Two days after "Once" won eight Tony Awards, the Irish singer/songwriter whose songs and story form the show's backbone was still overwhelmed by the musical's reception. "I was quite resistant, to put it mildly, when I first heard they wanted to turn it into a play," Glen Hansard says. "We don't have a history of musical theater in Ireland, so I went to see a couple of musicals and said , 'Jesus, I really hope they don't do this.' But the producers said they'd treat it with respect, and when I saw a rehearsal I was floored."
Originally a film set in Dublin about former busker Hansard and his bandmate in duo the Swell Season, Marketa Irglova, "Once" delivered the pair an Academy Award for best original song and elevated their profiles so high that their first post-Oscar album, 2009's "Strict Joy," debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard 200.
Hansard, who splits his time between rock band the Frames and the Swell Season, will release his first solo set, "Rhythm and Repose," on June 19 through Anti- Records.
l1 With this new solo album, were there things you weren't able to do musically in either the Frames or the Swell Season?
I don't think I've done anything different. Even though I write in the vernacular of a relationship, I find that my relationships - my country and myself, my family and myself, or my God or just my girl - have broadened. And on this record I just played guitar and sang lead, while on every other record I played a bit of keyboard, noodled here and there and did backing vocals.
l2 Is there an awareness of those broadening relationships when you write, or was this different because you weren't presenting songs to bandmates?
The songs on this record fell into my frontal lobe and I delivered them. It was all really easy, to be honest. I didn't stress over how they would be perceived. When the Swell Season cooled down, I found myself wondering, "Do I go back to the Frames, or do I take some time off?" I took time off and found myself naturally making a record on my own.
l3 That answer suggests that the title, Rhythm and Repose, refers to your state of mind. Correct?
Absolutely. This is the first record of my 40s. I'm 42 now and I think something shifts. What I realized this year is that rest is as important as work. They're equal. I have always been a person who thought you work and you work and you work and you rest, and you're dead. Rest is vital. We don't have enough time to let our imaginations float off. And if we don't give ourselves that time, how can we create the magic?
l4 One of the album's most compelling elements is how you write about love from different perspectives, but the songs still feel autobiographical.
They have to be. If not, then the song tends to evaporate quickly. At the same time, I really believe in singing about relationships. In a song like "The Storm, It's Coming," I'm singing to my two little brothers who are just becoming men. On "Maybe Not Tonight," I'm doing a Jimmy Webb - having a laugh, but of course it's autobiographical, too. In "High Hopes," it's as much about my father as it is about a lady. So I kind of feel it has broadened, thank God. If you were just singing about love unrequited, one of your friends will have to turn to you and say, "Dude, go see a psychologist."
l5 You're altering your singing voice as well. Do you sense how a song should be delivered when you write it?
It's not a conscious [decision], but I remember someone [once] said, "There's a point between 35 and 45 where you eventually find your voice - you earn it."
l6 This record has a sense of space and cohesion, especially the way it's produced and mixed. How did you achieve that?
I surrounded myself with people who are really good, and I let them do what they do. I brought in some of those Brian Eno-esque intros - stuff I love [because] they have this nice, meditative aspect - but I handed over that stuff to Thomas Bartlett, the keyboard player and producer. In the past, I've clung too tightly to my vision of what a song should be. The sound comes down to the people who played on the record. It's as much them as me.••••