Maranda Pleasant: This is quite an honor and I know you get that all the time, but rarely have I ever been so excited to talk to somebody. We just posted it on our social media, and we had hundreds of women write in and say, “She has inspired me, she has encouraged me to be a stronger woman, to not be afraid, she’s so brave.” You’re probably one of the bravest women in our lifetime. So I just wanted to say that to you. I don’t usually gush.

Sinéad O’Connor: No, thanks. I really, truly appreciate that. Thank you. I’m glad to do something good.

MP: I was a young girl when you made history on television, and that stayed with me. I think it’s been fifteen to twenty years at least. Every time it becomes scary to tell the truth or to stand up against something that seems much bigger than myself, it’s one of those reference times for me, for when we have to be that brave or tell the truth on such a huge scale. So, thank you. You’ve encouraged millions of women. Thank you so much for being a pioneer.

SO: Well, the important thing about “brave” is, it doesn’t mean you’re not terrified, does it?

MP: Yes, I think maybe it means you’re more terrified sometimes.

SO: I think people think they’re not brave if they’re frightened, and that’s not true at all.

MP: What is it that makes you come alive? Or what inspires you?

SO: I’ll have to answer you by giving you three musical artists that make me come alive and inspire me. Sonny Boy Williamson—there were two of them. I think you have to do it as one, like they were a team. So Sonny Boy Williamson II, Howlin’ Wolf, and Buddy Guy.

MP: What are the things that make you feel vulnerable?

SO: I have the impression to name one thing that I came up with years ago: a tent full of butch lesbians. It actually happened to me once. This friend of mine pushed me into a tent of butch lesbians. They were all surrounding me. They were dancing toward me like a Pat Benatar video.

MP: [Laughs.] I think that would actually make a great video.

SO: It would, actually.

MP: If you could say anything to everyone on the planet, what would it be?

SO: It would be, “Could we please criminalize the abandonment of children by their fathers?” And also their mothers, of course.

MP: I get really upset with that issue. For me, it just shows how it’s so weighted against the women or mothers. They’re left with the emotional and financial impact. Then we judge them heavily for being compromised.

SO: It should be a crime to abandon your child, and it’s not. It would be wonderful if it could be criminalized.

MP: How do you handle emotional pain?

SO: I listen to music. That’s how I handle it.

MP: How does music help you cope?

SO: I guess there’s a song for absolutely everything that could possibly happen to a person. Generally I don’t listen to sad songs if I’m sad. I listen to happy songs. I listen to, like, funky Chicago blues. I love blues, but I love the funky, happy blues. There’s a song about pretty much everything, including kidney stones, believe it or not. So there’s something there for whatever you happen to be suffering, you know? So yes, music. It’s like ropes. Songs are like ropes that you can kind of hang on to or pull yourself up on.

MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos?

SO: My kids really are my center. They create a beautiful chaos. It’s always a nice chaos with them. So that offsets the chaos, perhaps, of the music business. That can be quite chaotic, the business end of music. When I’ve had enough of that and I can’t keep my center, I’m inclined to switch off my phone and just hang out with them. They’re my positive chaos, my children.

MP: What’s been one of your biggest lessons so far in life?

SO: Biggest lesson I’ve ever had in life is that blues had a baby and they named it rock ’n’ roll.

MP: [Laughs.] These are not answers I was expecting! What truth do you know for sure?

SO: That there is a God. God exists.

MP: I just want to dive deeper. So tell me, what is spirituality? What is God to you?

SO: I think “God” is an off-putting word. I don’t think there’s a name for this. I think it’s a presence that is best for us, but unfortunately, it can’t intervene if we don’t ask it, and religion has us talking to the wall because the god that religion is selling isn’t the reality. That’s my feeling—that real God and religion are two different things and that religion is trying to obscure what God really is.

MP: Can you tell me about your latest album? Why is this one especially important?

SO: I think it’s coming out in August on this side of the world. It’s a very pop kind of record. It’s all “romantic” songs, for want of a better word. It’s all love songs or lust songs or whatever, and it’s been pretty much inspired by a lot of the artists I’ve been listening to over the past two years, which is a lot of blues, pretty much everybody. But like I said, I like the happy, fun people, so it’s a happy, funky record. It’s not a blues record—it doesn’t sound like a blues record in the slightest, but it’s been extraordinarily influenced by blues—Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and even Chuck Berry, because he’s the baby that was named rock ’n’ roll. And all manner of artists that I’ve come across. Guitar Slim. All these incredible artists that I’ve studied as masters over the last two years in terms of songwriting.

People often talk about me as a singer, but they don’t often talk about you when you’re a woman as a songwriter. I’m really proud of the quality of the songwriting on this record. I’ve been very much inspired by all the guys I just named, and also, Willy Dixon is a guy who wrote pretty much every blues song you could name. He had a lot to say about songwriting. He said, “Talk about the facts of life,” and that’s really what this record is. It’s pretty much the facts of life, and it’s inspired by all these people. It’s a funky record, lots of guitar.

MP: Is this one different for you? I love the title. You changed it to I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss. We work with Sheryl Sandberg and we worked on the Ban Bossy campaign. Is there any significance in that for you?

SO: Originally I had a particular title, and then I came across the campaign when it came out, but it was too late for me at that stage to change the title. I was on the brink of handing in that photo that everyone now knows about a week ago, and then the record company changed the cover and so I said, “Great, we can change the title.”

I just thought it was a very bold statement. When I saw that statement first, “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss,” I identified with it. Because I find that as a female boss in the music industry, it’s difficult to actually be treated as if you actually are the boss and to have people act on your instructions and take you seriously. Like you call up people who are working for you and say, “I’d like to see such-and-such document,” and they tell you that you don’t need it. Then you have to spend time convincing them that it doesn’t matter whether they think you need it or not, they’re supposed to hand it to you. The music business is a place where the artists are all treated like we’re working for the people who are working for us. That can obviously be exaggerated when you’re a female.

So I identified with the campaign first off as a female boss. That’s what I was attracted to about the title, because I have experience behind the themes and all the difficulty as a female boss. Then, once I looked into the campaign, I was really thrilled with the whole message that they were trying to send. It’s OK to assert yourself. Obviously, as a woman, I do experience the consequence of asserting yourself – you’re not supposed to assert yourself. I love it even through I’m forty-seven; I find it inspiring even though they’re talking to six-year-olds. It’s just a very inspiring thing to me.

MP: What other projects do you have coming up?

SO: I’m going to be starting a project which would aim to cease the display of newspapers on shelves low enough for minors to read and to actually criminalize the exposure, even by accident, to minors of what we call “the news,” by which I mean radio, TV, print press, or the Internet. Minors should not be exposed to what is going on in the so-called news. So that’s another project that I hope to get involved in.

MP: I love how you make people think. Are there any other causes you really believe in?

SO: Protection of children from violence and abuse has always been my main activity or campaign. We’re exposing our minors to abuse by the fact that they leave the radio on in the car and let them listen to the news on the way to school. Or the fact that it’s shown on the news, the children can see Gaddafi’s face and his glorious Technicolor clothes getting shot off on the news or on the newspaper shelves. In the shelves of the shops where all the sex magazines are consciously put at the top, if they’re consciously put at the top, that must mean the violence is all put at the bottom consciously.

What I’m interested in is the protection of children from violence, and they are exposed to violence every single day in the form of, as it’s called, the news. Then you wonder why the children are running around, doing the things in the streets, doing the things that they’ve seen the adults doing in the so-called news. As a parent, I don’t really want my child to know about all this horrible violence that people seem to be wanting to tell them every time they go to buy some candy.

MP: It’s funny, especially in America. We’re so concerned about kids seeing nudity, but we don’t really mind that they’re seeing blood and guts and the lack of humanity.

SO: I don’t want them to read about pedophiles. I want to protect them from pedophiles, so I should know that they’re there, but I don’t want it in my six-year-old’s head. I don’t want him to know about the horrible things in the world.



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