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Lisa hannigan is enjoying life centre stage

Lisa Hannigan lets out a groan. And it's got nothing to do with me mentioning the Ricer fella. Alas, I've just brought up the term 'plinky plonk rock'; a ghastly named genre into which Hannigan's folksy, dreamy catalogue supposedly belongs. Or so Wikipedia told me.

"I've had such trouble trying to change my Wikipedia page," she laughs.

"There are so many mistakes on it. I wrote an email to Wikipedia, just saying 'this is wrong', and they told me that there was 'a conflict of interest' and I wasn't allowed to change my own page!"


Web problems aside, Lisa Margaret Hannigan has little to complain about these days. She is in very high demand. Her formative years as Damien Rice's beautiful and entrancing sidekick having paved the way for a richly rewarding career in the spotlight. Debut album Sea Sew took Lisa around the world, its wonderfully arranged, sweetly sung melodies earning the Co Meath lass a Mercury Prize nomination.

But that was two years ago, and every great record needs a strong follow-up. Which brings us to Passenger, Hannigan's new album; an accomplished record that, while not as perfect as some might have hoped, reminds us that Sea Sew was no fluke.

"I was a bit more freaked out by the first record," says Lisa, "because I'd never done any of that before, you know, being in charge of a band. And so, the second time around, I actually felt more like I knew what I was doing -- more that I knew what I wanted and a bit more confident in my role, I suppose."


It definitely comes across that way -- not only in the songs, but also, the amount of time it took to make the album. Nine days. That's good going.

"I thought we'd need more than that," she laughs. "I ended up writing quite a few songs when I was away, which lends a certain sort of atmosphere to the whole thing.

"I think, when I was away, it felt a little bit more natural. You're surrounded by all of your instruments and all the lads are there in the band to bounce ideas off. You're in a barrel . . . with everybody!" Just so long as nobody starts writing about the view from the local Travelodge.

"I know! 'White Lines on the Highway!'," she exclaims (in a cowboy accent). "There's none of that. I hope!"

Passenger was produced by US music maker Joe Henry (Elvis Costello, Loudon Wainwright III), and also features a duet with New Hampshire singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne (the charming O Sleep).

She's a lot more confident in the songwriting department, she says. It took some time, but the key thing, she insists, "is to not be afraid of the blank page".

Listening to Sea Sew is like "looking at photographs of yourself from a few years ago", she says. She loves the record, but it's a snapshot of a different time.


Hannigan's working (and personal) relationship with Rice came to an end in 2007. Some people bring it up, others don't. It's "real life", she says. The girl who was once just a backing vocalist really has come out of her shell these past few years. Especially on stage.

"Well, I do feel much more comfortable, but that's from doing it for that long," she nods. "It's a very strange thing to be getting up and singing in front of people.

"As a backing vocalist, it wasn't my place to be bloody tap dancing in the middle! It wasn't about me. It would have been inappropriate."

How very true. Good to have her in front now, where she belongs.

Lisa plays the Mixed Tape New Year's Eve gig at Vicar Street tonight