No More Workhorse got the chance to put some questions to Lisa. She is a Mayo native and is known for her live shows and her skill with both the Harp and the Banjo. She plays the Bowery in Rathmines this Sunday (1/04/18).
Find out more about Lisa Canny here.
Was music always in your house growing up? Do you parents or relations play music?
There was always music in the house. DJ Mammy would play Mary Black, DJ Da would be all over Big Tom (jaysus), Brother Alan loved a bit of Smashing Pumpkins and my sister Laura jumped between Extreme, Cyndi Lauper and Roxette. My record collection growing up consisted of a strange mixture of traditional Irish music albums and every single song ever released by Destiny’s Child and the Spice Girls. Mix all that together and you start to understand the multi-personality-type-disorder that is my original music.
In primary school I learned to sing Sean Nos. In secondary I attended Galway Performing Arts School and discovered my love for singing soul. Everybody sings in my large extended family (65 1st cousins… no joke). Every family occasion to this day consists of hours and hours of sing-song-sessions, on both sides. Many of cousins are carving out their own professions in music; one’s making a name for herself on the musical theatre scene, one’s absolutely balling it here in Ireland in a punk-band called SLOW RIOT, another one’s making waves in Canada in an indie-pop band called MEET THE BLUE, and that’s not to mention all the All-Ireland champions we have in Irish traditional music in the family, nor any of the younger ones in the family who are already showing signs of knocking us all out of the park!
The Harp and Banjo seem unlikely bedfellows. How did that combination come about? Which instrument did you start to play first?
They are unlikely bedfellows – try getting somebody to cover your gigs and you really realise that!
My primary school principle gifted me a banjo when I was 4 years old. He thought I was good on the tin-whistle I suppose. I’m so grateful for his unknowingly life-changing gesture now. I met him a few years ago, told him all about my journey, my career and I thanked him profoundly. He started crying, I started crying, we were both a mess. I won’t forget it though.
Then the harp came about because of 2 different influences: the first was that my banjo teacher’s daughter Holly played harp and I fell completely in love with the sound from first hearing; the second influence was a roundabout coming into Limerick that had, and still has to this day, a floral arrangement done out in the shape of a harp. Every time we’d pass it I’d ask if I could have one! Santy then brought me one when I was 10… good man Santy!
Do you find that people expect a particular type of music when you play the harp, especially for American audiences?
Always! I love it though. I love challenging the stereotype/cliché. People often come up to me after a gig and say “Whoah, that was not at all what I expected when I saw a red head and a harp come out on stage”. Funnily enough I think the American audience are more ahead of the game than we give them credit for. Over the last 14 years (since Riverdance burst onto the scenes) we’ve invested millions into “very Irish” shows going over and touring the States. There could be 20+ such shows touring the U.S. at any one time, and all playing to thousands of people every night. That’s a lot of jigs and reels and Danny Boy’s over the course of 14 years! I think that the American audience or indeed the Irish Diaspora in America will soon be completely exhausted of the “Paddy” show and are already showing signs of wanting something new! Just last week I played harp with loop pedal and a little rapping on PBS America (a TV station with a notoriously conventional audience) and the feedback was incredible. People got it! They’re ready.
What do you think of the music of Joanna Newsom? Has she opened doors for Harp players to be taken seriously in different genres of music?
Joanna Newsom… meh. She has never enthralled me much to be honest. She’s cool and I get why other people like her – she’s got that cute, quirky, nicey-nice thing. But she feeds into the traditional idiom of “pretty” harp playing. I’m aiming to cover different ground. Yes the harp is stunningly beautiful and works brilliantly in that soundscape but it can also be a total badass! I like to pull the strings that buzzzzzzz and loop rhythmic patterns using the soundbox.
The harp has 99% the same capabilities as the piano, as well as some unique capabilities. I want to add to that idiom! Joanna has her thing – I personally prefer female artists with more balls!
What can people expect in the Bowery on Sunday? Is it just you or will you be with a band?
Expect highly dynamic music.
Expect to want to dance.
Expect to want to crunch up your face and nod your head at the dirty, dirty synth lines.
Expect to sing – I will make you.
Expect to feel empowered.
Expect to want more.
Upcoming Live Shows:
April 1: The Bowery, Dublin
April 20,:Cyprus Avenue, Cork City
April 21: Monroe’s, Galway
April 27: The Empire, Belfast
April 28: Town Hall Theatre, Claremorris
May 18: Dolans, Limerick