Glen Hansard loves his Tony-winning tunes, but is ready to move on with first solo album
- Last Updated: 12:11 AM, June 17, 2012
- Posted: 9:32 PM, June 16, 2012
No one can bring a rock star back to earth quite like his mother. Last Sunday, Glen Hansard was walking on air following the haul of Tonys pulled in by the musical “Once” — a production built around his songs and the 2006 romantic drama he co-starred in with Markéta Irglová.
“I needed to go and clear my head after the show because I was so overwhelmed,” he recalls in his typically genial manner. “I called my mum to tell her that we’d just won eight Tonys. It was five in the morning for her and she didn’t quite get it, so she just said ‘Oh, is that good?’ I said, ‘Yeah mum, that’s pretty f - - king good!’ ”
That resounding success caps off an unlikely second life for “Once,” although its first life was quite improbable, too. The small-budget Irish indie flick became an unlikely critical hit in the US thanks to the beautifully realized romance of the lead characters, as played out by Hansard and Irglová.
That success was even more unlikely in light of the fact that Irglová was a total acting novice and Hansard’s only other notable role was in the 1991 cult rock ’n’ roll classic “The Commitments.” The duo even picked up an Academy Award for Best Original Song thanks to “Falling Slowly,” the heartbreaking center of the “Once” Soundtrack.
But when Broadway came calling, Hansard, 42, was initially resistant to the idea of a stage version.
“I was horrified at the prospect of it being on Broadway,” says the Dubliner with a little embarrassment. “I was really worried that it might ruin the simplicity of the film or that it would be overly schmaltzy, or even worse they’d stick a bunch of dancing in for no reason! But they kept on getting great people involved and gradually, I came around to the idea. I remember going to see the rehearsals and thinking we were in safe hands.”
For Hansard and Irglová, there is one small cloud to the giant silver lining of “Once.” Their intimate on-screen romance in the film eventually lead to a real-life relationship, which ended in 2009. While the two remain good friends (and band members in the folk-rock outfit the Swell Season), Hansard admits that the success of “Once” means it’s hard to leave the past completely behind.
“I don’t hanker after that relationship or anything like that, but it’s definitely the most public relationship I’ve ever been in,” he says. “I’m gonna have a bit of trouble hiding it from my future girlfriends!”
Hansard’s creative mindset however has long moved on. While the theater world continues to swoon over “Once,” the Irish singer, who got his start with Irish rockers the Frames in 1990, is exploring new artistic territory with his first solo collection, “Rhythm And Repose,” out Tuesday.
The album came together during a period of time that Hansard had earmarked for vacation. With the Swell Season inactive, he moved to New York and was intending to take a year off until some casual jamming with friends led him back into the studio. Initially, he had nothing more than larks on his mind.
“I wasn’t even thinking it would be an album at first,” he says. “I just thought going into the studio would be a fun thing to do with my friends. Before I knew it, I realized I had enough songs for a solo record.”
What has resulted is a fine selection of lithe and lilting tunes which, while dominated by Hansard’s evocative voice, are also subtly underscored by a touch of Americana.
“I definitely take that association with pride,” he says. “This country has given us some of the best music ever recorded and partly because of that, I definitely wanted to work with American musicians this time around. I think a song like ‘Maybe Not Tonight,’ for example, is like my attempt to write a Jimmy Webb song. Whether or not I succeeded is another matter.”
While Hansard has also advanced lyrically from the lovelorn troubadour tag that “Once” has saddled him with, he concedes that relationships are still his primary inspiration, though not romantic ones: “It’s definitely not a breakup record. It’s about my relationships with myself, my mother, my little brother, with God, even with Ireland. I don’t mind people thinking of the album as melancholy, but I don’t want to be thought of as someone that whinges all the time!”
There is an unfortunate irony to the fact that the new success of “Once” (something that Hansard worked on six years ago) has slightly overshadowed what is a very fine album, and one which deserves attention in its own right. Indeed, you wouldn’t blame him for harboring some resentment in that respect, but it’s not something that he exhibits in the slightest.
“The thing with ‘Once’ is that I think we’ve passed on the torch to the Broadway cast and crew,” he says. “I can enjoy it even more now because I wasn’t really involved in the stage production. I’m not worried about people getting past the idea of me as the guy from ‘Once.’ I thought I’d never get past my role in ‘The Commitments,’ but I did.”