Leonard Cohen, Gillian Welch.
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