One of the biggest changes for O’Neill in that time was the eight-week tour she undertook as support for David Gray. The tour took her across America and Britain, seeing her play to bigger rooms than she could have imagined such a short time before. “On all levels it was crazy different. This time last year I had no clue about any of that. I’d never been to America before and the first gig we did was in Boston, it was sold out. It was the biggest of them all, it was 3,800 people and they were all in the room when I played. They were silent as well, they listened which was great. The energy that comes from them is unbelievable, it does something different to you. I had experienced this feeling you get back from the audience before but never on such a huge scale. You become more alive and a different part of you comes out that you’ve never seen in yourself before, a confidence. It’s magic.”
Of course, doing it alone meant having nobody close to share those experiences with. “I’m still looking back on it, finding it hard to believe because nobody in my real life, my family or friends, nobody was there. So I’m home and it’s over and no one I know actually saw it happen. It was like a dream. Eight weeks of a dream.”
While the opportunity to play in front of thousands of people every night was a life-changing one, the parts of the tour in between shows seems to have left almost as much of a mark on O’Neill, not surprising when you consider the influence the American folk tradition has had on her. Travelling across the land spoken and sung about so often in the songs she grew up listening to was a joy in itself. “Outside of the gigs the tour was fantastic because we travelled on a bus all the way across America, saw all these different states. I’d get up every morning, sit up beside the driver and ask him where are we today. He’d tell me where we are and he’d always have a really exciting story about it. He’d been doing it for years and he knows all of America, it was wonderful. It was a great learning experience.”
Of course, things were a little different back on home ground. “I came back, it could have been my first gig back in Ireland, it was in Cavan where I’m from. The band got up on stage first and there was a big welcome back for Lisa after her American tour with David Gray. They all clapped and I got up on stage, looked around and went “Shit! Where’s the guitar?!” I had gotten so used to them setting it up for me so I didn’t set it up! It was still in the case at the side of the stage so I had to say thank you, can you turn the music back on because I’m not ready and I had to go back down and tune up the guitar. I wasn’t being cocky, I had just gotten into this routine where everything was done for me.”
O’Neill mentions feeling more like a musician since the tour, feeling more accepted as one in terms of it being a career. However, now that she’s back to the grind after the tour, the prospect of just working on music full-time is all the more stark. “If you’ve got seven days a week to do this, you don’t appreciate the time as much. When I was working three days a week, I really appreciated the four days and I really got stuck in, I didn’t waste it. Now I can find it hard to discipline myself. I’m getting there. It’s hard because you get the alarm and you don’t actually have to get up! You can think, oh, one more hour. It’ll set me up. And I don’t write every day, you need days to take in information as well, you need something to write about! I miss writing in Bewley’s for that reason.”
Cafés are also great place to meet people. “Yes, of course. It’s every day people too, real people. When you’re on tour with the likes of David Gray’s band, you’re just meeting fans or people who have been working on the show backstage. I found myself trying to talk to barmen just to get a feel for the place or state that I was only in for a day. I was trying to talk to the working class people because that’s what I am here but over there it was crazy, very surreal.” Despite the modesty, you feel she might have to get used to it.