Lisa O’Neill revels in being a bit out of step, playfully rejecting stale notions of what a folk singer “should” be. Fellow nonconformist Cass McCombs described an encounter with Lisa in this way – “Once I accompanied Lisa O’Neill to the Cliffs of Moher, those beautiful ancient Irish rocks where the sea spirits occasionally and suddenly sweep someone away to destruction. Could this place be used as an analogy for Lisa’s powerful music?”
A perfect introduction to O’Neill’s unique aesthetic is her sublimely curious song “Apiana” currently streaming at PopMatters. O’Neill’s second full-length album Same Cloth Or Not will be released in the U.S. on October 28th.
Lisa O’Neill’s songs are like milking stools or three-wheeled cars or unicycles: they’re scuffed and unusual and they’re built to do specific jobs. Lisa does not sugar her truth. In her own words, “when people sing or write songs they’re putting a question to the universe: why am I down and out, why have I not got two pennies to scrape together, why has life been hard on me?” This restless temperament permeates Same Cloth Or Not, infusing folky melodies with introspective lyrical grit.
Raised in Balleyhaise in the Irish heartlands, O’Neill moved to Dublin at the age of 18, where she immersed herself in the city’s music scene. After releasing her first album in 2009, she toured alongside songwriters including McCombs, as well as Glen Hansard, and David Gray. Remarking on their extensive touring together, Hansard affirms “Lisa O’Neill possesses that rarest gift, a voice and lyric that crosses time, generations, Millennia, she’s grown up out of the very earth of our literate island. She stands among the best wordsmiths we have produced, and sings with a voice that’s entirely her own… She’s far and away among the very best our country has right now, or ever had.”