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21:37 Josh: Oh and you have to, right now, put on the song I Don't Know by Lisa Hannigan. It's the sweetest, loveliest song in the world ever.

...

21:45 DEB: Can we go see her live?

It took me all of eight minutes, three sentences from Josh, and two songs to decide that I wanted to see Lisa Hannigan live. Even by my lightning standards in spontaneity, that was a blisteringly fast reaction. What had I heard, what had I felt, that convinced me I needed to do this?

Well first of all, I was enchanted by I Don't Know's winding melody and its horn arrangement. I'm a sucker for a good horn arrangement. And maybe because the lyrics, telling of the plunging and soaring uncertainty of meeting someone whom you'd like to get to know better, resonated with me. How could I not fall in love with someone who writes the lines: 'I don't know if you eat what you've been given/Or you push it round your plate/I'd like to cook for you, all the same/I would want to, I am game.'

I knew that I'd like her voice, even before I found the copy of Sea Sew sitting on the coffee table in our parents' living room and inserted it into the CD player. Hannigan was the female vocalist who worked with Damien Rice on his albums O and 9. Her voice has this gorgeous velvety quality to it. I could quite happily collapse into it, if one could collapse into a sound. Her music builds these beautiful layers of instrumentation through which she weaves her narrative. I've read reviews that describe it all as 'coyly seductive'; I've been well and truly seduced by the lovely Lisa.

Hannigan, born in 1981, grew up in Kilcloon, County Meath, Ireland. Not having been to Kilcloon, I couldn't possibly comment on it, but Hannigan likes it there because that is where her family still lives. All the same, she left for the dizzying experience of an Art History degree in Dublin aged 18. That was when she met Rice, and so began their seven year collaborative partnership. However, he rather unceremoniously sacked her in March 2007, just before they were due to go on stage at a gig in Munich, Germany. She's remarkably good-natured about the entire incident: 'It was upsetting, but worse things have happened. For everybody it was coming to the end of its cycle. I think Damien was getting a bit sick of us as a group.'

That was fairly poor people management on Rice's part, if you ask me, but the lovely Lisa took it in her stride and returned to Ireland accompanied by Rice's drummer, Tom Osander and his bassist, Shane Fitzsimons. She wrote Sea Sew, her debut album, and then in the space of two weeks they recorded it in a barn in the Irish countryside and a friend produced it. There's nothing rushed-sounding about it, though. No, it sounds as relaxed and easy as her gentle folksy, 'plinky-plonk rock' music should be. Plinky-plonk rock isn't exactly a technical term, and I can't take credit for inventing it. That is down to one of her friends. But what it does is accurately convey that her music can't be allotted to a genre.

In truth, allotting any sort of music a genre can be tough, but when you are classically trained, as is Hannigan, and grew up listening to Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone, which she did, do you really need a genre?

Since the release of Sea Sew in September 2008 (in Ireland, May 2009 in the UK), she has appeared on Stephen Colbert's show in the US and on Later with Jools Holland in the UK. She was hoping that she would be on with Tony Bennett, but had to make do with Annie Lennox, Asher Roth, Daniel Merriweather, Little Boots, and New York Dolls, instead. She was also nominated for the 2009 Mercury Music Prize, which was won by Speech Debelle. Oh, and her music has been used as part of the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack.

By her own admission, she's not very good at voicemails and anything computer-related, so much so that her friend Una updates her MySpace for her. She does, however, bake and she can sew; the album artwork for Sea Sew was sewn by her and her mother, Frances. And she got an electric blanket for Christmas in 2008.

As for seeing her live, I get to do that with Josh on 22 November. I'm looking forward to it.




Monday 23 November: She was brilliant. I've never heard a musician so absorbed by her music. We could have been standing in her living room, listening to her make music with her friends. Mmm yes.




Humming along to

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