Hannigan was born on February 12th, 1981, and comes from Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath, Ireland.
She attended secondary school at The King's Hospital in Palmerstown, and was a student in art history at Trinity College Dublin. She left before finishing her degree to pursue singing.
Early in 2001, Hannigan began singing as a lead vocalist for Damien Rice at a concert in the Temple Bar Music Centre in Dublin. She also appears on his debut album "O" singing on the majority of the tracks. She often accompanied Rice in his live performances, as a vocalist and occasionally on electric guitar and alongside bass, and on one occasion (Glastonbury Festival, 2003) played the drums on a track.
Hannigan also contributed to Rice's album "9", including a lead vocal on the album's first single, "9 Crimes".
Whilst she worked with Damien Rice some of Hannigan's solo live recordings were made available through trading networks of her performing covers on tour, or on radio shows. She has also performed live with her own band, The Daisy Okell Quartet, but no recordings are known to have been released. She also performed a solo set at the 2006 Electric Picnic festival in County Laois, Ireland.
On March 26, 2007, Damien Rice summarily fired Hannigan from his band with no warning nor explanation just as they were about to go on stage in Munich, Germany. Rice announced that his professional relationship with Lisa Hannigan has ended, saying the relationship "has run its creative course" but no further explanation was ever offered for the demise of their working relationship.
Hannigan went on to release her first solo album "Sea Sew" in 2008/2009.