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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.One day he went to a Seamus Heaney reading and ended up following new friends back to the poet's house.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."He told me to go and busk; he guaranteed me that, while I might not become a rock star, if I stuck at it, I'd likely make a living from it.
I've always loved nuts and bolts." Hansard is one of Ireland's most successful musicians, an Oscar-winning songwriter, and far more the folk troubadour of tradition than he is modern-day celebrity. We've done all right." Raised in the Ballymun area of Dublin as the second of four children, Hansard quit school at 13, intent on becoming a busker. They were young – they had me when they were 19 – and still figuring things out.
"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.
I didn't know why." It was Bruce Springsteen, sitting up with him one night drinking whiskey, who explained things to him.
"He said that everything I had ever been in my life – that guy struggling against the world – had died the night we won the Oscar.