Glen Hansard

  • Artist: Glen Hansard (Ireland)
  • Album: Didn't He Ramble
  • Country of Origin: Ireland
  • Released: 18 Sepetember 2015
  • Genre: Folk
  • Available on: Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Pandora
  • Recommendation by Varun Badarinath

The Life of a Busker…

Didn't He Ramble's cover.

Didn't He Ramble's cover.

At a young age, Irish singer-songwriter received some unusual advice from his school headmaster: drop out. That’s pretty unheard of in the academic community – telling a young man to stop attending classes at the age of 13. Glen had been playing guitar from an early age, but never showed much interest in school. His headmaster also showed a great deal of love for music and encouraged Glen to start busking, or performing in the street for money. Glen Hansard took his advice, and hasn’t looked back since.

For most of his teenage years, Glen busked all over Dublin, playing in streets and parks, as a way of interacting with the people. Due to vagrancy laws in Ireland, busking was often seen as illegal, so Glen and his friends were often targeted by the police. Meeting people on the streets and playing with anyone he met was integral in shaping Glen’s music and songwriting throughout his career. His love for Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and Van Morrison also influenced the music, as well as his belief in how music should be made with the audience.

Since 1991, Glen Hansard has put out seven albums with his band The Frames (Ireland), three further albums with his duo The Swell Season (Irish/Czech), and, finally, plenty of EPs/singles. He also had a brief acting resume as well as an Academy Award for Best Original Song for the 2007 film Once - in which he starred in. Even though Glen was a local music success in Ireland, it took the movie role and song to launch him into the international spotlight. After this Glen and The Frames have performed with the likes of Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Bruce Springsteen, and even his hero, Bob Dylan.

I first came across Glen Hansard when I heard his version of Bruce Springsteen’s Drive All Night featuring Eddie Vedder and Jake Clemons (E Street Band, Clarence Clemons’ nephew). It’s a passionate, eight-minute ballad, with a distant piano and guitar accompanying Glen’s and Eddie’s powerful vocals, along with a great saxophone solo by Clemons. Bruce Springsteen is one of my music heroes, and this rendition blew me away, so I had to find more from Glen.

Didn’t He Ramble is Glen Hansard’s second studio album. This album continues on Glen’s themes of passion, everyday struggles, and relationships. The ten songs serve as a good companion to Glen’s debut Rhythm and Repose, keeping up with the subject of hope and goodwill to the people you meet. The album has a live, bar room feel to it, with various guest vocals throughout the album. Unlike a lot of music that comes out these days, there isn’t too much production put onto this, as in mostly acoustic instruments were used. The lyrics dig deep into specific ideas for Hansard, such as helping his friend cope with loss, or making peace with his past, instead of just putting out some music that simply sounds nice on the surface. Fans of Iron & Wine and Damien Rice, or anyone with a taste for good songwriting will enjoy Rhythm and Repose.

The Art of Busking

In a recent interview, Glen Hansard discussed busking and the essence of the art: interacting with the people. Busk is the original Open Mic and it’s encouraged to do it with your fellow man, musicians and singers. You increase the circle of people in your life by sharing the experience. It was mainly opposed by businesses as a large gathering would block traffic into their shops and restaurants, so the authorities created Vagrancy Laws, which created tension for the musicians on the street.

Many buskers will play on the street for money or donations. Using his musical success as a platform, Glen Hansard thought up of an idea for charity. “Everyone goes home for Christmas. What if every musician would go out to their local town square on Christmas Eve to busk, and donated it all to a shelter? Paul McCartney could go out in Liverpool at Christmas and just play songs outside or in a pub.”

Hansard went ahead with the plan and returned to Dublin over the Holidays to busk on the streets. He’s been joined by several musicians over the last 5 years, including Bono from U2 and other local artists. In the video clip, you can see that Glen gets frustrated with media members and photographers trying to interfere with the busk, blocking the view of the people on the streets. Occasionally, Glen has debated on having the busk at all. If too many people show up, they would have to move to a park or stage, which defeats the purpose of performing in the street where your audience could be walking by. Watching this clip will show how success has not changed the roots of Glen Hansard.

Key Songs: Winning Streak, Wedding Ring, Paying My Way

The Greatest Busk on Grafton Street

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