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It was 2007, and Hansard's friend and former Frames bassist John Carney had begun working on Once, a tale of two buskers in Dublin falling in love through music.
Cillian Murphy had signed on to appear alongside a 19-year-old newcomer, Czech musician Marketa Irglova; Hansard would write the songs. "Cillian doesn't like me saying this, but he had reservations about some of my songs. But, then, the character was pretty dark." With Murphy gone, the funding disappeared, and the project seemed doomed.
"But I'm happy to say that the money that has come in my direction has been a healthy figure; I've not been overwhelmed by it." He has tried to use it wisely, helping his mother, stricken with emphysema (his father died five years ago), and looking out for various family members.
"In a working-class family, everyone is always going to hit you up; there is a constant need," he says.
Surveying the oil and grime that sits beneath his fingernails, Glen Hansard beams with an almost paternal pride as he tells me he has spent the past few days at home in Ireland, tinkering with his car.
"It's an old Land Rover Defender, and I'm restoring it," he says, blue eyes blazing.
The film was an international sensation, and in its slipstream the fictional act became real, touring the UK and America to packed houses. So he grew a beard, and refocused his sights on the Frames.
At 20, he landed his first record deal and, shortly after, was cast in the film adaptation of Roddy Doyle's The Commitments, about a raucous cabaret R&B act."I've been filthy for days, and I'm happy as a pig in shit.There's a logic and satisfaction to fixing things you could never get from songwriting." Hardly a sentiment one might anticipate from a singer-songwriter whose new solo album, Didn't He Ramble, might just be his most personal, and loveliest, yet; but Hansard is nothing if not a plain speaker. "Songs are these weird, ethereal things – like birds that land in the garden you try to coax into the room."Not interested in all that," he scoffs, "and I'm not on the social media." Though he did make the gossip pages recently, photographed mid-singsong in an Irish pub with the American comedian du jour Amy Schumer. "I didn't even know who she was." When you listen to the rough-hewn beauty of Didn't He Ramble, it becomes clear why Bob Dylan invited him on tour, and why his band, the Frames (currently on hiatus), have found success the world over since forming in 1990. "Early on, we worked out it would take us 60 years of touring here before we filled a room, at which point we just thought fuck having to beg this place for acceptance. "I'd started getting into trouble – drinking, glue, the usual stuff. Dad was drunk the whole time, hardly a figure of authority. He wasn't." Guidance came instead in the form of his headmaster, who took Hansard aside one day, concerned.Ballymun was a troubled place: 45 children in my class, and none of us getting any particular attention or education." And at home? "He knew I had a brain, just that I wasn't engaging it." Despite the legal requirements concerning children in school, the headmaster encouraged him to leave.