2009 sees the third year of one of Ireland's fastest growing and most interesting music festivals: Cork X Southwest. The August bank holiday will see picturesque Skibbereen awash with music-lovers as The Waterboys, Lisa Hannigan and Jerry Fish and the Mudbug Club among many others take to the stage. Sig Doherty catches up with Lisa Hannigan.
Hello Lisa, where are you this Irish summer’s morning?
Currently in Galway, we had a gig in the Roisin Dubh last night and have another one tonight, so waking up in rainy Galway
Now the shackles have been discarded, how are you revelling in your new found freedom as a solo performer?
Great! I have a really amazing band around me who are also my friends. It’s an absolute pleasure travelling around with these people, and the tour manager (Una Molloy) is my best mate. It just has been amazing! And we have been writing songs on the road as well, and slowly getting better at that! It’s going really grand.
Sea Sew, studio wise, was put together in two weeks. How much of this would have been put down to the familiarity of working and playing with your band?
We put in quite a bit of work prior to going into the studio so we were very prepared, and hadn’t really slept at all. Plus, we only really had the money for 2 weeks in the studio. So it was a case of doing quite a bit of work before the recording sessions so we were at a point where we could record in 2 weeks, which is a short space of time.
There is a wide range of instruments at play on Sea Sew which adds to the depth and beauty.....
Yeah, well I wanted to use slightly different instrumentation. I wanted it to sound 'crooky', and well, a bit kind of ‘rusty’, and we hopefully managed that by using old squeaky, broken down instruments a lot of the time!
When-ever you are originally penning the songs, would have an overall sound of how you want the song to progress or does that happen later during the arranging in the studio?
The songs all take a kind of different approach. Sometimes they start with a simple drum pattern, a two chord progression. So each one is kinda different from the outset and we'll let them percolate for a while, and the arrangements then get fleshed out. I try to break it down to the most basic of components and then add its back in which to me is the easiest way of constructing a song and trying to keep as much space as possible in the arrangements. It’s working fantastically well.
You have just finished Glastonbury 09. With its lack of rain, and heavy weight performances from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Nick Cave and Neil Young will go down as one of the great festivals of recent times. How was the experience for your good self?
Ah, it was amazing! The rain was there on the Thursday night; we arrived on the Friday and missed it! We saw a little bit of Neil Young, which was great but we caught most of Bruce Springsteen which was just amazing, he is such an incredible performer! He was jumping about and running like a kid, high fiving the front row as he went. Apart from his music and singing, he just has so much energy. Great to see!
Well, it gives everyone so much hope, as the Boss isn’t a kick in the ass off 60...
Ah yes! He's fitter than most people I know! He always gives so much to the audience energy and time wise. Just extraordinary.
You always look as though you are having such a great time on stage yourself, which in turn transcends to the audience. You see so many performers on stage, who frankly look like they’d be happier doing the ironing or unblocked the sink!
I'd be like 'go get a real' job. You know, I think this is the best job in the world, it’s just the best to be able to play music to people. We just finished a gig with Josh Ritter recently, and he is the most smiley person in the world! And its infectious, everyone there has such a wonderful gig experience, everyone ends up smiling! And in turn, you're be lifted by the audience’s reaction, its lovely
You have recently finished an extensive tour in the USA with Jason Mraz.
Yes we did an extensive tour with him in the autumn, which comprised of 44 dates in amazing venues. It was such an incredible tour to be on playing on with my band. You know, to be playing in venues like Radio City, so it really set the bar high for ourselves! We cannot wait to get back out there touring again.
What are the logistics of a tour like that for yourself and the band?
Well, you have to get to the next venue independently. You could do a localised tour in a van say, but if you are criss-crossing the country and have a gig every-night you really have to be in a tour bus. We ended up staying in the tour bus for the entire tour, didn’t see hotels or motels!
Physically and emotionally, an extensive tour of the states must take its toll?
It's two months long and you know it could have been, but really we were all so excited to be there, so glad to be touring that the excitement carried us through the whole trip. And we just had so much fun having never toured in that way before as a band.
With many long and arduous hours decamped in a tour bus, what box sets are currently on rotation to ease the boredom?
On the recent American tour, we all watched Deadwood, an amazing show during the prospecting times with a lot of colourful language! Amazing show. And as a result all of our language got pretty rough and ropey!! It actually affected all of our aesthetics, all the boys got the three piece suits and handle bar moustaches… it was just great. And we've been getting into the Wire as well.
You are back doing a mini-tour with the Swell Season in August...
Yeah! I cannot wait to see them play again. I'm really looking forward to those gigs.
You're just backed from Glastonbury and you are booked to play the electric Picnic, have you any other festivals lined up this year?
We are playing Latitude and Guildfest next week which are going to be a lot of fun. [and Cork X Southwest in August]
Do you have a favourite festival?
I think it would have to be the 'Picnic! I've been there every year, with the exception of the first year, and it’s just got the best atmosphere! It’s the perfect size for wandering around without thinking you have spent you whole day traipsing through mud! They put a huge effort into make it an 'other-worldly' experience, where you're leaving your normal life and going to a tiny town for a few days and really do make it a special trip as opposed to just going to see gigs. And it’s nice that’s it’s just down the road!!
Hemming-stitch or back-stitch?
[much laughing later]
I wouldn’t know! I'm not very good at sewing at all, I've learned very roughly and shabbily. The album stitching, it’s certainly not a beautiful piece of work by any stretch of the imagination [to which we agree to disagree! Sig]
Thanks Lisa for the time and we’d all like to wish you all the good luck and fortune in the future, and then some!