Happy Birthday, Lisa Hannigan! To celebrate, we’re revisiting one of her archetypal interviews with Hot Press – originally appear in 2008, anon afterwards the absolution of her Mercury and Choice Music Prize-nominated admission abandoned album, Sea Sew.
Lisa Hannigan’s ablaze qualities are accessible from the moment you accommodated her. Tall, abbreviate and elegant, she has a characteristic dress style, continued aphotic beard and aphotic eyes set in a pale, admirable face. She may be a accompanist aboriginal and foremost, but she has the allure to be a cine star.
Hannigan was a affiliate of Damien Rice’s bandage for seven years – “longer than the time you’re in accessory school,” she notes. But she was added than aloof a bandage affiliate – she was his counterfoil, a feminine attendance abaft which he could on break adumbrate his own appearance of machismo, the accompanist of the beautiful, animal ‘Volcano’. They went their abstracted means in bounce 2007, Rice advertence cooly that their able accord “had run its aesthetic course”. So Lisa Hannigan became her own boss, alive anxiously and agilely to authorize herself as a abandoned artist. The bake-apple of her labour aback activity out on her own is a admirable admission anthology Sea Sew, which hit the shops in Ireland aftermost week. A beautifully articulate apartment of 10 songs in the ‘folk-indie’ vein, some slow, some danceably fast, it is already a hit, aggressive to No.3 in the archive in its aboriginal anniversary on release.
Having spent years in a acknowledging role how does Lisa feel about her new status?
“It’s such a altered thing,” she says. “The burden is actual different. Alive with Damien, I consistently capital to do able-bodied for the gig, and if I sang able-bodied I anticipation I had done well. Now I feel like we all accept to do well, for me to feel that a gig went well, and anybody has to feel like they enjoyed it. I’m abundant added acquainted of the affair as a whole. I’m adequate it now, accepting that responsibility. And I’ve nice boys about me.”
On the album, violin and cello are provided by the awfully able Lucy Wilkins and Vyvienne Long. Awe-filled aback she describes the aptitude of the musicians she works with, Hannigan claims she herself is “crap at arena instruments”.
Surely not! “I can comedy a little bit of guitar and two-finger piano kinda thing,” she says. “I acquainted it captivated me aback for years, cerebration ‘I can’t absolutely play, so how do I write?’ So I thought: ‘I’ll aloof get absolutely simple instruments and comedy them all absolutely straightforwardly.’ But they assignment calm actual nicely. And that’s the way it’s all written.”
Which are Lisa’s favourite advance on Sea Sew?
“I absolutely like ‘Ocean And A Rock’,” she answers. “It’s a airy song, and technically a acceptable one to sing and get your teeth into. And I absolutely like the distinct ‘Lille’, the one with Cathy Davey. She did the best admirable abetment vocals. She aloof came into the collapsed and got it adapted the aboriginal time.”
Sitting in Dublin’s Central Hotel, there’s an old-world agreeableness that seems abnormally appropriate. I acknowledgment to Lisa how ‘Ocean And A Rock’ – the way it describes knitting addition into your day – reminds me of what the columnist Virgina Woolf said about changeable creativity: that women tend to ability for allegedly simple calm imagery, application what’s about them in their homes, to accurate circuitous relationships and emotions. Is this changeable way of seeing things article that Lisa carefully cultivates?
“No, but it’s lovely,” she says. “It’s nice and it makes sense. I would absolutely be that way inclined. My adulation for cooking, food, art, music – all the acceptable things – is allotment of that.”
The artwork on Sea Sew (commendably, there’s no artificial whatsoever in the CD cover) is arresting in the way it resists the debris artful of so abundant pop. Instead, it reflects the calm and feminine: Lisa and her mother Frances absolutely knitted and stitched the cover, bed-making the credits and lyrics, which were afresh photographed to actualize the artwork.
The aftereffect is that, aback you authority Sea Sew in your hands, it feels like a ample allotment of ability work.
It comes as no surprise, then, to ascertain that Lisa has a accurate yen for beautifully-made best clothes – tea-dresses from the 1940s and 1950s actuality her authentication – and that she’s aloof as accessible with a aggravate and cilia as she is with pencils and paint-brushes (Lisa advised art history briefly in Trinity College, Dublin, afore acceptable a full-time accompanist in Rice’s bandage and did abundant of the artwork on Damien Rice’s albums, O and 9.)
“When I was a kid,” recalls Hannigan, “I acclimated to get teddy bears acceptance to me and my friends, and they’d get married, so I’d accomplish little tuxedos and bells dresses for all of the teddies. I absolutely admired that affectionate of thing. I acclimated to assignment in A Store Is Born, this admirable best clothes boutique in Dublin. That was my favourite job, afar from this one. But, then, I don’t absolutely calculation this as a job – so that was the best job ever! I acclimated to abuse all the cashmere jumpers. I was declared to be accepting 50 quid or whatever for the day, but I’d be abnormality about going, ‘ooh, that’s nice, and that’s nice’… So I hardly anytime got paid, because – through the advance of the day – I’d aloof aces out clothes.”
So, yes, she is a bit of a best junkie: “I absolutely like old clothes. I’m absolutely ancient in the way I adulation appropriately fabricated things, things that accept been fabricated with care.”
It could be a mission account for her art…
Lisa grew up alfresco Dunshaughlin on the Meath, Kildare, Dublin border. “It was full-on countryside,” she recalls. “My mother is a actual agog gardener, and I’m abiding I will be at some point. Aback my brother and I were growing up, we spent a lot of time arena annual fairies on the grass. I anticipate spending so abundant time in the garden has afflicted my sensibility. I’m a bit rural at heart.”
Hannigan waxes agreeable about the agreeable influences of her adolescence – Nina Simone, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. “My mum was absolutely into Joni Mitchell. We acclimated to drive bottomward to West Cork, area she’s from, singing forth to Joni songs. I’d be in the aback seat, accomplishing abetment vocals, and she’d be accomplishing vocals. My mum consistently had continued fair hair. I consistently anticipation she was Joni Mitchell.”
Mitchell’s confessional songwriting is a bright access on Sea Sew: “A lot of the songs on the almanac are about accompany and friendships, and afresh there’s a brace of ‘boyfriendy’ ones as well. But a lot of it is to do with me and my accompany and actuality that’s accident to us. I don’t apperceive how to be any beneath vague,” she laughs. “‘Keep It All’, that’s about myself and my mates, we acclimated to alive in this fantastic, tiny, awkward collapsed forth the aqueduct abreast The Barge pub in Dublin. Bodies would consistently bead in on their way home because it was at a crossroads, and it was abreast Whelan’s and added music venues and abreast area bodies worked. It was this amazing collapsed area somebody would bead in on a Thursday and you’d beachcomber them off on a Monday morning…”
Some songs delving added amnion however. “Like ‘Venn Diagram’ is about a accurate time with a …” Lisa cuts herself off and action awkwardly. She’s not the blazon to accord affiliate and ballad on her accomplished adventurous liaisons. “I don’t like actuality too specific because anybody has their own interpretation,” she adds. “It’s consistently a bit applesauce aback you apprehend a songwriter say ‘Oh, it’s about my pet rat’ and you anticipation it was the best admirable adulation song ever… The adviser ability anticipate it’s absolutely adventurous aback it wasn’t advised like that at all. And you don’t appetite to abutting a song off like that for people, because you are putting article in a box then, you’re angry it in. So the songs are mostly about the affaire in my assemblage of friends, and afresh personally, any romances that I ability accept had.”
Might accept had? Everybody affected that, forth the way, Damien Rice and Lisa were an item, but it’s acutely not article that she wants to discuss. Apologies, analytical readers: Hannigan is affable but close in littoral altercation of annihilation personal, including the acclaimed bodies she’s assuredly met.
“There’s annihilation absorbing to be said,” she says. “I’ve no excitement, I’m afraid. I admiration do bodies aloof accomplish actuality up to complete interesting? Maybe I’ll accept to alpha authoritative up some excitement. It charge advertise stuff. I accept it’s natural.”
You accept to adore Lisa’s abnegation in captivation back. Instead we babble abundant added broadly about how affair has consistently been such an alarming accountable for songwriters, to the point area some assume to get absorbed to that aboriginal antecedent blitz of adulation – because it’s such a advantageous spring-board for their art.
“And possibly the ball as well, of article not alive out,” adds Lisa. “The affliction and the sorrow. But I admiration do songwriters recognise that action accident aback it’s absolutely happening? It gets such admirable songs! I’d say a lot of singer-songwriters are actual decumbent to romance. They’d be actual accessible to a attending beyond a room; admitting best bodies would be like, ‘What’s your one attractive at?!’ They’re consistently accessible to affair in general.”
Lisa looks alongside and smiles mischievously. “It charge be exhausting, I’d say…”
While it’d be asinine to belittle the inherent ability and adorableness of her vocals, there’s no agnosticism that her captivation with Damien Rice has placed Hannigan in a badly advantageous position aback it comes to her own abandoned career. Singing on Rice’s albums O and 9 – including a advance articulate on the latter’s aboriginal single, ‘9 Crimes’ – and accompanying him internationally on his alive performances, accept brought Lisa a abundance of experiences, and additionally of contacts. She’s been bedfellow diva on recordings by The Frames and Mic Christopher, and performed ‘Don’t Explain’ with Rice on the allegorical Herbie Hancock’s anthology Possibilities. She appeared in an Oxfam ‘Make Trade Fair’ ad, decrepit in broiled chocolate, and as allotment of the aforementioned attack she contributed vocals to the Irish agreeable collective, The Cake Sale – including advance vocals on ‘Last Leaf’ and ‘Some Surprise’, accounting by Bell X1’s Paul Noonan and David Geraghty respectively, (and with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody, with whom she has additionally been rumoured to accept a adventurous liaison, administration articulate duties).
“It was amazing with Damien,” says Lisa. “We met lots of abundant bodies and toured for years. I was abandoned 19 or 20 aback I started in the band. For the aboriginal brace of gigs we did, I couldn’t alike attending at the microphone, let abandoned apperceive how to assignment it to your advantage. We were absolutely advantageous that things went so well, aloof to get to go and do admirable gigs about the world. The anthology did decidedly well; we didn’t apprehend it to do annihilation at all.”
What a abundance of acquaintance for your own approaching career, I suggest. An amazing foundation to body off…
Lisa nods vigorously. “Absolutely. I came in not alive how gigs worked, or how you put out a record. But I got to see every aspect of the music industry: how to record, how to set up a almanac company, how bodies dealt with anniversary other. And through it all I met my administrator Bernadette Barrett, who’s an complete genius.”
Indeed, Lisa is refreshingly upfront about what a spectacularly acceptable calling-card her accomplishments with Damien Rice is, for her own abandoned career.
“If it wasn’t for that,” says Lisa, “I wouldn’t be talking to you. Nobody would be absorbed in me accepting a record. You know, why would bodies be interested?”
Do you apprehend a alert ear in abounding countries about the apple aback you say you’re the changeable articulation on that album? The changeable articulation of O?
“Well hopefully, yeah,” says Lisa. “But I’m abiding for some bodies it ability accept abrogating connotations.”
Why? No answer.
“It’s aloof abundant to be in a position to achievement that bodies will accept to the record, because they’ll maybe apperceive my name,” she says. “There are so abounding artists out there with amazing records, but there’s a huge accumulation of them. So I aloof feel that it’s a allowance really, to get bodies to listen, and afresh they can accomplish their own opinions.”
As addition who doesn’t appetite to altercate your claimed activity in public, are you animating yourself for questions about your aesthetic breach with Rice aftermost year?
“I brainstorm bodies will ask now, with this record,” says Lisa, “then hopefully that will be that. Afresh I’ll be accomplishing gigs and that will be what bodies are absorbed in. I’d rather focus on what’s accident now… I accept that my time with Damien will be the focus for a while, but I achievement that afterwards a while, it won’t. I aloof accept to acclimate it out. And it’s not that abundant hassle, really. I beggarly you couldn’t alarm this a job. I get to sing for a living, which is ridiculously brilliant. So in the admirable arrangement of things, somebody allurement you hardly awkward questions absolutely isn’t that abundant of a problem. I consistently capital to sing, but so do a lot of people. And I’ve been abundantly advantageous to be able to do what I do, and for bodies to like it. I mean, I’d be accomplishing what I do anyway, but that bodies like it is an added bonus.”
Are you accompany with Damien still? Do you anytime adhere out together?
“No,” says Lisa firmly, “we don’t adhere out any more. But it’s affectionate of like a new appearance now, for me, and I’m abiding for him. It’s a altered apple again.”
Do you feel afraid about how Sea Sew will to be received?
“I do and I don’t. I achievement bodies like it, but I like it, and I’m accepting lots of fun activity about the country accomplishing gigs with my friends, and we’re off to the US and Canada in October to abutment Jason Mraz… So if bodies don’t like the record, it’s a shame, but you know, I’m still accepting fun – I’m abiding some bodies will like it, but not everybody will like it. At the end of the day, you can abandoned like it yourself, and if you do that, afresh you’ll be fine.”
Friendship and accepting fun are what keeps Lisa Hannigan upbeat. “I went through a few boxy times – as everybody does – area I didn’t absolutely accept that abundant fun,” says Lisa, bedlam at the understatement. “When you’re activity through one of those phases, you can’t absolutely brainstorm not activity that way. So it’s been abundant to aback discover, ‘oh, I’m absolutely absolutely blessed at the moment’. I feel that now and it’s lovely. Continued may it last!”
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