Holly Cairns’s Spotify playlist: ‘Dolores O’Riordan’s voice blows my mind every time’

The TD on Florence + the Machine, Van Morrison, Beoga and the best songs for the road

My journey from Cork to Dublin for work takes 4½ hours, and I listen to music throughout. I find it therapeutic. My playlist represents the type of music I’d listen to while on the road: generally, I try and listen to upbeat songs, to try and stay awake and alert for the journey. They’re songs that sound best in a car – I find that music sounds different when you’re driving compared to when you’re sitting in a room with music playing. Perhaps it’s to do with the forward motion.

Becoming a TD in 2020 meant this past year has been a busy one for me, so I haven’t been listening to as much new music as I’d like. I know there are lots of up-and-coming female Irish artists that I’m dying to give some time to, but my focus has to be on work at the moment. That said, I have two friends who send me music, and I find that really helpful. I heard the Shakey Graves song Dearly Departed through my friend Tessa, and my friend Stephen sent me the song Irene – I’ve no idea who Courtney Marie Andrews is, but I love that song.

I Shazamed Alabama Shakes' This Feeling when I was watching Fleabag – it plays in the final scene when Fleabag is at the bus stop. I do love that soul sound, like Joan Armatrading, who's also on the playlist. Down to Zero is one of my favourite songs ever.

I wouldn’t easily be able to describe my music tastes, but I know I don’t particularly like classical or electronic music. I automatically change it if classical music comes on the radio or Apple Music. It’s a different story live – it’s phenomenal when it’s played in front of you, but I’d never listen to it on my own.


It was hard to pick just one Florence + the Machine song. Even now I’m wondering if I should put Sky Full of Song in there, and I love St Jude as well. But I chose Dog Days Are Over because that was my gateway song to Florence. Her voice is incredible; she’s so talented. I sometimes wonder when listening to pop music what acts will be timeless in the same way that The Beatles are. When I think about today’s artists, I do think that Florence + the Machine is one of those. She has such raw talent.

The Weight by The Band is another song that has stood the test of time. It’s a classic. I tend to put my music on shuffle and skip, skip, skip until I find something I want to listen to, and I rarely don’t want to listen to this song when it comes on. I just don’t get sick of it. I feel the same with the Van Morrison song, Days Like This. I was a fan of that for years, but on one particular listen recently, I really got just how good it was. There’s something about the lyrics that I love.

I don't make an enormous amount of time for gigs like a lot of people, but I love live music, more in pub venues than big concerts

Lots of the songs on the playlist hold particular memories. When The Homestead Hero by Beoga comes on, I think back to having that song stuck in my head in count centres for some reason. I can almost smell the place again, it’s so familiar. I love trad music. My mum plays trad and her friends would come over and play all the time, and it gave me a love of trad. To hear young people playing a bit more upbeat, modern version is brilliant. I’m surprised they haven’t made it bigger.

Beoga were the last band I got to see before lockdown. I went to see them in Limerick and they were fab. I’d seen them once before that in Dublin. I don’t make an enormous amount of time for gigs like a lot of people, but I love live music, more in pub venues than big concerts. That said, I often went to Slane because my mum’s from Slane and my grandmother lives there.

The first gig I went to was The Cranberries in Kerry. Dolores O’Riordan’s voice blows my mind every time I hear it: it’s absolutely stunning. Again, it’s difficult to pick a Cranberries song. There’s obviously Zombie, which is a massive favourite. Linger is amazing. I can’t believe she wrote it when she was 16. More recently, I’ve started to appreciate Dreams, and that’s why I put that on, even though I’ve listened to the other songs more.

I don’t think we’ve realised how much we miss the arts during the pandemic. I hope all goes well and we roll the vaccine out successfully, and that we use all the available science where needed. It requires everybody’s best effort, but it feels like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.