Hansard, Irglov· have a Swell Season
Lightning has already stuck Once for The Swell Season ó and thatís more than enough for now.
ìItís been a huge couple of years,î says singer-songwriter Glen Hansard, chatting over his cellphone while he sips tea on the patio of the swanky Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood.
ìMy life has completely changed.î
And itís all due to one song. Two years ago, the Irish musician was frontman of the critically acclaimed but commercially obscure band The Frames.
Then, in February of 2008, he was catapulted into the spotlight when he and MarkÈta Irglov· ó his musical partner and co-star in the busker romance Once ó won the 2008 Best Original Song Oscar for Falling Slowly. You might remember Irglov· being cut off in mid-acceptance speech and being brought back onstage by host Jon Stewart so she could finish.
For Hansard, the indie-folk duoís overnight success ended 18 years of struggle.
But even as it put an end to many of his financial and professional worries, it created a whole new set of personal problems that left him feeling decidedlly less than swell for a season.
ìSuccess came at such a rate and such a speed that I couldnít adjust to it,î he admits. ìAll of these great things had happened ó I had just won an Oscar and we were playing these rooms for thousands of people who were listening and interested and had paid money to come see our band ó and I was so sad. I couldnít understand why.
ìAnd then I realized: The person I had been for 18 years had just died. The guy who struggled and wanted success and who was ambitious and chasing every opportunity was gone, and now I was being introduced to this new character ó the guy who is successful ó and I didnít know how to deal with him. There was a brief but intense grieving period.î
Equally brief but intense, he admits, was a romance that sprung up between Hansard and Irglov· ó who is 18 years his junior.
ìThat was a chapter that was really great and fine,î he admits, ìbut we quickly found that we get on much better as mates than we do as boyfriend and girlfriend.î
Some 18 months later, the 39-year-old Hansardís mood has finally improved along with his fortunes. And his expanded horizons are reflected in the sound of the duoís third album Strict Joy, released Oct. 27 on Anti-Epitaph.
While itís hardly as rigourously optimistic as its title ó Hansard and Irglov· still specialize in heartfelt tales of romantic yearning and regret ó it does move their sound several steps onward and upward by fleshing out their acoustic guitars, pianos and voices with the richly layered textures of Hansardís longtime band.
Fittingly, Hansard says he felt no pressure to make a record that would have the same impact as Once.
ìFor me to sit around and think that I could match that success would be insane. Of course, you want to make stuff that lives up to your standard. But in terms of what it did and how it did in the world … Letís say that soundtrack was heard by a million people. I would hope that maybe a third of those people would hear this one.
ìWhich is a f—ing huge amount of people. But youíre not going to reach a million people again. Once had such a good amount of energy and was such a good thing in my life. To want to repeat that would be greedy.î
Instead, heís learned to embrace his new life, which has taken him everywhere from The Simpsons (ìThatís almost bigger than the Oscarsî) to the funeral of Eunice Kennedy Shriver (ìBono called me and asked if I could sing at her wake because he was playing Wembley that weekî).
ìItís been an amazing ride, but itís time to get back to work and to get back to doing what we do,î he says of The Swell Seasonís upcoming tour, which stops at Massey Hall tomorrow, Montrealís Olympia on Wednesday and Vancouver next month.
ìHopefully, along the way Iíll have other successes that are just as profound.î
After all, who says lightning canít strike twice?
Hansard, Irglov· have a Swell Season