Lisa Hannigan is an Irish indie-folk singer/songwriter currently living in London. The Dublin native has released two solo albums, and has a new one —At Swim— coming out on August 19.
As the story goes, Hannigan was enrolled at Trinity College, where she was supposed to be studying French and Art History. After just one week, she met Damien Rice and she eventually quit school to travel across Europe with him. Later, she would contribute vocals to his 2002 debut album O (which sold something like two million copies worldwide) and his 2006 sophomore album 9. She also toured with his band, and was for all intents and purposes, a member of his band. She was also dating him. She was also poised and ready to launch her own solo career.
One day while on tour with Rice in Germany, he fired her from the band. Without provocation or warning, right in the middle of a tour, and literally moments before they were to take the stage, he told her that he wanted her out of the band. It may have been a shock, but she dusted her boots off and got back to work.
In 2008, she released her debut record Sea Sew, which was met with critical acclaim. She followed that in 2011 with Passenger, which topped the Irish charts. She toured extensively with that record for a couple of years, but when it came to writing stuff for a new record, it just wasn’t happening. She was facing a bit of writer’s block, but she was nudged out of it with a bit of help from some friends and strangers.
She says that she got some help from veteran musician Joe Henry, who had produced Passenger. He ended up giving her the words to today’s song, which nudged her out of a funk. A little later, she got a completely unbidden phone call from Aaron Dessner out of The National. She didn’t know him and had never even met him, but he offered his services to her, and he ended up producing the new record. He also invited her to perform with The National at the Longitude Music Festival in Dublin last month.
I had actually never known about Lisa Hannigan until I got something in the mailbag about the new album. I was immediately reminded of a bunch of things that I know and love. Something like early Sharon Van Etten. Something like early Jessica Lea Mayfield. Even something like Hips and Makers-era Kristin Hersh. Something like some other stuff, but very much her own thing.
Today’s song is the fist song from the new album, and NPR Music is streaming the entire album here. This is about the first song, though, and here it is as a music video:
“Fall” by Lisa Hannigan
I love how soothing it is. I love how her strong voice is way out in front of everything, then the acoustic guitar, then the electric. I love a lot of things about this. I’m going to like the full album quite a bit. I’m also not going to waste much time in acquiring the back catalog.
You can pre-order At Swim via ATO Records here.
Also, I recommend listening to this podcast, on which Hannigan talked about Damien Rice, Aaron Dessner, Joe Henry, and Kristin Hersh. And she plays some of the new songs.