World Music Matters

Glen Hansard's new album born and nurtured in Paris

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Glen Hansard wrote his 4th solo album, This Wild Willing, on a residency in Paris. The city was an inspiration for the Irish-born Oscar-winning singer-songwriter. He tells RFI about feeling new freedom and anonymity in Paris, working with Iranian musicians and words of wisdom from Joni Mitchell.

Glen Hansard releases his 4th solo album This Wild Willing 12 April 2019
Glen Hansard releases his 4th solo album This Wild Willing 12 April 2019 ©Stephan Vanfleteren

In the summer of 2017, Hansard found himself in a city he didn’t know, surrounded by people and language he didn’t understand and far from the sea and mountains of his native Dublin which have been a constant source of inspiration. Paris allowed him to reconnect to the grime of urban life, to stop milking the idiom of the sea.

“The sea has been a huge part of my vernacular as a songwriter but you can draw on the same well too much,” he says.

“Paris is sitting in its juice, there’s so much history, you can really put your hand into the sky and pull out a line.” He pulled out many.

A year later he returned to record the album and in yet another chance encounter of "the Paris experience" ended up working with the Khoshravesh brothers from Iran whose sounds seemed strangely familiar - he explains why in the interview - along with a couple of experimental rock musicians.

“I knew I was dealing with a band I knew not how to control and that excited me.”

The juices flowed and This Wild Willing is the result of those largely improvised sessions: an edgy album, heavy on electric guitar, more resonant of his early years as lead singer with The Frames.

I've looked at clouds...        

But the sea and weather vernacular are not dead and buried. Praise be. He describes the sound of the daf frame drum used by the Persian musicians “like clouds coming in”.

And the last track on the album Leave a light (he plays it live on the programme) is in tribute to his friend Danny Sheehy who died at sea shortly after they and two other musician friends completed a five-week journey along the Bay of Biscay. A magical trip on which “nobody showed a passport and the rules were no money, no beds, no complaining".

Music has been Hansard’s obsession since he left school aged 13 to try and make a career out of busking. In 2008 he won the Academy Award along with Czech Markéta Irglová for Best Original Song for 'Falling Slowly, he's starred in Alan Parker's 1991 film The Commitments, he's played alongside Bruce Springsteen, jammed with Van Morrison, toured with Bob Dylan and was one of the only non-Canadian musicians invited to Joni Mitchell's 70th and 75th birthday celebrations. He's had a turbulent life and sounds contented at last.

So could he give it all up? Listen in.


Glen Hansard is in concert at Le Casino de Paris on 27 April and touring extensively in Europe and the U.S.

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