With a career marked both by hard slogs (his decades fronting Irish folk–rockers The Frames) and meteoric success stories (his Oscar–winning turn as an actor–slash–musician in Once), Glen Hansard is at once disarmingly blunt and quite lyrical about his long, ever–evolving relationship with music.
“I don’t believe in sticking out records out every time you’ve written 10 songs,” Hansard says from the sleepier end of several time zones. “I don’t think the world is waiting for a new Glen Hansard record, they’re waiting for a good one. So, in a way, it’s worth taking your time, and at the end of the day that’s the best you can hope for.”
Thankfully, it seems his now one-year-old, Grammy-nominated album Didn’t He Ramble turned out to be the latter. Importantly for Hansard, the record offered up new surprises for him even after decades as a songwriter. “It happened to me in Australia, I was down there with Eddie Vedder a couple of years ago and I had 10 days between dates and it was a really special time. I was on my own just renting a little flat, and I sat there and wrote a couple of songs. What surprised me was that I stayed with them every day, rewriting the lyrics.”
For his upcoming October tour Hansard’s 11-piece band will recreate brass-driven soul moments and intimate acoustic torch songs that have won hearts and minds around the world. It’s far from his first time, of course.
“We played a shopping mall in Adelaide, an HMV or something, and a couple of those were tough tours,” he recalls of his earliest experiences in the country. “We had great turnouts, a lot of Irish people, but I was kind of frustrated because I wanted to play to some Aussies! It was gratifying and surprising when we went down after Once and there were a lot more Australians at the gigs.”
‘Gratifying’ is a word Hansard frequently uses, and you can really feel his appreciation for every new pathway unlocked in his long career, whether it’s award nominations or finding a new fan in some quiet corner of the globe.
“[The Grammy nomination] was very gratifying I have to say, it was really a surprise. You say ‘I don’t do this for those reasons’, but then having that exposure does help. Some of the best music I’ve heard in the last few years I’ve heard late at night on the radio, having a bath or working with the radio on in the background. It might be some late night, quiet radio show, but every so often something catches my heart o guard and I’ll turn it up, wait for the name of the song and maybe buy the record.
“So I do believe that it’s important to be played on the radio, it’s important to have some exposure or public profile. Something like the Grammys might put you on someone’s radar, which I find gratifying, but I’m really satisfied by the idea that somewhere late at night someone in some other country just somehow catches it and goes ‘I like this, what’s this?’
“I’ve always been attracted to the idea of being discovered rather than promoted.”