Music Scene: Glen Hansard, Yonder Mountain String Band, Songwriters in the Round

Glen Hansard

Some know the answer earlier than others do to that surprisingly complicated question: What do I want for my life?

For most, it’s a slow shuffling through school and bad jobs until something resonates and inspires, or at least supports. Then there are those like Glen Hansard, the singer-songwriter who, at age 13, quit school and dedicated himself to busking in his native Dublin, Ireland, intent on a life in music.

By the time Hansard reached 20, he was the co-founder and lead singer-songwriter of a pioneering rock quintet called The Frames and was set to act in an Alan Parker film called “The Commitments.”

And while The Frames were successful around Ireland and continue to play even today, Hansard never achieved crossover success with larger markets and was struggling to sustain his life of music and art. At 36, Hansard was seen by many as an expiring songwriter singing songs about love and loss on the streets, but that didn’t bother him. He had spent the last 23 years playing his songs to passersby and tourists without ever feeling discouraged.

“I certainly didn’t know then, but at the same time, it was the one thing I realized early that not only I loved, but was good enough to get by doing,” he says.

That dedication landed Hansard a role in a film by his friend and former Frames bassist John Carney. “Once” would tell the story of a scruffy, aging musician, seemingly down-and-out, who meets a vibrant-yet-confused young woman that gives him the encouragement he’s been longing for and together they help each other find a sense of direction in life. While the real-life story of Hansard and his co-star Marketa Irglova had its similarities, what happened after the film’s acclaim was quite different.

Hansard’s song “Falling Slowly” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and earned a Grammy nod, lending a sense of vindication for the longtime songwriter and performer.

“As one opportunity led to another, from playing in my uncle’s band to busking to my own band, each thing appeared because of the one prior on up to ‘Once,’ ” explains Hansard. “I think at some point you just wake up and realize this is what I do and there is no turning back or other career choice.”

Hansard and Irglova recorded an album together in 2006, calling it “The Swell Season” after Hansard’s favorite novel by Josef Skvorecky, a name that the pair subsequently named itself after the success of “Once.”

After three top 25 albums, The Swell Season went on hiatus in 2011, prompting Hansard to return to The Frames and work on a solo career. His debut solo album released in 2012, reaching No. 21 on the Billboard Top 200, and Hansard has toured behind the record ever since.

Hansard will release an EP in March as a tribute to his friend Jason Molina, a singer-songwriter who passed away in 2013.

Glen Hansard will perform Sunday at the Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St., with The Lost Brothers. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online at, by phone through the Etix hotline at 1-800-514-3849 or at the Music Hall box office. Doors open at 7 p.m.; show starts at 8 p.m.

Call 853-2252 or go to

With five studio and five live albums since its inception more than 16 years ago, Colorado-based progressive bluegrass band Yonder Mountain String Band, like many bluegrass and jam bands, has spent much of its time touring and playing the festival circuit.

But unlike many bluegrass and jam bands, its albums have steadily found chart success. All but one of its last six releases has made the top five on the U.S. bluegrass charts, with the most recent three reaching No. 1, and all but one of its last five have cracked the top 100 on the U.S. country charts.

The band released an EP in 2013 in which each song was written by a different member, showcasing songs ranging in influence from traditional bluegrass to alternative country to pop-tinged rock hooks, all of which culminate to a well-rounded and highly contagious set of fun, feel-good songs appealing to a wide range of tastes.

That EP was the first real taste of new music from YMSB since its acclaimed 2009 release with veteran producer Tom Rothrock (Beck, Foo Fighters), “The Show,” and consisted of 14 new compositions and featured several guest appearances, most notably, Elvis Costello’s sideman Pete Thomas on drums.

Yonder Mountain String Band will perform Wednesday at the Music Farm, 32 Ann St., with Horse Feathers. Tickets are $20-$25 and are available at the door or online at Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m.

Call 577-6969 or go to

The Royal American will host an evening celebrating local Americana singer-songwriters Thursday. The event will feature two rounds in which three area songwriters will discuss their songs and the stories behind them before solo and collaborative live performances.

The rounds will feature Luke Cunningham, Danielle Howle and David Ellis, while Bobby Sutton of The Rival Brothers and Elonzo Wesley of Elonzo will perform between rounds.

Following the rounds, members of the songwriters’ bands will join them on stage for a post-show jam session.

Songwriter rounds are popular among music enthusiasts hoping to learn more about the creative process behind songwriting and to hear more about the inspiration behind a particular song or collection.

Thursday’s Songwriters in the Round will begin at 8 p.m. There is a $5 at the door.

Go to TheRoyalAmerican or call 817-6925.