Finding Hope, With The Cranberries' Help The Irish pop group's music gave a gay teenager the courage to come out to his religious family.

Finding Hope, With The Cranberries' Help

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Today, we're rolling out a new, occasional series. It's called "Why Music Matters." Every now and then, we'll bring you the stories of music fans, in their own words, about how a song or a band changed their lives.

Today, how The Cranberries helped one young man come to terms with his identity.


THE CRANBERRIES: (Singing) Doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo...

NATHAN HOTCHKISS: A lot of things were the devil.


HOTCHKISS: They would say, this isn't from the Lord.


THE CRANBERRIES: (Singing) Doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo,...

HOTCHKISS: My name is Nathan, Nathan Hotchkiss. I had a bit of a difficult upbringing. My parents were very religious. I was limited to listening only to Christian music and classical. My father would stay away a lot, and my mother would be wrapped up in all her own turmoil, and then it would spill over onto me.


HOTCHKISS: Around 13 years old is when I really started discovering music. I was down at my friend's house babysitting, and I was flipping through her CDs and popping in various ones - and happened upon The Cranberries.


THE CRANBERRIES: (Singing) See, do you like me? Do you like me standing here?

HOTCHKISS: I remember being overcome with just emotion - the emotion that was poured out by Dolores, that lead singer. Just - that touched me, to hear that much passion coming out of one body. And I really hadn't heard anything like that before. It was confusing to have been sheltered from that for so long, and not understand why.


THE CRANBERRIES: (Singing) see life as fun and take it if we can. My mother, my mother, she hold me...

HOTCHKISS: And then I started collecting music and hiding it in various places in my house, and listening to it late at night when my parents - I thought - were sleeping. I would put the cassette player right behind my head, and play it at a soft level and just quietly sing along.

There was a Cranberries cassette tape that I would listen to. And there is that one track - always - where the lead singer would make this sound like, oh!


HOTCHKISS: And it sounded like my mother when she yells. And I'd always freak out and turn off the cassette tape really quick - and just expect to see my mother coming in through the door - what are you doing?



THE CRANBERRIES: (Singing) Be a good boy...

HOTCHKISS: My parents were always telling me what to do, and how to be.


THE CRANBERRIES: (Singing) ...try a little harder.

HOTCHKISS: When they'd go out and do something, I'd turn on these CDs and scream at the top of my lungs along with the music, and I was able to relate to someone else who, I felt, had gone through something like that.


HOTCHKISS: And I knew I wasn't normal when everything that my parents, church, talked about said that I was an abomination. My preference seemed to always lean towards boys. As I got older, I, you know, realized that it was part of who I was.


THE CRANBERRIES: (Singing) Everything I do for you...

HOTCHKISS: Many of the songs' lyrics that I listened to would talk to me and tell me that I wasn't the only one out there going through feelings like this, and being treated the way I was. Coming out, really, you know, put everything under the table. And my parents, through everything, we've managed to grow closer. And our relationship is the strongest now that it's ever been.


HOTCHKISS: Someone out there may hear this story, and have had a similar situation or is still in it - and have faith that things will turn out for the better.

RAZ: That's Nathan Hotchkiss on why music matters. And Nathan Hotchkiss joins us now from KEXP in Seattle. Nathan, welcome.

HOTCHKISS: Thank you for having me.

RAZ: It's a beautiful story.

HOTCHKISS: Thank you.

RAZ: And Nathan, I want to bring in a special guest who's been listening to your story along with us - Dolores O'Riordan, the lead singer with The Cranberries. Dolores, say hello to Nathan.

DOLORES O'RIORDAN: Hey, Nathan. How are you?


O'RIORDAN: That's a totally lovely story.

HOTCHKISS: Thank you so much for what you do. I appreciate you.

O'RIORDAN: You know, I appreciate you appreciating me because, you know what? It's lovely to hear stories like that. You know, to kind of think that your music touches people to that level - it's really great, you know? And, you know, I think everybody in life, you know, we go through struggles. And the reason we go through those struggles is because later, we become stronger people. And..


O'RIORDAN: ...the journey of life is never perfect, but what's really sweet is how you've turned it around and, you know, that you're saying you're closer to your parents now than ever before.

HOTCHKISS: It's true. Thank you.

O'RIORDAN: My dad just died there, on the 25th of November, and the one thing was beautiful was that, you know, before they go, you make peace with them and you accept everything. And, you know, that way, you feel great peace inside your own heart, so...


O'RIORDAN: That's really cool that you found that inner peace, too, you know?

HOTCHKISS: I agree, definitely.


RAZ: And, Nathan, I know we sprung this on you, and you were not expecting Dolores O'Riordan in the studio with us.

HOTCHKISS: Not at all.

RAZ: And what about now, at this point in your life - are you in a place where all those things have kind of fallen into place, and those struggles seem almost distant?

HOTCHKISS: Yeah. That's the case, definitely. I recently got my mom to move out here to Seattle. She was in Massachusetts and had moved back there to reconcile her relationship with her daughters, and that didn't really pan out. So it was a three-year-long campaign of begging her to move out here and now, she's about 12 blocks away.

O'RIORDAN: Yeah. It's great, you know? Well, life is all about hating, isn't it? And acceptance. And just to find your own peace in your own heart, and to love yourself, is the most important thing you could do.

HOTCHKISS: Definitely. I agree wholeheartedly.

RAZ: Well, Dolores, thank you so much for coming in today.

O'RIORDAN: Yes. And thanks, Nathan. That was a really nice story, very inspiring. And, yeah, look after yourself. And you're a great heart. You're a great person.

HOTCHKISS: Thank you. And you are as well.

O'RIORDAN: Good luck with everything.

RAZ: Dolores O'Riordan is the lead singer with The Cranberries. They've got a new record out now. It's called "Roses." And I'm sure, Nathan Hotchkiss, if he doesn't have it yet, will buy it very soon. Nathan Hotchkiss joins us from KEXP in Seattle. Nathan, thank you so much for your story.

HOTCHKISS: You're welcome. My pleasure.


THE CRANBERRIES: (Singing) I think that you're mad. You spend a lot of time in your head. I know that you're mad. You spend a lot of time in your head.

RAZ: "Why Music Matters" comes to us from AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio, and KEXP-FM Seattle; produced by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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