The Coronas have had their knockbacks on the road to international fame, but they’ve come out fighting with their latest album, writes Ed Power
DANNY O’REILLY has been in the wars and the scars are still healing. In 2014, international success seemed to beckon for his band The Coronas as they signed to Island Records in London. But things didn’t work out as planned and for the first time in his career he had to deal with failure.
“It all appeared to be going in the right direction,” he says. “The label were excited about making things happen outside of Ireland.”
The plan was to push The Coronas’ latest single, ‘Closer to You’, with BBC Radio 1, the ultimate arbiter of success or failure in Britain. A place on the BBC’s playlist can make a band — while being overlooked often means a swift plunge into obscurity.
“They said they were going to promote the singles but that if that didn’t happen, Plan B was to go into regional radio and tour the universities, which is how we had become successful in Ireland,” recalls O’Reilly. “However, when Plan A didn’t happen, they just said ‘We’re done’. We’d move over the London and lived there for four years. It was a tough time.”
The Coronas were the first of a new generation of Irish musicians to become superstars in their own backyards. Until then, artists were generally required to achieve recognition abroad before receiving recognition at home. O’Reilly and bandmates ripped up the rule-book by filling arenas and topping the Irish charts. Where they went, Walking On Cars, Hozier and, lately, Picture This would follow.
Ironically, the speed of The Coronas’ ascent made their eventual failure in the UK harder to deal with. After a decade of solid success, rejection in Britain was difficult.
“It knocked us back a little,” says O’Reilly. “We were never an overnight sensation. It was all baby steps — from selling out Whelan’s to playing one night at the Olympia, to playing multiple nights at the Olympia and then onto 3Arena. It was gradual and upward. Going in the opposite direction knocked us back a bit.”
This long dark night is chronicled unflinchingly on the band’s new album, Trust The Wire, which is self-financed and released on their own label, So Far, So Good. O’Reilly sees it as a new beginning — one in which the insights of his parents, singer Mary Black and music manager Joe O’Reilly, proved invaluable.
“My mother and father were always supportive. However, their advice all the time has been that, no matter how good you are, you might not make it. It was good to be reminded of that when things didn’t go as well as you had hoped.”
One upside is the new label. O’Reilly quite hopes So Far So Good will work with artists other than The Coronas. “Fingers crossed it is something that could potentially outlast the band. Hopefully, it is something that we can continue to look to in the future.”
It’s also worth noting that The Coronas seem as popular as ever in their home country, with their upcoming appearance in Cork being one of the first gigs to sell out at Live at the Marquee.
To his ongoing bafflement, the singer has had an unlikely second incarnation as object of tabloid fascination. He happened to be in a relationship with presenter Laura Whitmore when she became famous in the UK — putting O’Reilly in the sights of gossip writers both sides of the Irish sea. “It’s hard to say whether it’s helped us or not,” he sighs. “To be fair to the rest of the band they’ve never given me a hard time about it. But it’s not something I’ve ever looked for and I certainly don’t enjoy it.”
Older and wiser, he feels the Trust The Wire is one of The Coronas strongest releases yet. “We could have done an album that had a few pop-rock songs similar to what we had put out before. We weren’t really keen on that route. Without having a huge conversation about it, we decided to do something different. The album is about uncertainty and regaining your focus and remembering why you love music in the first place.”
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