It took her a month, but Lisa Hannigan hand-stitched all of the lyrics to her album "Sea Sew" for its liner notes. The cover features felt dice arranged on navy knitted wool. "I feed your words through my buttonholes," she sings on swaying opener "An Ocean and a Rock." "Pin them to my fingerless gloves/Green and prone to fraying."
The patience required for the sewing and the folksiness of the lyrics help define the 27-year-old singer/songwriter, who is best-known to American audiences as the former backing singer for Irish star Damien Rice. A professional singer since age 20, Hannigan spent seven years accumulating material for "Sea Sew."
"I've always been writing, but I never performed those songs for people. I spent six years creating music with Damien and gathering more confidence," she says. "If I had had more time . . ."
Last year, she found it. In 2007, Rice and Hannigan had an abrupt parting of ways; he dismissed his backing band soon thereafter. "I don't know what spurred it. It just came to the natural end of the cycle. It was just time for it to be finished," Hannigan says.
With her hours suddenly open, she got to work arranging her guitar-based compositions and banged through sessions for "Sea Sew" in Dublin in just two weeks. It's a lush set enhanced with strings, horn, harmonium, organ and acoustic guitar as Hannigan's breezy voice harmonizes with itself. She self-released the album in conjunction with RMG in Ireland in September and has been hunting for the right deal in the States, garnering plenty of early attention from labels. Her popularity will likely increase as she supports Jason Mraz on his national tour through the end of November. "[Mraz] saw me perform with Damien a long time ago and basically kept me on his radar until I had a solo set done. The stars aligned on this one," Hannigan says.
These American roads are by now old hat to Hannigan. While this may be her first trek with her own full band, she's performed here nationally with Rice four times before. "I'm not planning on leaning on Damien's name, but I'm well-aware that's how audiences here know me. I mean, that's what got me here," she says. "But I'm not bored yet. We're making new music and meeting new people. Plus I've stayed busy mending band members' clothes."