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Luck of the half-Irish

It's a tough job, writing songs on the road. For 21-year-old Liz Lawrence, the perfect playground was an art school in Devon. A few lectures here, a little painting there, and the rest of the day spent writing her first album -- an ideal setting, I'm sure. But a tiny hotel room in a foreign city? Must be tricky, Liz. "I do try," she smiles. "I make a den -- a soundproof den. Well, it's not really. I mean, it's just duvets and pillows . . ."

How very arty. Then again, there's a lot more to this punk chick-turned- delicate songstress than a few quirky lyrics and a ukulele.



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Debut album Bedroom Hero is, in fact, a miniature delight; a modest yet sparkling offering of rousing, folk-pop gems, with added horns and made-for-radio choruses. And whaddaya know? The girl is half-Irish.

Indeed, Dublin is where the London-based artist got her very first break. Sure, her mother is from Westport, and the family had spent some time "driving all along the south coast of Ireland" a few years back, but it was a support slot in the Sugar Club with American folk duo The Civil Wars that really turned heads.

"I thought, 'this is perfect'," she recalls, "because I love coming out here. It's a really good market. You've got a lot of musical history and a lot of artists, so why not start somewhere like that to try and get some real kudos?"

Not that she's in any way cashing in on her Irish heritage. We're just a little more appreciative of her tunes. For the time being, at least. "I feel proud to be starting here because of the bloodline," she nods, "it kind of feels quite normal and quite natural."

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Liz hadn't always dreamed of pursuing a career in music.

"I wanted to be a football player," she laughs, "up until I was about ten."

Her grandmother showed her around the piano. Later on, she discovered that she was far more comfortable with a guitar in her lap.

First, she joined a punk band; then a ska group. But she wasn't allowed to sing. Eventually, the young guitarist realised that the best way forward was to ditch the bands.

"We practised in the drummer's conservatory," she says of her old gang, "and I was playing them this new song, and we had the most awful row because the drummer didn't like it and I was really offended.

"That was the moment where I was like, 'I think I might just have to start doing this on my own.'

"I mean, we're all still mates. Now they're all asking me for jobs!"

Liz's debut album (currently only available in Ireland) was produced by the late Christie Hennessy's son, Tim Ross. "I didn't really know much about his family history, but I've learned a lot since," she explains.

"I was really happy to work with Tim because he was learning and I was learning and I wanted us to make our own mistakes.

I mean, lots of people were like, 'oh, maybe you should try working with so and-so', and I said, 'no, this relationship works'. We're great friends now."

Indeed, Liz is in this game for the long haul -- that much is certain. She's even managed to acquire a few interesting fans. "I played this gig with Ani DiFranco in Manchester, which was really cool," she says.

"And this guy who had seen me at a festival emailed me saying, 'I can't get tickets for Ani DiFranco but can you get me and my girlfriend guest tickets?'

"And I was like, 'of course'. And he repaid me. He posted me a box of ceramic frogs," she laughs.

"So I've got this shelf full of ceramic frogs and lizards from this guy. That was quite cool ... "

Bedroom Hero is out now. Liz plays the Knockanstockan Festival at Blessington Lakes, Wicklow tonight, the Ruby Sessions in Doyle's on Wednesday, August 1 and Sweeney's on Dame Street, Dublin, on Thursday, August 2