Royalties have been rolling in from the film and Broadway versions of "Once," the musical romance that introduced the greater world to Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard. The duo that grew out of that project, the Swell Season, is on hiatus. His rock band, the Frames, is on an extended break, as well. So he thought he'd take some time off.
"It never happened. Sometimes the body needs a rest but the creative spirit don't stop, you know," said Hansard, who will headline Saturday at First Avenue.
So, after more than 20 years in the recording business, Hansard made his first solo album.
"Rhythm and Repose" is a melancholy disc filled with lonely, aching ballads. Sure, there are hints of Van Morrison -- especially on the gently upbeat, lightly soulful single "Love Don't Leave Me Waiting" -- but mostly it's a contemplative collection, crafted by a guy ruminating in a New York apartment, presumably about the romantic breakup with his Swell Season and "Once" partner Markéta Irglova. (She is heard on one song, the slow-burn "What Are We Gonna Do.")
In concert, Hansard -- who memorably opened for Eddie Vedder last year at the Orpheum -- promises to play songs from all phases of his career.
"I wouldn't restrict it to one identity," he said. "The one constant is the guy who writes the songs, and he doesn't change that much."
The status of both Swell Season and the Frames is undetermined.
"Right now I'm doing this. The boys in the Frames are touring with me, and we'll do some Frames music on the tour. The Swell Season, Marketa lives in Iceland, and she just made a record and finished a tour herself," he said. "The only way the Swell
Season will get back together is if me and her find ourselves in a room together and love making some songs. I don't think we could get back together if it were self-serving or a money thing."
Now 42, Hansard said he isn't motivated by money or career.
"If it's all about me and my career and my bank account, then it just becomes a really sad existence," he said. "It has to be about something that's greater than yourself. Sometimes there's something emotionally transmitted that's about the greater good of us all."
Of course, something great happened to him with "Once," the 2006 movie in which Hansard played a Dublin street busker romancing an aspiring Czech singer (Irglova). The movie cost $150,000 to make and grossed more than $20 million worldwide, while earning them an Oscar for best song for "Falling Slowly."
The film was adapted last year as a stage musical, something Hansard did not advocate. However, he's come to terms with its success since it opened on Broadway in March, which includes an impressive eight Tony Awards. "They could have easily [messed] it up but they didn't. They treated it with respect," he said of the people who staged the musical.
"As a musician, you spend your whole career earning nothing and bang, overnight you earn way more than maybe you should," Hansard said. "Suddenly you enter a different tax bracket. With success comes all these responsibilities and you start asking yourself questions. It's all very new to me, and I'm happy to take the challenge."
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