Singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan has been charming international audiences since the release of her debut solo album, Sea Sew, in 2008, combining sublime mellifluousness with the occasional banjo and ukulele-based rock-out. She has released two highly acclaimed albums since, and was working on a live project with Dublin’s Museum of Literature Ireland before the coronavirus pandemic closed venues across the land.
Here, she reveals her contribution to Other Voices’ virtual gig series this Thursday (May 7), performing live from the National Gallery of Ireland alongside Loah and Kevin Murphy of Slow Moving Clouds – socially distancing, of course.
The gig follows live-audience-free performances from Mango x Mathman, Ye Vagabonds, Sorcha Richardson and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi. Tune into Hannigan et al via YouTube, Facebook Live and rte.ie at 8pm.
What can you tell us about your upcoming Other Voices performance, whose theme is “Courage”?
Well, I will not be in my own house which I am inordinately excited about! I’ll be joined by two very special guests – Sallay Garnett aka Noah and Kevin Murphy. We haven't been able to rehearse together for obvious reasons, but I'm really looking forward to playing music with people again. I'll be performing tunes from all of my records, and one I wrote last week.
What does “Courage” mean to you?
It's all around us every day. Those working on the front lines, doctors, nurses, cleaners, shopkeepers. But also, everyone struggling to make sense of this new world, to be creative and productive against a backdrop of worry and tension, when everything feels askew and strange.
What is your fondest memory of performing for Other Voices since its inception in 2001?
Arriving in Dingle is such a beautiful moment every year – the warm welcome after a long long journey. I've grown up with all the Other Voices crew and am always glad to see them. Also, Dingle pints might be the best pints?
From a creative point of view, is the lockdown providing a flurry of inspiration or much-needed downtime?
It's actually been brilliant for me. I've not had any time to write for the last year, since my baby arrived, but now we're all getting into a routine where I can carve out some hours here and there. I've been writing with friends too, sending bathroom phone recordings back and forth. I think the distance helps.
What are you reading?
I'm halfway through Olga Tokarczuk's Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, which I'm really enjoying. It is considerably more fun than the title would suggest. My son has only recently started to sleep through the night, so I can finally bring myself to risk a chapter or two in the evening. I have Geoff Dyer's But Beautiful: A Book about Jazz lined up to read next.
What are you watching?
I'm working my way through the Studio Ghibli films that have all just popped up on Netflix. They're so strange and beautiful. Also waiting for my fella to finish the book so we can watch Normal People like everyone else!
What music are you dancing to like no one’s watching because precisely no one is watching?
I generally tend to keep my dancing to when no one is watching. Keeping everyone in the household happy we've been listening to Miles Davis, Maria Callas, MC Hammer and everything in between.
What does your lockdown uniform consist of?
I usually start the day with some optimistic gym wear. This does not usually result in any exercise but it's an act of hopefulness in these difficult times. At some point I'll give up and put a dress on. A dress with pockets; there are far too few of them about. I'm enjoying not wearing shoes.
Best thing you've cooked/baked/created so far during confinement?
I've been diligently working through my freezer and found some languishing gyoza wrappers and prawns. After some internet help I made prawn, ginger and scallion gyozas and felt quite smug about it to be honest. There was a satisfying industriousness about the whole thing; the wrapping, the steaming, the frying. I like to eat half my dinner as I cook it, so it was hard to spend an hour lining up all the little uncooked dumplings, but worth it in the end.
Who was on your last video call and what was it about?
It was about the “Courage” show. They were running through all the health and safety and social distancing measures and the technical issues to be aware of, as it's all live.
Any eccentric rituals or arbitrary routines you’ve developed during this time?
Well, my daily swerve away from exercise has become a routine of sorts. I've also started growing things. A courgette plant, some beans and salad leaves, along with a small herb garden, so I like to water them and check that no slugs have visited. I'm trying to write every day as well, which has been really helpful. It takes a while to build up some steam with it.
Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself during the lockdown so far?
As a singer-songwriter I've been preparing for this self-isolating business for most of my adult life. I have been surprised, though, at my commitment to and capacity for buttered toast.
Where are you most looking forward to marking the end of the lockdown and who will be right there with you?
Every single thing from “the Before Time” has been dusted with nostalgic longing. Just before it all went awry I was rehearsing in the Museum of Literature for [James Joyce’s poem] Pomes Penyeach, and having lunch in the café there. I remember thinking, “my parents would love this, I should take them next week…” We'll get there eventually.
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