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Lisa Hannigan Interview

© Dara Munnis

The charming Lisa Hannigan returned to Brighton’s Komedia last week with her new album ‘Passenger’. Her debut album ‘Sea Sew’ created a whirl of attention, and resulted in a nomination for the Mercury Award in 2009. The Badger had the pleasure of catching up with Lisa Hannigan just before her set. 

How has the tour gone so far?
Really well, yeah. I was in Australia a week before the tour for a different thing – a Nick Drake tribute concert that I also did in Brighton about a year and a half ago. Then I came straight back and straight into the tour. I was worried I would be kicked in the face with jetlag but it was totally fine. Dr Showbiz gets you through these things. We have had a nice mix of venues of churches, concert halls and clubs, which is what I prefer given the choice.

How would you describe your latest album ‘Passenger’ and how does it differ from your debut album ‘Sea Sew’?
I wrote most of it while I was on the road in a reasonably short amount of time which doesn’t necessarily happen with your first record. I feel like it’s a bit more cohesive than the first one. It took about a year to write on tour and then we recorded it in a week in Wales. For the first record we layered it normally, whereas with this album we were all in the same room and had microphones all around and we all played together and recorded everything live.  This lends a certain sound to it which is the big difference between the records. We tried to give the listener a sense of being in the room with the music.

Is there a recurring theme in ‘Passenger’?
In this record I was thinking about what you take with you in your life. It might even be from many, many years ago but you have them in your pockets. They could be heartbreaks, or loves, or friendships, and they are all things that preoccupy your life. You come to a point when you just accept these are in your pockets.  That is what the record is about, when you’re travelling you think about what you take with you, and that is the passenger.

How did music fit into your University life?
Well, I lived in the country, and I wanted to move into town. I did French and Art History at Trinity College in Dublin. I knew I didn’t necessarily want to follow it up. I met Damien Rice on the first day of freshers week in a bar and we just got chatting. He wasn’t at college and we kept bumping into each other around town and at gigs, and months and months later he was like ‘I’m a musician you know and I need someone to sing my song’ and I was like ‘I’ll sing your song!’.  That’s all I wanted from college, I just wanted to meet people. We started working then, and we would record, and started gigging, and after two years of college we had so many gigs that I couldn’t continue with both, so I left college. But I loved my time there, being a country girl in a city. I never went to the library once, I just went to cafes.

What advice would you give to young female solo artists?
I think the only advice to give anyone who wants to do something artistic is just to do it in every situation that you can. Sing harmonies with your friends, learn new instruments, and that would be my advice. Don’t be afraid of messing up. Singing harmonies was something I had always done from when I was a kid with a group of girls. We would be singing to Kylie, or anything.

How has the Mercury Award nomination affected you as an artist?
Do you know what, I actually found out about the nomination in this very room! But we weren’t allowed to tell anyone for a week or two, and if you told anyone you would suddenly not be nominated. I didn’t even tell my family, we were so terrified it would get out. It was the most exciting thing ever. We were sworn to secrecy. It put that little tick on the record, and we had a really good night out and got hammered.

Have you been to Brighton before?
Yes, I did the Brighton marathon in 2010! Yeah, I bloody loved it. I have always really liked Brighton. It’s just got such a beautiful vibe. We went looking for some food and went wondering around The Lanes and came upon Food for Friends. There are so many places like that where you think ‘oooh that looks nice’ and you go in and it’s your perfect place.  Doing the marathon was just so beautiful; it took your mind off the horror of the whole thing.

How does artwork enter into your music?
I designed both my album covers. When I was a kid I had loads of tapes, and I poured over them, every lyric and every picture. If I liked it I would buy the vinyl because it was so big and square. It was so important to me to wrap the record that I also felt represented what was within and I see it as an opportunity to make something. It’s such a nice part of the process. After the busy stressful process of recording the album, I just sit and make the artwork, and listen to records and watch movies and have a quiet time for myself. It’s a really nice winding down of the process. I find it really interesting how you can make a package that is attractive and makes sense and works.

What are you listening to at the moment?
Um, at the moment I’ve got the new Dave Rawlings record which I love, and the new Feist record. There’s an Irish band called Jape that have an awesome new album out. On tour, we have all been buying loads of proper records. We all spent all of our money on records in Glasgow! So I’ve got stacks of Thelonious Monk and Astral Weeks and Imagine- sweet, sweet classics and I can’t wait to listen to them over Christmas – my Christmas stack.

What are your goals for the coming year?
I would quite like to run another marathon. You’ve got me thinking about it again. I’m hoping to go on a Europe tour and anywhere that will have us. We didn’t tour Europe on the last record. So, yeah I just want to play loads and get involved in any opportunities coming our way.

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