Irish superstars Coronas play BST Hyde Park on 6 July 2023 in support of Bruce Springsteen. The band have been on the scene since 2003, taking their rock sound international, after finding success with songs like ‘San Diego Song’, ‘Heroes or Ghosts’ and ‘Give Me a Minute’.
I sat down with Danny O’Reilly to discuss new albums, playing to the Irish crowd and meeting Joe Biden.
Coronas have a busy week. Tonight they are supporting Bruce Springsteen and this weekend you have the TRNSMT festival in Scotland.
Yes, it’s great to have you back while I’m doing some celebrating. It’s a great summer because we’re busy but not overworked. Weekends are holidays so you can have a few days off to catch up with your friends. Even in Glasgow, I’m thinking of spending some time to see other acts. That’s the best thing about festivals, you get to see other bands.
Their show at Fairview Park to a home crowd was sold out. How does it feel to play to an Irish crowd when you sell out gigs?
It’s incredible. That night in particular was one of the most magical acts we will ever remember. It was a perfect size space for us at home. It was just perfect with the number of albums we had and the number of songs we had. It was covered but not indoors and it was a nice day. Everything worked well. We spent a lot of time working on the show as well. When you do shows like this, you’re competing with big bands, so you want to do a big production. You have to adjust the performance to the location and the size of the stage. Thankfully, since the album (‘Time Stands still’) came out, we’ve toured a lot and spent three months on the road, so we’ve been playing OK.
On the note of the new album, ‘Time Stands Still’, how was it on the road? As much as I hate to mention what now seems like a distant memory of Covid, it was a pandemic album.
Yes, amazing. The response was incredible. For a band like us who’s been around for a long time with a good few albums, I’m happy if we’re just being considered nostalgic for playing the old stuff. I’ll take that but thanks, touch wood, that’s not all. Our people seem to have grown up, they want to hear the new things. The last two albums we released one (‘True Love Waits’) at the beginning of the pandemic meant we were actually promoting two new albums and thinking about it.’Will people be okay listening to two new music albums? But they loved it. Everywhere we go we see people singing new things. We’ve got moments of doing some old stuff and some new stuff in the set. 40 minutes at a festival like this is difficult, especially when you have seven albums, but I guess it’s a good complaint.
Covid has been a strange time for musicians and audiences alike. Fans had to dive straight into bands’ streams and search for stuff on the internet mainly so it was a weird time for the artist and the consumer.
One hundred percent. We’ve tried hard not to overdo the release. Instead of doing it in the living room every Friday, we’ve put a lot of thought and money into it. People are still a bit unsure after covid. I think the big shows are doing really well. Thankfully in Ireland, I know they seem to be down on board tickets so we’ll be down there for the bigger shows. People seem less committed. We are grateful to have come out behind Covid with two years of uncertainty, not knowing if and how it will come back. We appreciate what we do now. It’s great just sitting down and chatting with the band and crew though. Everyone appreciates a little bit more.
Your songwriting changed a lot during the new album, would you say you wrote it then?
Yes, I would say it was gradual. We moved here and got signed to Island and the ‘The Long Way’ record came out which was probably our most successful album but then when we came back Island dropped us and it was like, now we’re a big band. Ireland has failed since signing to a major label. That was the first time I fought with writers: I didn’t like what I was writing. First time it happened to me. I had this confidence and flowed in writing. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer in recent years. I could appreciate what I was good at, but it was much less to lock myself up to write the next album and then show everyone at the end. Now it’s more collaborative. Even though we are now a three piece as The Coronas, we write with a lot of people. There are a few people I trust to give a little thought and work together. I opened up my songwriting to all my talented friends to use different texts from different people. The first three albums I wrote all the songs myself and I would bring the acoustic guitar to the band and we would arrange it, but now it is more of a collaboration. It’s something I’m very comfortable with and enjoy. I still do a lot of the lyrics myself, but just vocally and melodically, I’ve been working with a lot of people and that’s helped improve our sound.
Would you say that’s a testament to that latest album? ‘Don’t Say I Love You’ has different edges, for example ‘Write Your Own Soundtrack’.
Oh sure. Collaborating with different people is with people who know us, the three will play live with us today. Even the producer who recorded our last two albums at Eastcott Studios is fantastic. He knows us, He knows how to develop. It shows us how to approach things a little differently.
As a group, you’ve been in the industry for a while. You have some family roots in it. What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a band?
I think it’s important to have fun, to enjoy the journey. You can always go and watch other bands and artistsOh look what they’re doing, they’re playing the back slot or they’re getting this tag.’ Or whatever, but I always say that Chris Martin just because his band is bigger is no guarantee that he’s a happier person than me. I love Coldplay and I’m sure he’s happy but there’s no guarantee he will be! If you told me when we started, we’d be playing Hyde Park on the same bill as Bruce Springsteen and Frank Turner! Then when you get there you wonder what the next band is doing there? Just enjoy the ride as you go through it. I think covid made us realize that even more.
Maybe you’ve got a more personal mission to be a little more rock ‘n’ roll than your own mother (Mary Black). Actually, a Google search on your name brings up her name and married ‘Danny O’ Reilly?
That’s funny *laughs*. My mum is a big legend in Ireland and I told her we sold Shepherds Bush here and she said ‘Come back to me when you sell out at the Albert Hall for three nights.’ I’m like wow! Not only are our genres more rock and her Irish folk than ours, but the industry has changed a lot since she was at her peak in the 90s. She is very supportive. I’m sure she probably wishes I’d calm down and get married, but she’s proud. She encouraged my sister (Roisin O) and I to write in the first place, which was the best advice she ever gave us. It’s funny because we toured in Japan and I was doing an interview there and the first thing the guy said to me was ‘So Mary Black…’ I called my mom later and told her I couldn’t believe they were asking her after her and she told me she had visited Japan many times. In my head she is just my mother but I guess you forgot about me. Last September we played a big festival in Ireland called Electric Picnic and she got up on stage with us. We learned one of her songs and played it and the crowd went mental. There were times like this in the early days that I never thought I would make it. In fact, if an interviewer asks if it’s okay to ask about my mom, I’d rather not, but now I’m proud of her. We are now well established in ourselves so I am happy to talk about her now.
There was a picture of you with Joe Biden recently, I wonder if that was the most nerve-wracking picture you’ve ever taken?
It was funny like that. We only found out three days ago. It was all cloak and sword with security everywhere. When we met him, he was very charismatic. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like and people said it was a bit pushy but it was lovely talking about golf and Ireland. We’ve done it for Obama before, so we’re doing well for the Democrats *laughs*.
It’s so funny when he’s fully dressed with his presidential smile, it looks fake.
We asked people, it looks like a little waxwork. But sometimes it happens. We supported Paul McCartney once and he gave him the big double peace sign in the photo. When you look at it, is it real or is it a cardboard cut out *laughs*. I think you’ve found your thing when you’ve taken a lot of photos over the years. We have a US tour in March and now is the angle to talk about getting your photo taken with Biden.
What are your future plans for 2023? You mentioned the US tour recently.
That’s early next year, a few good holidays coming up. Then we are writing for the next album. I don’t think we’ll be recording until next year and hopefully we’ll have it out by the end of 2024. That’s a rough plan. I have a few songs written so far. Like I said, we’ve had two albums out recently, so there’s no crazy pressure, but at the same time, it feels like we’ve gotten this album cycle out of hand. Put it this way, I think when we get to America in March next year, we’ll be playing new unreleased songs. We always go this way. We’re moving on to the next album. Although we’ve never gotten big, we’ve only taken baby steps forward. I think we learned a lot even in the first album. You’d have a studio for two weeks and I remember we had eight songs and it was like ‘Oh, you’d better write some later. Now that you’ve finished an album, I wonder if the tank is empty, is there another one in us? But once you get a little idea of someone you like, you look to the next person. One step in front of the other.
Coronas album ‘Time Stands still’ is out now. Watch the video for ‘Getaway Car’ below: