James Walton, a parish priest of Ballybricken, Ireland — where O’Riordan grew up — tells PEOPLE The Cranberries singer was “very close to her family.”
“She was a really lovely person and very pleasant to meet,” Walton said. “There were no airs and graces with her — she was just a simple country girl.”
Walton spoke with the O’Riordan family shortly after her death was announced and said “they are devastated.”
“It is as shocking as the death of any family would be when it’s so sudden and unexpected,” he says. “They are just still trying to come to terms with it. They are still waiting for information to come from England.”
The Irish musician was in London for a recording session at the time of her death, her publicist confirmed in a statement to the BBC.
Her death came as a shock to many, and Walton says “it’s too early to talk of a funeral.”
“They haven’t discussed that with me because they don’t know what’s happened with Dolores,” says Walton.
The priest said the singer’s family received a phone call with news of O’Riordan’s death on Monday morning. The community of Ballybricken has rallied around the family, he adds.
“People are still a bit in shock because it’s so out of the blue,” Walton explains. “The family themselves at the moment are trying to come to terms with it, and in the coming days the rest of the community will be calling on them with their sympathies.”
RELATED VIDEO: Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries Dead at 46
He continues, “We are all sitting here trying to get our heads around the whole thing, just trying to understand and come to terms with it ourselves. It’s not easy.”
Investigators for Scotland Yard have told PEOPLE that they are dealing with a “sudden death” in the Westminster district of London. “Officers were called at 9:05 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 15 at a hotel in Park Lane. A woman in her mid-40s was pronounced dead at the scene. At this early stage, the death is being treated as unexplained and inquiries continue.”
Last July, The Cranberries were forced to cancel their North American and European tours, citing O’Riordan’s health problems as the cause.
“Unfortunately Dolores O’Riordan’s recovery from her ongoing back problem which forced the cancellation of most of the band’s European tour this Summer has not been going as well as expected to such extent that her Doctors have now instructed her to cancel her upcoming almost sold out tour of North America with the band,” read a statement posted to the band’s Facebook page at the time.
Just a little more than three weeks before her sudden death, O’Riordan assured her fans she was now “feeling good” following the tour issues.
“Hi All, Dolores here. Feeling good!” she wrote on the band’s Facebook account. “I did my first bit of gigging in months at the weekend, performed a few songs at the Billboard annual staff holiday party in New York with the house band. Really enjoyed it! Happy Christmas to all our fans!!”
She was married to Duran Duran’s tour manager, Don Burton, but split from him in 2014.
O’Riordan is survived by her three children, 20-year-old son Taylor, 16-year-old daughter Molly and 12-year-old daughter Dakota.