Glen Hansard contains multitudes

Glen Hansard contains multitudes

Glen Hansard looks tired but is happy, because he is on tour, “my happy place”. When we talk via Zoom he has just arrived in Barcelona: in a few days he will be in Italy for 5 dates. His latest album is a return to the electric rock of his origins with Frames, after the folk-soul that marked his solo career and the intimate songwriting of Swell Season, the duo with Marketa Irglova born with the film “Once”.

But he explains: “I’ve never had a single direction: I just make music. Everyone’s expected to have a fucking direction and follow it for the rest of their career, but I’ve never been that kind of musician.” The direction I take depends on the moment, on the band, on who you have around: “Even in concerts, I write the setlists but I never follow them…”.

Return to rock

The return to tense and angry rock that marked “All that was east is west of me now” was born from a cathartic moment of awareness he had on the car journey from Ireland to Lake Como, where the musicians were waiting for him to record the album : “As I was taking notes for the songs, something clicked. We artists are terrified that someone will say the wrong thing about us, of getting into trouble by saying something politically a little out of place: it’s as if I had to reclaim my role, a punk energy came to me that I hadn’t felt in a long time time, the reclamation of a kind of spirit of freedom to be whoever the fuck you want to be”. The song that marked this moment is “The feast of Saint John”: “it was the first song we recorded with that energy and with that unfiltered attitude, and everything fell into place,” he says.

The musical multitudes of Glen Hansard

But now he doesn’t know what the next direction will be: Glen Hansard contains multitudes, like Bob Dylan’s song inspired by Walt Whitman. After the European dates the tour will continue until October, with a possible finale in Australia at the beginning of the new year: “But at that point the cycle of this album will be finished and I will think about what to do: I have a new album ready with the Swell Season, I want to go back to making music with Frames: we will rent a house and in January we will make some music,” he says.

Yes, the band that shaped the first 15 years of his career, which has only played occasionally in recent years, could return to the studio. Frames’ last album is “The cost”, from 2006 – it contained “Falling slowly”, the song that the following year would win the Oscar for “Once”, the John Carney film that changed his career . However, with him in the film and on the stage at the Academy Awards there was not the band, but Marketa Irglova, or Swell Season, who he brought back on tour in America last year.
The duo’s album – the first since 2009 – is finished and ready to be released: “When we met last summer to play in America it was a lot of fun, there were a lot of ideas circulating between us, so much so that in the end we played 5 or 6 new songs.” But if the film told a love story, now the situation is different. “Now we are older: the conversation between the two of us is an adult conversation, it still has elements of romance, but not between us, but rather on the lives we live now.”

“Winning the Oscar was a huge change, black and white, day and night, none of us expected it,” recalls Hansard “We went from playing to 200 people to 6,000. And the great thing is that that audience still follows us after all these years.”

Bruce’s advice and “Drive all night”

What saved him from that trauma was the advice of a famous friend: Bruce Springsteen: “He was very kind to me when I won the Oscar. He wanted to meet me and asked me how I was. No one had ever asked me that – I told them I felt fucking bad, to be honest. He replied that he understood: the transition from the moment you fight to be heard to the moment people recognize your value is difficult, because you are used to the struggle, that mode is within you. He told me: ‘You just have to take off the old dress, the struggle, and put on a new dress, that is, you have to take charge of the new situation. If you don’t do it you will lose it.’ And it was great advice: he was basically saying, ‘Be careful because if you refuse all this, he’ll go away.’

Even though, he says, he has a complex relationship with one of his most famous songs, which in reality is not his but Springsteen’s. Glen explains that he plays fewer covers lately because he simply has less time and more songs than him, but the case of “Drive all night” is a little different. “I’m tired of everyone asking me, so I don’t do it anymore. I didn’t fucking write that song. And it’s rude to ask for a song I didn’t write.”

When I object that in reality he made it his, that it became his – as in this wonderful version we recorded for Rockol in 2010, he explains: “Bruce complimented me on my version, he even asked me to sing it together. But the truth is that I learned that song for Salma Hayek, who asked me to learn that song for her, to play it at her wedding in Venice.” He tells me the story of his relationship with Jake Clemons – a long-time friend – and with Eddie Vedder, with whom he recorded it as a tribute to Clarence Clemons, about ten years ago “But now that we’re talking about it, I’m starting to want to do it again…”

Glen and Italy

One of the places that welcomed Glen Hansard is Italy, and in particular Lucca, where he has a community of friends who follow him and visit him often – one, Piero Perelli, has played with him in the studio and on tour: the last disco has Italian origins. Even in this case Springsteen is partly to blame: “Celebrate your successes, Glen, he recommended. When something good happens in your life, take your wife to dinner, go on vacation. Remember your successes otherwise he will be alone another day at the office and you’ll miss it.”

“The relationship with Italy was born during a holiday that I took for this very reason”, he says. “We rented a villa in Tuscany, a beautiful house that could accommodate about 20 people, where I brought my entire family and that of my girlfriend. We lived there for almost three weeks. One day we went to Lucca, I was with my mother who walked very slowly because he had emphysema. At one point he said to me “Hey Glen, this is your music”. We were near a record shop, Sky and Stone: I had never been there, I went in and it was the beginning of a friendship. My mother couldn’t believe that all those Italians knew my music…”

The relationship between Glen and Italy is a further reason not to miss the next concerts: tomorrow 27 June in Bologna (Sequoie), 29 June in Bari (Teatro Petruzzelli), 30 June in Rome (Cavea of ​​the Auditorium Parco della Music Ennio Morricone), on 2 July in Gardone Riviera (BS) (Anfiteatro Del Vittoriale) and on 3 July in Trieste (Castello di San Giusto).