Fly­ing solo

Lisa Han­ni­gan had got­ten comfortable tour­ing and record­ing with Damien Rice. But a nudge out of the nest gave her the im­pe­tus she needed to record her own de­but al­bum. She talks thrills and trep­i­da­tion with Jim Car­roll on the eve of her ap­pear­ance at this

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

IT’S A sticky night in Dun­dalk. Real mon­soon weather. All the win­dows in the Spirit Store are open in an at­tempt to get some air cir­cu­lat­ing, but the only thing go­ing round the packed tiny room and down the stairs to the front bar is a buzz of ex­pec­ta­tion. Peo­ple are cu­ri­ous about the singer, the one who has yet to release a note of mu­sic and who hasn’t yet even played two dozen shows un­der her own name.

Tonight, Lisa Han­ni­gan is sell­ing her wares. She’s been do­ing this all sum­mer long, tak­ing a bunch of freshly baked songs and a band of sharply suited play­ers around the coun­try to small, squishy rooms like this. She has dealt with wardrobe mal­func­tions in Tul­lam­ore and ban­jos go­ing on fire in Head­ford. Peo­ple have paid good money to see her, and she has sent them home smil­ing. And sweat­ing, but that’s the Ir­ish sum­mer for you.

It doesn’t take long for the good burghers of Dun­dalk to be en­tranced.

Han­ni­gan’s magic lies in her slen­der, sub­tle songs. The ar­range­ments and stylings that an­chor them are ad­ven­tur­ous, aided by an ar­ray of eye- and ear-catch­ing idio­syn­cratic in­stru­ments – har­mo­nium, xy­lo­phone, banjo, fin­ger-bells, recorder.

Then there’s Han­ni­gan her­self, the star of the fair. She is to the lime­light born, with stage pres­ence galore. She ban­ters with the crowd like a pro and without a trace of shy­ness or gauch­eness. At times, she just can’t hide the glee at what’s go­ing around her as audiences are drawn into those songs. It’s the kind of show you don’t see ev­ery day.

“I had no idea at the start if peo­ple would come out to the shows,” she says. “Peo­ple know me from The Cake Sale or Damien Rice, but it’s so dif­fer­ent to what I was do­ing be­fore . . . peo­ple don’t know that un­til they’re at the show, and that’s a lot to ask. But I’m very heart­ened and chuffed by the last few weeks.”

In the mid-morn­ing lull of a Dublin bar, Han­ni­gan is about to do some­thing she’s never re­ally done be­fore. With her de­but al­bum, Sea Sew, due out in a few weeks, she now has to start talk­ing about her­self. She may have spent the last seven or eight years record­ing and tour­ing with Rice, but she’s never had to open up about her­self when there’s a tape recorder on the ta­ble.

“It is hard to ad­just to not just be­ing the cen­tre of at­ten­tion, but also to be­ing in charge. My phone is al­ways on. The mer­chan­dise is get­ting made, the art­work is go­ing to print and it’s me who has to be in con­trol of all th­ese lit­tle el­e­ments, whereas be­fore, I could just have sat back and let some­one else worry about it.

“Gen­uinely, though, I’m loving it. I’m not daunted by it. And, yes, there are things I’m go­ing to have to get used to, like talk­ing about my­self, which will be a bit hard to do, but so was ev­ery­thing else when I started out.”

Han­ni­gan grew up in the Co Meath vil­lage of Kil­cloon. She danced to Michael Jack­son in her liv­ing room and learned songs she’d taped from the ra­dio in her bed­room. She re­mem­bers work­ing out the likes of Kristin


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