Lisa O’Neill has played in Cork on several occasions, many will remember her as being the support to David Gray in the Opera House, and returns this weekend on her debut headline national tour. Ahead of her concerts in Cyprus Avenue and De Barras she spoke with Ronan Leonard about her connection to Cork, “over the last three years I’ve been in Cork quite a bit, a lot more than elsewhere in Ireland. I’m a good friend with Mick Flannery, I was down a lot demoing with him and Christian Best, when I was working on my new album. Mick has been so generous to me giving me so many gigs, introducing me to people and getting them to hear my music, I’ve also done gigs with John Spillane. I love Cork, if I was going to move Cork would definitely be up there in the reckoning!”
While Lisa demoed the album ‘Same Cloth Or Not’ in Cork, it was recorded in Wicklow, produced by David Kitt, and released in October 2013; it has gone on to almost universal praise and has been nominated for the Choice Music Award. Lisa is very grounded about what that represents, “it’s been great to be nominated, every now and then I just think about it and go “isn’t that gas!” I wasn’t thinking about anything like that when I was writing these songs, but it’s a bonus and a compliment, it’s lovely to be counted amongst so many of these great Irish artists. It helps bring attention to the album, it helps me make a living out of what I do, and I enjoy this life and want it to continue. On the night the prize is awarded in Vicar Street it’ll be like a celebration for all of us, there’s so many great albums there; I think O Emperor deserve a win and Villagers too, but the whole field is really strong, the quality of the nominations is so high it’s great to be just there.”
Lisa herself has noted a development between her debut album, 2009’s ‘Has An Album’ and last year’s ‘Same Cloth Or Not’, “the songs on this second album I am in a way impressed by; there are 5 years between me writing the two albums, so certainly this is more musical and I took a lot more time on the songs. I look back on the first album and a lot of them were written in a day and some of them were even written on the same day, they were out quickly and I didn’t really work on them, and now I think I can do an idea a lot more justice if I take some time on it. A song isn’t finished the first time you write it but it is really only born and needs to be nurtured. Time has become a massive thing for me; this album was given it whilst the first one didn’t. I have become more experienced too, I’ve been on tour a lot, and I’ve grown up and am a lot more confident. It was just a hobby for the first album, I was still working in a coffee shop but now I know I have an audience and I really want to impress them.”
Lisa’s writing style is a big part of that audience growth, “I kind of write for myself to express questions and emotions that I am feeling, or ideas I am fascinated with at the time. I don’t feel the need to do that metaphorically or introduce characters, that kind of thing. I don’t think about it much as I write to be honest, but afterward I might decide to present it a little bit better to people so as to be understood. Like I want to communicate with people, I want them to understand me, I don’t want to keep them in the dark like some artists do, sometimes they leave questions hanging over themselves. I don’t present anything as fact. Like throughout this album I am saying ‘maybe this maybe that.’ My music is very much curiosity on my part.
Lisa O’Neill plays Cyprus Avenue on Saturday 22 February and De Barras, Clonakilty on Sunday 23 with support from Seamus Fogarty.