In an interview with The Guardian Holmes vividly recalled O'Connor's show-stopping performance at Shane MacGowan's 2018 London birthday bash, saying she "stood out by a country mile" alongside stars like Bono and Nick Cave.
After the concert, Holmes approached O'Connor about collaborating on an album focused on healing. Over the next five years between Belfast and Bray, the pair completed eight tracks for an album titled No Veteran Dies Alone. originally slated for release in 2022.
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According to Holmes, O'Connor was "non-judgmental and incredibly approachable" when he first sent some musical ideas. Her commitment to perfecting the album was evidenced by an impulsive journey from Bray to Belfast to re-record a vocal take. As Holmes tells it:
"I’d been up until 5am editing vocals and making the sound really nice for her. At 9am the doorbell went and I just knew it was Sinéad. My wife went downstairs and answered the door and Sinéad’s like, ‘I left Bray at half three in the morning because I was so excited about recording this vocal'."
After making her tea and breakfast, Holmes captured O'Connor's vocal in one take. "She was in her car back to Bray at 10am," he recalled. "I was like: wow, I am never ever going to forget this moment."
He said she threw herself into the project entirely.
"She just moved to Belfast one day and started living in my house. The first house I ever bought was a little bungalow when they were basically giving houses away in Belfast. She moved in and loved it. She’d go to Sainsbury’s, and because Belfast is such a small place, people would be like: ‘Did I just see Sinéad O’Connor in the supermarket?’"
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O'Connor's local presence extended beyond living in a bungalow and visiting the supermarket. Holmes got an unexpected call from a priest in Northern Ireland who had been involved in his sister's funeral.
"He says, ‘Could you please get Sinéad to sign Rememberings [her autobiography] for me because I think she is a prophet?’ That’s coming from a priest within the Catholic Church."
Holmes says O'Connor wanted to "make music together forever" and they shared an innate musical bond. For Holmes, working with O'Connor's singular voice felt like "recording Nina Simone."
Behind O'Connor's perceived controversies, Holmes said he found her to be "incredibly kind, funny and very thoughtful".
He believes the "appalling" public vilification she endured was unjust.
While the album was mostly complete before the tragic death of O'Connor's son Shane in January 2022, Holmes remains uncertain when it will be released. He hopes the focus remains on celebrating O'Connor's gifts.