Champagne moment


MERCURY PRIZE 2009:Lisa Hannigan pours the prosecco after her Mercury nomination this week. BRIAN BOYDwas there

‘HAVE a prosecco,” says Lisa Hannigan as she pours the drinks in a London pasta restaurant just after the announcement that she is one of the 12 acts nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize for the best British or Irish album of the year.

“It’s been hell for me as they told me a few days ago because they wanted to me to perform at the nomination ceremony today [Tuesday], so I couldn’t tell anyone in case they took it away from me,” says the 29-year-old from Co Meath.

There were cries of “Lisa who?” from the assembled British media throng – Hannigan was a surprise nomination – but she soon got into the swing of things. “There were about 10 photographers in my face shouting ‘Lisa, Lisa, Lisa’ just after the announcement – it was wild.

“To tell you the sort of state I was in, I invited Kasabian, who were also performing at the ceremony today, out for a fight!”

Surrounded by her manager and band, Hannigan reflects on her debut album Sea Sew’s genesis. “We prepared the whole album in a barn in Thomastown and recorded it later in Dublin, so for it to get this far is just unreal,” she says.  To date, Sea Sew, which was released last September, has sold 45,000 copies worldwide – with 15,000 of those copies sold in Ireland. Hannigan was as surprised as everyone else by the eccentricity of this year’s shortlistlist.

“I can’t believe Doves weren’t nominated. I expected Glasvegas and a few of the others, but there are still some real surprises on the list. Florence and the Machine are the hot favourites, I think”.

The bookmakers William Hill had Hannigan at 8/1 to win the award, but her wily manager gets on the phone and finds very attractive odds of 34/1 with another bookmaker. We all throw our cash on the table and the manager legs it to the bookies just before they close.

In the Mercury’s 17-year existence, only a handful of Irish acts have made it to the nomination stage; Hannigan joins a group which includes U2, Van Morrison, Snow Patrol, Therapy? and Gemma Hayes.

“It is really exciting, but I’m realistic about this – I’m not Florence and the Machine. But to get this far for our self-released album is quite something.”

Speaking at the ceremony, the chair of the judging panel, Simon Frith, said: “This has been a rich and creative year for British and Irish music. There are seven fine debut albums on the list and five outstanding records from more established acts, all marking out new ground. What most impresses is the imaginative verve with which British and Irish musicians continue to explore musical possibilities, push musical boundaries and refuse to be pinned down by genre.”

The overall award will be announced on September 8th.