Emigration songs


David Hennessy talks to Cavan songstress Lisa O’Neill about her emigration themed music, Meteor Choice nomination and why she fears she would have no space to wonder in London

“One day I was thinking of a particular person who was living in England,” Meteor Choice Award-nominated Lisa O’Neill tells The Irish World of her song England has my Man for which she has just released a new video.

“As time goes on and you sing your songs, it grew more and feelings became stronger not for the situation, not for the original reason that I wrote the song but just in general, it felt like it covered a lot of situations, of separation or the heart feeling kind of lonesome, I suppose.

“I’m feeling a sense of emigration from it, maybe more so when people were coming to me after a show and saying that’s what it reminded them of and I get that and I understand that. I feel that when I’m singing it.

“At the end of the day, it is capturing a lonesome moment that was real to me from a personal point of view. Those moments don’t necessarily last, and it didn’t. And that’s not a bad thing. The moment was captured in the song so in a way it does last, we’re still talking about it. Me and you are talking about it right now.”


England has my Man comes from Lisa’s second album Same Cloth or Not which was released last year in Ireland. Still not released in the UK, Lisa says she is looking for a label over here. Originally from Ballyhaise, Co.Cavan, Lisa has been based in Dublin for 14 years since she moved there to study music.

She reflects on her first trips across the Irish Sea and the close ties between the countries: “England was my first trip out of Ireland and I’ve family there. I went there as a child, several times to Manchester to visit family and to Milton Keynes as well.

“Emigration, this is what happens . It is close to home and it still happens and there’s a separation which brings us over and back to each other.”

Lisa has toured the UK with performers like David Gray, James Yorkston and Glen Hansard as well as doing her own shows. Of London, she says: “It’s such a big city, isn’t it? There’s a lot happening there and in this industry, it’s said that you must be in London at some point. This machine London, it is a bit like a machine, should know about you and if they don’t, do you exist? But I think I definitely do exist but London’s very scary to me. It’s fascinating but I think it would gobble up my imagination.

“I’m not saying that there’s nothing to wonder about in London but I’d be worried that there would be no space to wonder. And that’s the way I live my life. I’m very fortunate that I am artist who gets to live and sit and watch and daydream and then sit down and pen it when I’m ready or when the chance is right. Exciting and fascinating and prosperous as London seems to be for so many other people my age, it’s not a place for me to go and gather my work but it is a place to go and gig. I’m by no means knocking it.”

Lisa stresses at the end of the conversation again that she is not insulting anyone’s home or city, just that London is not for her.

Lisa’s 2009 debut album Has an Album sold out in Ireland illustrating her popularity even so early in her career. Her second album Same Cloth or Not last year brought her even wider acclaim and the prestigious nomination. Is Lisa already collecting material for her next record? “I’m in a very exciting stage where there is a lot written. I like to think I have enough songs ready for album number three but I still hold a hope which has happened to me my first two times in making a record. Between this stage and the record being made, more songs will have come and I’m sitting here with my arms open.”

For the full interview, see the November 8 Irish World. 

Lisa tours the UK with The Lost Brothers, playing the Castle in Manchester on November 10, Hare and Hounds in Birmingham on November 11, Saint Pancras Old Church in London on November 12, Komedia Brighton on November 13 and Brill Memorial Hall on November 14. For more information, go to http://lisaoneill.ie/.


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