Rememberings: Scenes from My Complicated Life by Sinéad O'Connor:
I often think of Universal Mother as the most special album I’ve ever made, for many, many reasons, one of which had to do with my father. He had been going for singing lessons for many years with a gentleman by the name of Frank Merriman who taught a style of singing called bel canto. It literally means “beautiful singing” and came from Italy in the early nineteenth century. It has nothing to do with scales or breathing or any of that kind of stuff. The whole concept is that the emotions take you to the notes. When I lived in London and made my first two albums, I sang in an American accent. I sang like all of the people I idolized. I never sang like just me. It had been very uncool in the 1980s to sing with an Irish accent, and in fact, Bob Geldof was the first person to do it.
I didn’t begin to sing in an Irish accent until I went to see Frank Merriman as a student, which I did because I had dinner so often with him and my father when I happened to be in Dublin, and I was really impressed with what he had to say about singing. He described himself as a freer of voices, not a singing teacher, and he described singing as a spiritual study, which, in his presence, it really was. Studying with him led to the first time that I ever sang in my own voice, and I was able to say things that were really on my mind without having to code them as much as I had coded them in earlier albums. Frank freed more than just my voice; he freed my mind. In bel canto, you can’t have one without the other.