The day I speak to Lisa Canny she is in Dublin with fellow Breaking Trad member Niall Murphy. They are playing for the Event Industry Awards in which they have also been nominated. She is bubbly, excited and clearly loving where she is right now. Lisa’s debut single ‘Lifeline’ will be released June 12th and she launched it in her second home Limerick’s Dolan’s Warehouse where Lisa interned during her studies. “When I was finishing they told me if I ever released my own material I had to launch it in Dolan’s, so that’s what I did. It was pretty emotional”, says Lisa.
Originally scheduled for the upstairs venue the launch was moved to the warehouse due to demand. Things are busy and moving fast in Lisa’s world but it all could have been so very different. Even after five years touring and playing with Traditional Irish music group Celtic Crossroads while studying Lisa was drawn to academia and considered pursuing a PhD and a life lecturing the next generation of musicians. “But after handing in my thesis I met with my supervisor Mel Mercier who suggested I give it a year performing and then come back to the idea of a PhD. That was hugely supportive of him and so I took his advice.
Next thing I’m playing a gig in LA and a guy approaches me afterwards and says he is going to ‘make you a star, baby’. Seriously he said that.” Turns out he was Miles Copland, manager of The Police. And before you can close your mouth Lisa finds herself invited to a very exclusive songwriting workshop. “I’m there with my banjo, my red hair and my Mayo accent sitting outside a castle and then I saw all of these very famous people showing up. Until that moment I had no idea how big a deal it was”, says Lisa. It was at this retreat that she met Jodi Marr, who works with Mika and Paloma Faith. “That was my first experience of songwriting and collaborating with other people and here I was spending ten days with the masters. It was the best possible start”, says the Mayo woman. Lisa now has a publishing deal with Marr’s company AbFab.
It does seem that Lisa has some sort of music industry fairy godmother looking out for her. But she didn’t always feel that way. “There were points where I became frustrated with the time it takes. Then I realised I needed to make it happen myself. I am in such a better place now. I just had to take control. I realised I can do this and that being from the West of Ireland was not going to hold me back”, she explains.
There is an album in the works. “I have all the material”, she says. Much of it is jazz and soul influenced but the debut single ‘Lifeline’ is the most commercial of those songs with its simple chords and hooky ideas with some trad coming through. I ask is it a departure from her traditional roots? “I think I would have come to pop earlier if I’d grown up somewhere else. As a kid I was pop obsessed. But I wouldn’t change the way things happened. I love traditional music but my solo material will be more pop focused”, she says. We will have to wait a bit longer for the album. First the release of the single on June 12th to launch herself as a solo artist. Then a gruelling 120 date tour commitment with Breaking Trad across the USA next year. Next comes an EP and then the album.
So what inspires Lisa? “The people in my life have all led me to this place and I am so thankful to them. From my Principal in primary school, my mother and sister, my music teacher, Mel Mercier and Aileen Dellane. They gave me the confidence to do it and to push the boundaries. On a daily basis my friends really inspire me”, says Lisa. Friends include the band Hermitage Green. “We can talk about music all long and then go and write a song together”, adds Lisa. The band have been hugely supportive having Lisa open for them at their album launch in Abbeyfeale. Who has influenced Lisa along the way? “At the start in my bedroom I was just working with this simple hook which I brought to Jodi. She has a great ear and ‘Lifeline’ was born. That was an incredible experience. From there I was working on a lot of instrumental stuff focusing on melody. Laura Marling, Laura Mvula and Hozier all incorporate different elements in their music. They are really masters at what they do embracing what they love, what makes them unique and that in turn is why they do well commercially. They have been a big influence on me”, adds Lisa.
The single ‘Lifeline’ will be released June 12th and Lisa has a string of upcoming Irish dates.
June 4th – Whelan’s, Dublin
June 5th – Limelight, Antrim
June 6th – Wexford Opera House, Wexford
June 12th – Royal Theatre, Castlebar
Follow Lisa on Facebook, Bandcamp and on her webpage www.lisacanny.com