Start with the voice. Sprite-like, but an old soul singing. The kind of voice that might sit as easily on a Carter Family recording as it would an avant-folk crank artifact. It's a tender and expressive instrument, but possesses a midlands Irish flintiness. More to the point, it suits the subject matter and songs. Co. Cavan-born singer Lisa O'Neill's second album Same Cloth or Not is an assured piece of work. Her approach is unrushed, naturalistic, straight-talking. She's like a musical version of Flannery O'Connor. "I never thought this was something I was made to do," she admits. "It was something that was easy and enjoyable and attractive to me, but I wasn't necessarily too impressed with myself. Until not long ago I still preferred listening to other people's songs. To sing alone was a form of expression, a way to release anything that was going on inside that you can't really verbalise, a therapeutic thing. It was soothing; it sets off endorphins. Crying does that too. Since I started singing a lot, I cry less.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?" Such is the healing nature of the blues, the psalm, the prayer. Ask O'Neill to name her first song of note and she mentions the crowd favourite, a hymn for Dylan called 'Song To Bobby D'. "I was saying, 'You're big man, a big deal!" she says. "'I'm way over here, generations younger than you, and you've gotten into my head.' That's powerful. I'm going to try and do what you do. But I'm not going to copy you, Bob." O'Neill grew up in Ballyhaise in the midlands. 'No Train To Cavan' from the new album describes the age-old predicament of the dreamer becalmed in rural terrain. A line like 'There's no train where I come from' speaks volumes in its simplicity. "There's a lot of imagery on this album to do with things I imagined when I was younger," she says. "I was very much a dreamer, and I did feel guilty about that. My mind would wander... I'd big plans for tree houses, for building little worlds that were nicer and calmer than the world of people and the energy around me. Very airy-fairy, but I thought that's the way all kids were thinking, they just weren't discussing it with me. I started writing songs very young but I was hiding them from people, I was embarrassed. It wasn't cool. I'd do it in a sneaky way, but I had to get it out." So Lisa moved to Dublin at the age of 18, enrolling in Ballyfermot's College of Further Education, where she found her tribe. "Very quickly I met people who were as passionate about music, and off I went. I exploded, I was full of things to say. Your mind gets excited when you have conversations with people that inspire you. And drinking with them sometimes. And if you have darkness that you're curious to talk about, you do it with these good people that you trust and you might get somewhere with it. Find answers." Does she ever frighten herself with the stuff that comes up in a song? "Yeah, and sometimes I don't feel brave enough to come out with it. I say, 'I couldn't let people know I've had that thought.' But you'd be very surprised the amount of people that have had similar thoughts. You're facing these things when you put them in a song, thoughts to do with mortality or death or fear. Proper darkness. Maybe not everybody goes there... But I think they do." Throughout her 20s, Lisa underwent a period of drifting, fermentation, working in cafes and restaurants to pay the rent while she made sense of the sounds in her head. "I wasn't being very ambitious about life," she admits. "I was working jobs and having a wage. What stands out as a very big decision to me was when I left my job in Bewley's on Grafton Street four years ago. It was saying I believed in myself enough to give up a wage and put all my time and energy into the music. Some people might say I had ideas about myself. Well yeah, I did! I've had ideas for years, and now I'm going to sing them." So O'Neill made a bet on herself, and it paid off. David Gray heard her songs and invited her to open for him on a US tour. She recorded and released her debut, Has An Album, in 2009. She signed a publishing deal with Domino Publishing Co., toured with Glen Hansard and made friends with David Kitt and Karl Odlum, who played major roles in the recording of Same Cloth or Not. "When it came to the recording I wanted things to be close to that relaxed, slow way I work year-round," Lisa admits. "We did a lot of pre-production in David Kitt's house and then we rented a cottage in Wicklow and Karl brought his studio in. The surroundings are very important, light is important to me. You don't want to call it work, you want to call it getting lost. There were peacocks and goats there, we were out in the middle of nowhere, and you're isolated from being bombarded with thoughts that distract you from giving the songs their full attention. You want to be completely in the songs. It's the subconscious moving, it's not clever, it's like hypnosis, or meditation." And meditation enhances clarity of vision. 'England Has My Man' is the kind of emigrant's lament for love lost that has been sung for centuries. Then there's 'Apiana', the story of a piano lost to a flood in Harold's Cross in Dublin, a flood so severe there was nothing left in the house but Peggy Seeger's letter of endorsement for O'Neill's first album. And there's a toughness and a rawness to songs like 'Come Sit Sing'. These songs could have been written a hundred years ago, built to withstand age and wear. "Maybe we're not all that different from a hundred years ago," Lisa concludes. "I spend a lot of time on every little area of the songs, wondering if that little inch of that song is the best it can be. There's no line in any of my songs that I'm not proud to say, 'I mean that.' If you're impressed by your song, that's the best you can do for your audience. The ones who are like you will like it. I feel at this point I've been given a licence to daydream."