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GLEN HANSARD is an Academy Award-winning singer / songwriter who was born in Dublin, Ireland, on April 21, 1970. He is the vocalist and guitarist for the musical groups The Swell Season and The Frames. Born to a working-class family, Hansard quit school at age thirteen to begin busking on local Dublin streets. It was during this time that Glen would meet a number of the musicians who would become his friends for life, as well as becoming the backstory for his character in the film Once.
When he was seventeen, Glen’s demo ended up in the hands of Island Records’ Denny Cordell (Tom Petty and Joe Cocker), who signed him with the approval of Island founder Chris Blackwell. From there, he quickly gathered a group of fellow buskers and formed The Frames. Around the same time Glen was cast to play the guitar player Outspan Foster in the Alan Parker film The Commitments. The film led to many accolades and opportunities, most of which Glen turned down to focus solely on The Frames.
The Frames have released six critically acclaimed records to date, and have been recognized the world over as one of the best live bands on the planet. Their debut was the grunge-influenced Another Love Song, though it was the follow up, 1996’s Fitzcarraldo, that brought the band a wider level of recognition in Ireland and the U.S. Their next release, Dance the Devil, was another critical and commercial victory, yet their label thought differently (something with which the band had become far more familiar than they’d hoped). Throughout this time, Hansard was becoming more and more recognized as one of the best songwriters of his generation, known for his on-stage banter and all-around ability to entertain.
In 1999, Hansard and the band traveled to Chicago to record with noted engineer Steve Albini, and made what many still consider to be their best record to date, for the birds. In Ireland the record appeared on the band’s own label, as have all subsequent releases in their native land. Outside of Ireland, Hansard and the band began working with noted independent label Anti- Records. The next few years would beget the records Burn the Maps and The Cost and more touring and appearances at festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella. Together this brought the band to an even larger audience and turned them into one of Ireland’s biggest musical exports.
In 2005 Hansard began writing songs for a film that was loosely based on his own life. His friend and one-time Frames band member and busker John Carney was now a director, and had secured funding for a project he was calling Busker. The story about a street musician and an immigrant street vendor who strike up a friendship ended up being renamed Once, and was filmed in 2006. Once went to Sundance in January 2007 with little to no expectation. The movie was made for around $150,000 and somehow managed to win the World Cinema Audience Award. The movie was released to critical acclaim in May of the same year; both Hansard and Marketa Irglova were singled out for both their acting and singing performances. Throughout 2007 they performed songs from the film christening their new musical project, The Swell Season.
At the start of 2008, one of the songs Hansard wrote with Irglova for Once, “Falling Slowly,” was nominated for and subsequently won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Hansard went on a very short list of Irish natives who have won an Academy Award. Hansard and Irglova performed the song live on the Oscar broadcast, introducing them and their new band to an even wider audience. Their acceptance speech was one of the highlights of the telecast: after Hansard spoke, Irglova was prompted by the orchestra’s music cue to leave the stage. For the first time in the history of the awards show, a winner was invited back to finish their speech and a classic Oscar moment was born.
At the start of 2009 they entered the studio to record their follow up to the Once soundtrack. Strict Joy was released in fall of 2009 and featured ten new Hansard originals. For most of 2010 they toured the world in support of the record before winding down in October of that year. During this window of time Hansard would find himself spending more and more time in New York City, to which he now lovingly refers as his “second home” because he’s there so often.
Hansard has continued to keep himself busy. He recently completed a 20th-anniversary tour with The Frames and will be active in 2011 with performances at festivals and one-offs as part of The Frames and The Swell Season, and additionally as a solo artist. Both he and Irglova are enjoying some much deserved and needed time away from the spotlight before beginning work on a new record. In the meantime, there will have no shortage of things to keep him busy.