Mary Lucia: An interview with Cait O'Riordan

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Cait O'Riordan
Singer, songwriter and bassist Cait O'Riordan (Bob Gallagher)

Cait O'Riordan is a Nigerian-born British musician of Irish and Scottish descent. A talented singer/songwriter, O'Riordan played bass guitar for the London-Irish punk/folk band The Pogues from 1983 to 1986. She is a badass and currently lives in New York City, and she was generous enough to answer a few of my off-the-top-of-my-head questions.

Mary Lucia: On Lou Reed's induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Laurie Anderson shared her three rules to live by: "One. Don't be afraid of anyone. Now, can you imagine living your life afraid of no one? Two. Get a really good bullsh*t detector. And three. Three is be really, really tender. And with those three things, you don't need anything else." Do you have any thoughts about that, or any of your own guidelines to claw though this world?

Cait O'Riordan: Oh, she's just so beautiful! I do have a few mantras I invoke when I recognize that I need to talk myself into or out of something. "One day at a time" is the big one. {Newton's Third Law + Law of Reciprocity} pretty much covers everything else.

Who is the smartest person you know?

Dr Gabor Maté — he understands compulsion and helplessness so completely, and he uses that knowledge to make the world bearable.

What is your favorite time of day?

If I have a gig, it's those two hours on stage. Otherwise, it's the first two hours after I get up, just drinking coffee, checking out my friends' social feeds, catching up on all their stories, and then sketching out my plan for the day.

What's your take on friends being your chosen family?

It's a blessing! One of the greatest things about being alive now is we can choose to permanently detach from toxic family situations, and we have the vocabulary to articulate it, and we have the support systems to facilitate it. It's difficult to imagine the difficulties that must have faced women in previous eras.

If you were to check under your bed at night, who would be the scariest person to see crouched under there in the dark? (mine would be Miles Davis).

I live very deep inside the liberal bubble, so this past week I've been trying to broaden my perspective by reading and listening to a lot of interviews with women who voted for Trump — any one of those gals would terrify me.

To be a good writer, do you believe one has to have a sense of nostalgia?

I don't know about "have to," but certainly for the kind of writing I enjoy — that bittersweet ache for something that's irrevocably out of reach, or maybe never even really existed. I was born in 1965, and when I was a kid, I was "nostalgic" for the '50s — it really bugged me that all those cool clothes and cars and bands that I saw in the old TV shows and movies weren't around for me to enjoy. The early '70s felt really uncool at the time.

What was the first age-inappropriate movie you saw?

A really odd memory — a school trip to see Polanski's Macbeth at the cinema. When Lady Macbeth appeared in a somewhat see-through nightgown, the place erupted as we all squirmed and giggled. I remember that, and being completely bewildered by the plot — I think our teacher badly overestimated us.

How many of your classmates from middle school most likely ended up in jail?

Only one — he stole a lot of cash off some rich suckers.

When playing "Insomnia Jeopardy," which category do you most often choose: "People who have wronged me"; "What's that noise?"; or "My screenplay ideas."

When I get into bed, I put the BBC World Service on and leave it on — I can't bear lying awake listening to my head. I know people who say you might as well get up and do something, or at least put the light on and read, but I think for me it's better to keep the light off and to stay in bed.

If you could have one song played upon your every entrance into a room, which song would you pick?

"Wild Cats of Kilkenny" by The Pogues — it's an instrumental off our first album; it kicks off with my very fuzzy bass and then just goes hell for leather. It would be excellent noise for making an entrance, and it was used as the theme for a TV show about the Irish sport of hurling (probably the fastest field sport on earth, and ridiculously violent) — hearing my bass playing over shots of hurlers trying to decapitate each other with wooden sticks is one of my proudest moments.

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