For Lisa Hannigan’s latest album “At Swim" — out Aug. 19th from ATO Records — the singer-songwriter struggled to write new material while living in London – her home away from home. The 35-year-old Kilcloon, Ireland native was on the road for some time – almost two years in support of 2011’s “Passenger” — but it was an email that Hannigan received from The National’s Aaron Dessner that sparked something inside of her once again. Hannigan ended up working with Dessner and rediscovered the collaborative spirit she had missed in Dublin.
We caught up with Hannigan about working with Dessner, her favorite songs to write and who she’d love to collaborate with in the future.
Tell me about the concept for this record.
My last record I toured for a long time – two and a half years. I had found it difficult to be on the road. When I came back to start my third record, I had this really big hill in front of me. It didn’t come as easily as I hoped it would. I moved out of the house I had lived in for a long time. I was between London and Dublin. I just felt a little unsure of myself. It took a long time because I had that feeling of being adrift or in-between. That’s the situation that the record came out of.
What was the most challenging part of writing this record?
I think it was just the writing of it, actually. I kept telling myself you write a lot of crappy songs before you write the good ones. When you’re in a difficult situation, you can be a little bit at a loss when you’re writing a song. That was most of it. I asked my friend Joe Henry if he could send some words and that worked very quickly. I got into it the swing eventually. I started working with Aaron Dessner [of The National] on “Into The Blue.” A breath of fresh air came in to my confused state and really helped me get my focus again.
What have you learned the most over the years from making music?
Well, that it can be very hard sometimes, I suppose. It can be lonely. That’s what was so great about when I met Aaron. I learned so much from him and his constant working. He’s so prolific and so industrious, but still so laidback about it all. I think that’s maybe why he’s so prolific – because he plays all day long.
How did you get connected with Aaron?
I just got an e-mail from him out of the blue. It was amazing. We then started to become musical pen pals. He would send me beautiful music. I would make recordings and send them back.
What was your favorite song to write for this record?
I don’t know. The songs were so sporadic. Every time I finished one I liked, I loved it so much. The sense of pure joy came with each of the songs. In terms of the easiest to write, it was probably “Prayer for the Dying” because it came out of such an emotional situation. The song felt very separate and easy in that moment because it was an expression about emotion. But, I love them all individually.
Who do you dream of collaborating with in the future?
I’ve always been a big fan of collaborating. I’ve always wanted to work with David Byrne. I love his show so much and how he presents his music. That would be my dream.