Sinead Talks Joy, Faith and Courage
O'Connor makes amends with "Faith and Courage"
Courage under fire
Sinead O'Connor walks into a conference room in the midtown
Manhattan offices of her new label, Atlantic Records, shyly
says hello to the dozen or so journalists gathered around a
big square table, sits down, fires up an American Spirit and
opens up. The topic at hand for the next half-hour is her new
album, Faith and Courage, and each journalist is allowed one
question. From the get-go she is candid, thoughtful and
forthcoming, though she quickly makes it adamantly clear that
the one thing not open for discussion is her priesthood. The
last thing she wants to do, O'Connor explains, is use her pact
with God as a publicity angle.
"Neither do I -- and this is very important -- want to
disrespect the Church or disrespect Catholic people who may
have a problem with women being ordained," she says. "They've
shown me an honest tolerance, and as long as I don't go around
disrespecting them, they're not going to go around
disrespecting me. So I think that out of respect for them and
my priesthood it's important not to talk about it."
The inquiring reporter sitting next to her nods in
understanding, then asks if she can like, marry people.
"I'm not going to discuss..." O'Connor repeats herself,
sternly but not impolitely. It's a display of seemingly
infinite patience, a sense of grace under pressure, that might
seem out of sorts with the often rash, angry young Sinead of
yore. But if she's made one point patently clear today, and
throughout the new album, it's that that woman has grown up a
lot since then. She's not quite as openly confrontational
("I'm thirty-three now, so I'm less so, obviously"), but she
hasn't gone soft, explaining that she still thinks
confrontation can be very useful in getting some points across
and that anger is a woefully under-appreciated emotion. But
maturity -- and hindsight -- has given her a new sense of
focus, and with it an understanding that, "If I want to get
heard, it's important that I accept humility."
"I know I'm more confident in what I'm saying now," she says.
"When we're younger, we're not so sure. As you get older you
get surer about what you talk about until you learn how to
communicate things in ways which are not threatening."
"I know that I have done many things to give you reason not to
listen to me, especially as I have been so angry," she sings
on Faith and Courage's "The Lamb's Book of Life," "But if you
knew me maybe you would understand me/Words can't express how
sorry I am if I ever caused pain to anybody/I just hope that
you can show compassion and love me enough to just please
Do not misinterpret that apology as an older, wiser O'Connor
looking back on say, that incident with the picture of the
Pope on national TV, and saying, "What was I thinking?" But
she does recognize that sometimes, part of her message might
have been obscured. "It's important to accept one's fifty
percent in how a message got lost," she says. "I don't accept
the fifty percent that is not mine, but if I want to be heard,
then I must accept my fifty percent and therefore be humble
enough to say, first of all, let me say I'm sorry that things
I did hurt you. That doesn't mean I'm sorry I did it; it had
to be done, however I'm sorry that it hurt other people. You
can't make an omelet without breaking eggs."
And the message she so desperately now wants to get across to
people who may have long since turned a deaf ear to her? "That
everything in this world would be OK/If people just believed
enough in God to pray." O'Connor may not be forthcoming
talking about her role as a woman priest, but her passionate
faith shines through Faith and Courage, which she says she
wanted to be a very spiritual record. She doesn't want to be
"no man's woman," she sings on the first single, but adds,
"I've got a lovin' man, but he's a spirit."
"It discusses the idea of wanting to conduct a relationship
with one's soul," O'Connor told Rolling Stone shortly before
the conference room discussion. It's a theme often repeated on
Faith and Courage, a triumphant collection featuring some of
the most exuberant and, it's worth noting, catchy songs of her
career. A lot of credit for that may be due to the host of
star producers on the album, including Dave Stewart, Wyclef
Jean and Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, but it has just as much to
do with the overwhelming sense of ecstatic joy conveyed in
O'Connor's lyrics and voice.
"It's the joy," she says, "that you get when you go inside
yourself and find out how much more there is to life than
meets the eye."