Interview: Lisa Hannigan
Lisa Hannigan first found fame in 2002, when she lent her beautiful voice to Damien Rice's debut album O. A decade on, the County Meath-born folkie is now an acclaimed solo artist herself, with the Mercury and Choice Music Prize nominations to prove it.
We had a quick catch-up with Lisa about the inspirations behind latest album Passenger, the highlights of her career so far and why water-based paint (quite literally) saved her skin. Read the interview below!
Hi Lisa, where are you right now?
I’m in Paris! I found myself at a loose end of sorts in Dublin so I’ve come over here for a bit to write and hopefully learn some French.
Congratulations on Passenger! Can you explain a little about the lyrical themes on the record please, and what you set out to achieve sonically?
Because I wrote the record while mostly on the road for my first record, Sea Sew, Passenger is about what I take with me wherever I go. Every song reflects that in some way. Sonically, I wanted the listener to feel like they were sitting right in the room with us, which is what [my producer] Joe Henry always sets out to do.
How do you feel you’ve progressed as an artist since Sea Sew?
I feel much more solid in what I do now, in terms of writing and singing, like it’s coming into focus for me.
What attracted you to work with Joe Henry and what do you feel he brought to the record?
From the moment I met Joe, I knew he was the man for the job – he has such a wonderful sense of atmosphere. He brought his aerial view to the record, always leading us to what served the song best.
We hear you recorded the album in a week! Are you naturally a fast-worker or were these exceptional circumstances?!
Well firstly, I’m not the most patient of people and prefer to work fast. When you’re recording a song live too, there’s only so many times you can play it before it becomes a little stale. Joe was initially suggesting three days so I did quite well stretching him to a week!
You duet with Ray LaMontagne on the record – how did that collaboration come about? Is there anyone else you’d particularly like to work with in the future?
He was wonderful to work with. I could imagine his incredible voice on the song from the beginning and was so thrilled when he said yes. I always like to collaborate with people and am open to suggestions, but at the moment I’m just focusing on my solo stuff.
If you had to pick out one stand-out track on the album, which would it be and why?
I love playing ‘Knots’ so much. Great to get a foot stomp on the go.
Congratulations on your recent Choice Music Prize nominations! How important are the opinions of critics to you?
It’s always heartening to hear if someone likes the record but it’s most important that I like it myself!
Was the video for ‘Knots’ as fun to make as it is to watch?! And how long did it take you to wash the paint off afterwards?!
It was much more fun to make! Though I did swallow a lot of paint. It was my idea so I’ve no one to blame but myself. Afterwards, I just stood under the shower for half an hour as it all melted away: water-based paint!
You create your own artwork too, don’t you? Were you not a musician, would you consider pursuing a career in design, or would you do something else entirely?
I think I’d like to run a bookshop. Preferably somewhere like Shakespeare & Co, in Paris!
What’s the best album you’ve heard in the past twelve months and why?
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far and why? And what would you still like to achieve?
I think my proudest moments have been on stage when I really feel like myself and the band have played a great show. And there’s still so much left to do.
Finally, what’s the plan for the rest of 2012?
I’ve got a lot of different shows coming up which I’m excited about. I’m going to stay in Paris ‘til the end of the year too, to write and drink strong coffee...