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Behind the Music with Glen Hansard

The Irish singer-songwriter on his latest album and newfound motto of saying yes

Singer-songwriter, actor, and charismatic Irishman Glen Hansard has a song called “I’ll Be You, Be Me” on his newest album, This Wild Willing, which features a sample from Queen, the band that made Freddie Mercury into the icon he will always be remembered as (most recently thanks to the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody). Hansard reached out to his friend Bono from the band U2 to see if he had any connections to the remaining Queen members in order to get the sample cleared for approval. “Glen, U2 is a big band, but Queen is a big band,” the U2 frontman told Hansard, adding that even he could not help out. This is the type of surreal conversation Hansard endured while making his album. Eventually, the sample, from a cassette tape demo of the Queen and David Bowie session for “Under Pressure,” was approved and really adds an edge to the opening track on the album.

As I sit across from Hansard in a charming and typically Brooklyn-esque space with sprawling greenery, vintage books, and wooden chairs, the artist reveals that while his accumulation of musical achievements and accolades is impressive, and he shows no signs of slowing down, he has another item on his list that comes as a surprise to me: kids. “I’ve been the most important person in my life for so many years. I want to have my own kids soon,” the 49-year-old tells me while taking of a sip of much-needed coffee following a long night performing at the Van Morrison tribute concert at Carnegie Hall.

Though he has a girlfriend of a few years now, Hansard admits there is a song on this album called “Who’s Gonna Be Your Baby Now” that’s about his ex. “It is basically me missing my ex-girlfriend. And that’s totally OK to do that. Humans do that. When you spend years with someone, you develop all these beautiful shorthand jokes and habits, and it’s those things that you miss the most.” Hansard adds that he isn’t longing for his past relationship on the song—just wishing her well. “That kind of nostalgia is real, and whatever is real is permissible. And I love that I can be in a relationship now and say, ‘This song is about my ex-girlfriend, and that relationship was a reality.’”

Musician Glen Hansard’s new album explores the past

Musician Glen Hansard’s new album explores the past

Hansard doesn’t completely know what the future holds for him at the moment, but he’s adopted a newfound motto of saying yes more often and being open to all possibilities. “I’m taking my foot off the gas. I spent a long time declaring myself, and now I’m at a point where I’m like, ‘Surprise me,’” he says of his career.

From supporting his longtime friend Eddie Vedder on tour to embarking on his own tour this year, Hansard is ready to embrace what every opportunity, collaboration, and decision brings. “I’m much more attracted to ambiguity these days and seeing where things take me,” he says.

Hansard will be touring his album This Wild Willing throughout 2019.

Photos by Jung Kim

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