When Irish singer Lisa Hannigan came to the NPR Music offices a few weeks ago, she not only brought along with her one of the most gorgeous voices we've heard; she was also one of the warmest guests we've welcomed.
Prior to kicking off her solo career, Hannigan made her name performing alongside Damien Rice. She just released her second album, the lush and beautiful Passenger.
Hannigan came to NPR on a rare day in which two different artists were set to perform behind the Tiny Desk, only an hour or so apart. Hannigan and her guitarist, John Smith, arrived early for her set, but rather than leave the office until it was her turn to perform, Hannigan stood quietly in the crowd, watching the first performance and graciously taking it all in.
As soon as her turn to perform arrived, Hannigan hopped up, barely able to contain a smile, onto the stool behind the Tiny Desk and immediately barreled into the bright ukulele tune "Knots" with virtually no sound check or warm-up. Her voice was astonishing as it bounded from hushed fragility to startling power; if I hadn't seen her sitting nearby only moments before, I never would have believed that she could sing like that with so little preparation. It was a mesmerizing performance, with Hannigan alternately whispering and howling her way through her songs, her eyes closed and her body rocking to the music.
When she finished, you could almost hear the whole room sigh with contentment — and a little sadness that it was over.
- "Little Bird"
Michael Katzif (cameras); edited by Bob Boilen; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Mallory Benedict/NPR