Interview: Lisa Hannigan talks new album, Joe Henry, Ray Lamontagne collabs

In the single-shot video for Lisa Hannigan”s “Knots,” the Irish singer-songwriter is bombarded by paint at all angles in the world”s easiest target practice. She”s a good sport, but she is solid, keeping her place.

In “Passenger,” her new album for ATO, she”s everywhere. The title itself refers to “what you take with you – love, heartbreak, friendships and all the problems – that you take across hundreds of miles and over a year. It”s all your passenger, moving on, moving along, meeting new people,” she told me in our recent interview.
And move it does. If you blinked, you could have missed Hannigan”s Mercury Prize-nominated solo debut “Sea Sew” from 2008: it excelled in subtlety, the calm of small-scale songs and melodies. It was beautiful. “Passenger” is bold, and in no small part due to Joe Henry.
The veteran songwriter and producer pushed instrumentation forward in the mix, as is evidenced in tracks like “Knots” and opener “Home.” Henry joined the project after hearing her sing during a tribute concert. He”d contacted Hannigan”s manager, “and with such a gentlemanly email style… and in classic lady style, when someone really want to talk to you, I”m like, ‘yeah whatever, blah blah.” But then the moment I saw him… he was such an incredible spirit. I had a wonderful feeling about him.”
Engineer Ryan Freeland is an expert in capturing Hannigans vocal idiosyncrasies and tone, the little trills and happy mistakes (the very, very few mistakes). Freeland helmed on Ray LaMontagne”s “God Willin” & the Creek Don”t Rise,” an effort that similarly slides a voice with a strong personality up against a smart instrumental presence.
The connection doesn”t end there. LaMontagne actually makes a cameo on the album, on the tired-eyed “O Sleep.”
“It”s about capturing the moment right before you go to sleep. He sounds so good there,” she said.
Hannigan — who also previously collaborated with songwriter Damian Rice for some seven years — earned yet another famous fan out of ATO Records” co-founder, Dave Matthews, with a spot on his Caravan this summer.
Hannigan comes back to the ‘States in a week for a coast-to-coast tour through Oct. 21, dates below. Live, expect the same bounty of restraint and cleverness as her records do.
“Passenger” is out today (Sept. 20).

Here are Lisa Hannigan”s tour dates:
September 27 /// Los Angeles, CA /// El Rey
September 29 /// San Diego, CA /// Belly Up
October 1 /// Santa Barbara, CA /// Soho
October 2 /// San Francisco, CA /// Slim”s
October 4 /// Portland, OR /// Doug Fir
October 5 /// Seattle, WA /// Tractor
October 6 /// Vancouver, BC /// Media Club
October 7 /// Calgary, AB /// Arratta Opera Centre
October 10 /// Chicago, IL /// Double Door
October 12 /// Baltimore, MD /// Ram”s Head Live
October 13 /// Washington, DC /// 9:30 Club
October 15 /// Toronto, ON /// The Mod Club
October 16 /// Montreal, QB /// Petit Campus
October 17 /// Boston, MA /// Paradise Rock Club
October 18 /// Brooklyn, NY /// The Bell House
October 20 /// Philadelphia, PA /// Milk Boy
October 21 /// New York, NY /// Hiro Ballroom