Noel Hogan used his time in lockdown to advance his personal projects
LAST Friday was one of the more eventful days of the past year for Noel Hogan. By 9.30am he was in the car en route to Dublin for an appearance on The Late Late Show.
And by that stage in the morning his new baby had gone out into the world. Musical baby that is.
The Cranberries’ guitarist and songwriter has joined forces with The Commitments actress Bronagh Gallagher to release a brand-new track, Cry Baby.
This is Noel’s first release since The Cranberries released Grammy-nominated In the End in April 2019 – the band’s eighth and final studio album, which they had been working on prior to Dolores’ O’Riordan’s premature passing in January 2018.
“We started on the track last March in the first lockdown. I think everybody was wondering what to do with themselves a little bit at that time,” says Noel who is in the passenger seat as his wife Catherine drives him to the RTE studios in Donnybrook.
No more than was the case for many industries across the country, the plug was pulled from the music industry in March of last year and every musician was left wondering how to navigate their way through the pandemic.
“You were wondering how you were going to do this stuff. Obviously live was, and still is, a non-runner. Ciara (Davey, a mutual friend) had called me about Bronagh and then we spoke on the phone.”
Noel had a version of a song - not far from the version that is out now -and he thought it would suit Bronagh’s voice.
“I gave her a warning before I sent it that it’s not a big rock song or a pop song, there’s quite a big soundscape on this.”
She loved it. “She did a rough vocal first and it developed from there.
“It’s the first thing I’ve put out since The Cranberries and it’s the first thing I’ve ever put just my own name onto as well (not including The Cranberries name). I have mountains of this type of stuff there so it’s good to see some of it get out there now.”
While being cooped up at home during lockdown has been a torment for many of us, for Noel it’s been somewhat of a novelty as it’s been the first time in many years where he’s been able to spend a considerable amount of time at home with Catherine and their four children. One daughter lives in Dublin - she’s in college there and then the other three of their children are at home.
“The girls are 20 and 21 and the boys are almost 13 and nine. It’s the longest I’ve ever had at home - we were working out that since I was 19, this is the longest period of time I’ve had at home.
“The not travelling is an unusual thing when you travel so much,” Noel points out. “Since I left school and started in the band, we’ve always been away. It was actually brilliant last year because for the first few months the weather was great and you got to spend some time at home but, like everybody now, we would all love a trip to the sun.
“We’ve been doing the walks and going to the park - all the things everyone else has been doing. I think we’ve watched all the Netflix series - they have all mushed into one. I think this time last year we were watching Tiger King.”
Work-wise it has actually been a really busy year for Noel who has a few different projects on the go. He has a studio in his house on the Ennis Road in the city where he and Catherine have lived for the past 20 years.
“Thankfully, I have the studio at home to work from. If I was solely depending on live gigs, that would have been a real nightmare. I’m looking at doing another single with someone else in late summer. I’m finishing up a documentary I have worked on the past four months. That’s out towards the end of the year. I have another project I’m working on for early next year - that’s more like a full album.”
The lockdown has given the 49-year-old (he will celebrate his 50th on Christmas Day) time to reflect on life, and his time with a band which sold in the region of 50 million albums worldwide.
“Even though the band isn't active, there are constantly emails about this, that and the other and we still have our eye on eventually getting this documentary done - this movie documentary we have been working on and off on about The Cranberries. We started it before Dolores passed away so there is bits of it done. Hopefully, now that we are slowly coming to the end of the pandemic, we can get back up and running with that.”
Three years on from the sad passing of Dolores O’Riordan, Noel can still hear the band’s lead singer in his inner ear as he weaves his own musical tapestry. “I guess what’s most shocking is how quickly time goes by,” he asserts.
“It’s three years, then it turns to four years and so on. When you write a new song you do wonder what she would have done with it. That’s what I did for 30 years.”
Cry Baby is available for download and streaming now.