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The sew must go on
Her split with Damien Rice caused headlines around the music world. Now Lisa Hannigan is taking her first steps as a solo artist with a wonderfully ethereal debut album, Sea Sew. She talks to hot press about the end of her partnership with Rice, her hopes for the future and the influence of romantic entanglements on her powerfully feminine songwriting.
Adrienne Murphy, 14 Apr 2009
isa Hannigan’s star qualities are obvious from the moment you meet her. Tall, slim and elegant, she has a distinctive dress style, long dark hair and dark eyes set in a pale, beautiful face. She may be a singer first and foremost, but she has the charisma to be a movie star.
Hannigan was a member of Damien Rice’s band for seven years – “longer than the time you’re in secondary school,” she notes. But she was more than just a band member – she was his counterfoil, a feminine presence behind which he could on occasion hide his own style of machismo, the singer of the beautiful, sensual ‘Volcano’. They went their separate ways in spring 2007, Rice stating cooly that their professional relationship “had run its creative course”. So Lisa Hannigan became her own boss, working carefully and quietly to establish herself as a solo artist. The fruit of her labour since going out on her own is a lovely debut album Sea Sew, which hit the shops in Ireland last week. A beautifully modulated suite of 10 songs in the ‘folk-indie’ vein, some slow, some danceably fast, it is already a hit, climbing to No.3 in the charts in its first week on release.
Having spent years in a supporting role how does Lisa feel about her new status?
“It’s such a different thing,” she says. “The pressure is very different. Working with Damien, I always wanted to do well for the gig, and if I sang well I thought I had done well. Now I feel like we all have to do well, for me to feel that a gig went well, and everyone has to feel like they enjoyed it. I’m much more aware of the thing as a whole. I’m enjoying it now, having that responsibility. And I’ve nice boys around me.”
On the album, violin and cello are provided by the exceptionally gifted Lucy Wilkins and Vyvienne Long. Awe-filled when she describes the talent of the musicians she works with, Hannigan claims she herself is “crap at playing instruments”.
Surely not! “I can play a little bit of guitar and two-finger piano kinda thing,” she says. “I felt it held me back for years, thinking ‘I can’t really play, so how do I write?’ So I thought: 'I’ll just get really simple instruments and play them all really straightforwardly.' But they work together very nicely. And that’s the way it’s all written.”