Glen Hansard's elevation from Rock musician to Academy Award winner in 2008 following the success of the film Once also put his blossoming personal relationship with musical collaborator Marketa Irglova square in the public eye. Four years and two albums later another film — the musical documentary Swell Season that cataloged the two years following the film's release — served as a bittersweet bookend to the real-life love story that flourished while the pair was working on songs for Once.
Released earlier this year, Hansard's solo album, Rhythm and Repose, could be the coda to that story.
Prior to the global success of Once, Hansard had a long, successful career, beginning famously as a busker on Dublin's streets before founding his beloved rock band, The Frames. He took a role in Alan Parker's 1991 film, The Commitments, but turned his back on other celluloid opportunities to forge his path as a songwriter and frontman.
Hansard got another chance at acting when former Frames' bassist turned indie filmmaker John Carney built his new film around a handful of Hansard's songs, eventually casting him as a busking Irish musician looking for a break. In Once, Hansard finds a musical partnership and unrequited love with a young Czech pianist played by Irglova. In addition to essentially appearing as themselves in the lead roles, the duo wrote and performed the gorgeous soundtrack under the name “The Swell Season.” While the movie captivated the art house crowd, the track "Falling Slowly" earned Hansard an Oscar and thrust the pair and their burgeoning personal relationship into the stratosphere.
Relentless touring to support the film as well as their 2009 follow up, Strict Joy, followed. Somewhere thereafter the pair (spoiler alert!) stopped being lovers but remained bandmates, and it was that change of events and the resulting tension that became a central theme of the documentary released late last year.
Hansard put The Swell Season on hold and found solace in the relative anonymity of New York City’s lower east side, ostensibly, to slow down and step out of the limelight. His plans were usurped by an inspired visit to a weekly jam session at Greenwich Village club Le Poisson Rouge. In short order he enlisted the talented musicians that comprise the club's unofficial house band to record the tracks that became his solo debut, Rhythm And Repose. Equal parts melancholic and hopeful, the album feels like the unofficial postscript for Hansard's very public former relationship. He even enlists Irglova (the two remain friends) on two tracks including the achingly beautiful "What Are We Gonna Do."
Hansard is touring behind the album with his bandmates from The Frames. He still busks on Christmas Eve in Dublin and will occasionally take to the lip of the stage to perform some of his more fragile tunes unamplified like he's on Grafton Street again. A cool cover is likely as well: Hansard wears his love for his musical heroes on his sleeve and he'll occasionally accessorize his own tunes with classics by his self-proclaimed "holy trinity of songwriters" — Dylan, Cohen and Van Morrison. He's also known to have a slight crush on the Pixies.
GLEN HANSARD performs Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Taft Theatre downtown with The Lost Brothers. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.