interview: lisa hannigan

so, i remember the first time i really listened to damien rice – gosh, it’s been, what, seven years, maybe? six? and i instantly picked up on this lovely female voice in the background, and i was charmed. not that rice isn’t charming on his own, but this voice was really very sweet and beautiful, a perfect pitch and foil for his melancholy. i did a bit of hunting around and discovered it belong to an irish singer-songwriter by the name of lisa hannigan, and ever since then, i’ve been consistently delighted by her music. she released a solo debut album back in ’08 by the name of sea sew and is now back with her sophomore release passenger which is truly a gorgeous work of art.

photo by nick leclair

curious about her creative process, considering she’s such a talented songstress, i asked lisa a few questions about passenger and how she works:

have you met heather: passenger, your latest album, was just released. what’s the story behind it?

lisa hannigan: Well, most of the record was written on the road during touring so I suppose that influenced the record a great deal. Being away brings about a certain nostalgia for home and also the past.

hymh: do you have any favorites off of the album?

lisa: They’re all my favourites really. There’s none that I dread appearing on the setlist. If I had to pick one it would be Little Bird.

hymh: what is your creative process like behind writing your music?

lisa: A song would usually start with a melody or a line of words and then I tend to walk about humming to myself until it gets some sort of shape to it. Sometimes I don’t know what a song is about until I’ve written a good portion of it.

hymh: where do you tend to find inspiration for your songs?

lisa: I generally write songs from personal experience or the adventures and tomfoolery of close friends.

hymh: you’re about to embark on a tour through the US. what’s a typical tour like for you?

lisa: A lot of energy is spent finding the most delicious food we can. There’s certain places that we never miss, like legal seafood in Boston.. Oh the crab cakes..

hymh: you’ve worked with people like damien rice and herbie hancock in the past, which must have been both fun and interesting. do you ever find yourself being influenced by those you’ve worked with?

lisa: I imagine everyone that I meet and work with influences me on some way. Some less directly than others. With Herbie in particular, he showed me that the trick is not to aim to play or sing something right, but to find something new and interesting each time.

thanks, lisa!

download and have a listen to knots, which is off of passenger:

it was early in the morning,
we were sitting on the stoop,
there wheeled away a starling
and i thought that I would too.
oh for all i knew,
i was lost through and through,
in my high heels and my old dress
with my new keys in the wrong city.

i tie the knots to remember in my heart,
so i choke and i sputter to a stop,
i am a borrower and lender of the lot.

i walk away asleep
and chalk an outline round the scene.
this shadow play of whiskey talk,
a heavy denier dream.
oh let it be, i was lost in him and me.
in my high heels and my old dress
with my new keys in the wrong city.

i tie the knots to remember in my heart,
so i choke and i sputter to a stop,
i am a borrower and lender of the lot.

(mp3) knots by lisa hannigan

i’m going to have to agree with lisa on little bird. it’s my favorite off of passenger, too. so, so delicate. so, so sweet and sad at the same time. perfect poetry-like lyrics. simple and yet complex at the same time. for example:

i was salted by your hunger,
now you’ve gone and lost your appetite
and a little bird is every bit as handy in a fight.
i am lonely as a memory
despite the gathering round the fire.
aren’t you every bird on every wire?

see what i mean? check out a video of lisa performing the song in dublin earlier this year:

want to see lisa on tour? check out one of the following dates:

October 4 Portland, OR Doug Fir
October 5 Seattle, WA Tractor
October 6 Vancouver, BC Media Club
October 7 Calgary, AB Heritage Park Gasoline Alley
October 10 Chicago, IL Double Door
October 12 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
October 13 Baltimore, MD Sound Stage
October 16 Montreal, QB Petit Campus
October 17 Boston, MA Paradise
October 20 Philadelphia, PA Milk Boy
October 21 New York, NY Hiro

buy passenger, lisa hannigan’s latest album, HERE.

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