“She was very, very honest, almost to a fault. Most singers are actors. Sinéad was not an actor.” Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan recalls Sunday dinners with Sinéad O'Connor while she was holed up in a friend's attic

Billy Corgan and Sinead O'Connor
(Image credit: Daniel Knighton/FilmMagic | John Shearer/WireImage)

Smashing Pumpkins frontman and bandleader Billy Corgan has paid tribute to the late Irish singer/songwriter Sinéad O'Connor, recalling how he got to know her while she was living, temporarily, in a mutual friend's attic.

In the spring of 2016, O'Connor moved into the Chicago home of drummer Matt Walker, who she knew as Morrissey's drummer: Walker had also played with Smashing Pumpkins during Jimmy Chamberlin's absence from the band, and had remained friends with Corgan. The two musicians subsequently got to know one another over dinners at Walker's home in the suburb of Wilmette, as Corgan recalls in a new interview in The Irish Times

“I’d met Sinéad once at a show,” Corgan remembers. “We talked a little bit, but I can’t say I knew her. So now she’s living at my friend’s house, where I go for Sunday dinner. Four or five, six times I was over for Sunday ham and Sinéad would come down and have dinner. And then I finally got to know her as a person. We talked about her children a lot and relationships in life and her struggles.”

“She was very, very honest. I mean, almost to a fault. This bare-your-soul honesty. Such a beautiful woman, such an incredible talent – just in awe of her talent. Of course my friends were calling me on the side, asking me for advice on what to do with the rock star living in their attic. They love her and they’re trying to support her through a very difficult time.”

One Sunday morning in mid-May that year, O'Connor left Walker's home at 6am for a bike ride, and didn't return. The following day, the police in Wilmette released a statement which they said that they were “seeking to check the wellbeing” of the then-49-year-old, prompting concerns among those who knew her, as Corgan recalls. 

“My friends are calling me, freaking out, because they don’t know what to do... I had an interesting inside perspective into this critical time in her life. It was hard to watch, because, you know, her struggles were real.”

O'Connor was discovered that same day. The singer passed away last year, prompting a huge outpouring of tributes from fellow musicians.

“If you can take anything from her passing, it was to see this incredible outpouring of love and respect for her, says Corgan. “Sometimes it’s [sad] it takes a passing for people to come into contact with how they feel. People realise now that we lost someone who probably should have gotten more attention and support when she was here. Because her gift was so rare. And her gift had a lot to do with her pathos. Her incredible gift of singing had a direct line to her heart. That’s so rare in singers. Most singers are actors. Sinéad was not an actor.”

Smashing Pumpkins launch their The World Is A Vampire summer tour of Europe in Birmingham, UK on June 7. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.