“mrnorth: Larger Than Lifesize” by Josey Miller

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mrnorth: Larger Than Lifesize
by Josey Miller

Did you hear the one about the rock star who wanted to be a priest? “I was all about being angelic when I was a kid,” says Colin Smith, the front man of the Irish rock band mrnorth, which is just now debuting on American airwaves after over 10 years of playing together. Smith and his mates—his cousins Emmett and Oisin O’Malley on lead guitar and bass/keyboards and their childhood neighbor Adrian Mordaunt on drums—ended up finding another calling: music. And they’ve been dedicated to it religiously ever since.

The journey to the promised land of a major-label album debut, Lifesize, was not without its delays, however. After fine-tuning their technique on home turf in the 1990s, they turned their sound into what Smith describes as “passionate, melodic rock.” Their fans are quick to name-drop the influences they hear most: Jeff Buckley, Prince and, unsurprisingly, U2.

In 2000, an American manager discovered them and brought them to New York City. They recorded Lifesize with former Talking Heads guitar player/keyboardist Jerry Harrison, who’d previously manned the boards for No Doubt and Live. And now the band is touring the country, recently sharing bills with Sheryl Crow, Puddle of Mudd and Evanescence. We sat down with Smith—speaking for the group—recently in New York City.

Which is your favorite Lifesize song?

It changes. When we were in the studio, it was “Silvermouth” because it was one of our newer, fresher songs. It’s so simple, yet so effective in its sound. We didn’t need to mull it over tons of times wondering what it needed.

What inspires you to write?

I’m a very undisciplined writer. I’m not one of those “real writers” who shows up either with or without a muse. But the subject matter that does work for me is pretty standard: what’s going on with me romantically. Our next album is themed in that way actually. It started when I wrote one of the songs about post-breakup analysis. But then it somehow didn’t seem appropriate to write about anything else, so we continued with songs in that vein. Not surprisingly, it’s pretty dark. It’s about the horrible extremes we put ourselves and others through in the supposedly noble pursuit of love. It’s been a great surprise, though. We’re doing it ourselves, and it’s giving us some wonderful results.

Do you prefer writing or touring?

I like them both for different reasons. Touring is for summer. Writing is for winter. Touring is about wearing shorts backstage and ripped jeans onstage. Writing is about wearing smoking jackets and cravats, embattled indoors while snowdrifts block your exit. Touring is about drinking beers with limes and stronger drinks with, well, limes. And writing is about drinking the bottle of port you inherited from your eccentric granduncle.

What’s it like traveling around the country in a van with a band?

Well, we’re the same four guys that have been at it from the get-go, so it feels very purposeful. But admittedly, it is very adventure-like. You go places where you would never go normally. It’s a touch and smell experience. At its best it is a unifying experience almost to the point of exclusivity. At its worst, it’s a displacing enterprise from your home and comforts. And it doesn’t always seem worth it, especially when crowds are small and we’re subsisting on basically no money.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened recently?

St. Paddy’s Day was pretty humiliating. We were performing, and I literally passed out backwards into the drums at the end of a long day of St. Paddy’s excess. It was shameful not least because of the loutish end, but also because I very openly hate that plastic Paddy revelry. I think I’ll start a hypocrites hot line.

What’s next for mrnorth?

Our thirties.

OTHER LONG-FORMAT CELEBRITY INTERVIEWS (for various news and entertainment outlets, such as Alloy.com and iVillage.com) INCLUDE: Maria Shriver, Martha Stewart, Suze Orman, Sharon Rocha, Elle Macpherson, Usher, Trent Ford, Oliver James and more.

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