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She Moves In Mysterious Ways
At just 30 years of age, Lisa Hannigan has gone from being Damien Rice’s sidekick to establishing herself as one of the most important new artists in contemporary Irish music. With the release of her second album, Passenger, she is set to take the world by storm. But behind the natural beauty is a remarkable woman who is beginning to reveal the depth of her mysteries…
Olaf Tyaransen, 19 Oct 2011
Does she want to talk about it?
“Oh Olaf, I’m a closed book! You know me! I’d rather not talk about that because you know…” She flutters her eyelashes demurely and laughs. She’s a smart and sassy flirt, with a good sense of humour and a lot of class. It’s easy to see why anybody would fall in love with her.
One of the album’s stand-out tracks is a mournful duet with Ray Lamontagne called ‘O Sleep’. Its genesis is an interesting reflection of how a writer like Lisa works.
“I’d just heard Dr. Ralph Stanley’s version of ‘O Death’ on a Robert Plant documentary,” she explains, “and I was really taken by the idea of addressing something intangible. Around the same time, I went for a walk in Sandymount and was singing into my phone. Then I stopped in a café and took one of their paper bags and wrote all the words on the back.”
How did the duet with Lamontagne come about?
“I met him a few times, working with Damien, and he’s really nice. And when I had the duet I thought I would love to work with him, that he’d be at the top of my list. So I asked through people so that he could say ‘no’ easily, but he said ‘yes’. He hadn’t even heard the song and he said ‘yes’, which was very nice. So he came and did it on that one day of overdubs we had, and yeah, it was great. The moment he started singing, it was exactly the way I had heard it in my imagination. His pipes are just insane. Brilliant.”
The comparitively light and humorous ‘Safe Travels (Don’t Die)’ finds Hannigan exhorting an ex-boyfriend to avoid accidentally killing himself (“Don’t swallow bleach out on Sandymount Beach/I’m not sure I’d reach you in time, my boy/Please don’t bungee jump or ignore a strange lump/And a gasoline pump’s not a toy”).
“It was the last one I wrote before recording,” she recalls. “It was only the week before we went recording and my friend just always signs his texts with ‘Safe travels, don’t die’. I had the chorus and melody and, you know those lovely Edward Gorey drawings? These characters with awful deaths befalling them in strange, myriad ways. Somebody gets smothered under a rug, just these wonderful, wonderful…”