"You're not the centre of the world, you're not saying anything that hasn't been said before."
Glen Hansard lets out a hearty laugh when it is suggested that for much of his quarter century career with The Frames, The Swell Season and now solo he has had a penchant for penning miserable sounding songs. "Ah, fuck, man, those songs are light compared to what's going on in here."
"What inspires me in human beings is that sense of what's actually going on inside. Don't just focus on the rubbish; tell me what's happening with ya."
It is a warm night in Dublin and Hansard, (at home for few days break from touring his second solo record Didn't He Ramble), has made dinner for friends, had a "couple of nice wines" and is now reflecting on a life of making music in public. "I don't know about being depressing or even 'real'. All I know is that you do your best to say what's on your mind," he explains. "If people decide to live their lives in a way where they're just sticking to the joy of things, then good on 'em. Fucking fair play. But what inspires me in human beings is that sense of what's actually going on inside. Don't just focus on the rubbish; tell me what's happening with ya."
Ever since The Frames emerged in 1991 with Another Love Song, Hansard has mined a rich and bittersweet seam of private passions. Yet even in a creative field overflowing with artful catharsis, Hansard's fully committed and often brutally frank style stands out for its raw, undressed emotion. Of course, he's heard all this before. "You can't really accept any compliment with this because it's really just hanging onto the raft," he says of what he calls his craft. "You'd be surprised at how much one feels one has failed at all those things; the searching, the explaining, or the singing. In a way I feel that most of what singing is is blundering your way through a kinda vague feeling; and failing miserably when you're doing it."
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Dedicated fans (and even those who only know Hansard via his star turn in the film Once) would care to disagree, but like most artists he regards his work through a prism of doubt and now, in his mid-40s, with considerable humility. "It's that complete fucking ego destruction when you realise that 'hang on, the world will go on fine without me'," he says. "In a way it's relieving because you realise that all you're doing is trying to express something. Y'know, you're not the centre of the world, you're not saying anything that hasn't been said before. All you can really offer is, for want of a better word, your sincere take on things."
When Glen Hansard returns to Australia with an 11-piece ensemble in October for a series of capital city shows, he will do so knowing that the fans will be expecting his much vaunted sincerity to be in full flow. As if to underscore the point, he jokes, "Often times you do your best work when you completely miss the point; or when your audience completely misses the point."