With his groups the Swell Season and the Frames on hiatus, Glen Hansard finally makes a solo album.
For Glen Hansard, the royalties have been rolling in from the film and Broadway versions of "Once." So he doesn't mind that the musical duo that grew from that Oscar-winning project, the Swell Season, is on hiatus. His rock band, the Frames, is on an extended break, as well. Why not, the Irish singer- songwriter figured, take some time off himself.
"It never happened. Sometimes the body needs a rest but the creative spirit don't stop, you know," said Hansard, who will headline Saturday at First Avenue.
"The part where the music is, it almost seems to come to life when you're really tired. You're kind of getting your own ego out of the way. You have to follow the music. The music doesn't have any respect for what hours you sleep."
So, after more than 20 years in the recording business, Hansard made his first solo album, "Rhythm and Repose."
"It was never something that A) was at my core or B) something I was jumping to do," he said.
"Rhythm and Repose" is a melancholy album filled with lonely, aching ballads. Sure, there are hints of Van Morrison -- especially on the gently upbeat, lightly soulful single "Love Don't Leave Me Waiting" -- but mostly it's a contemplative collection, crafted by a guy ruminating in a New York apartment, presumably about the romantic breakup with his Swell Season and "Once" partner Markéta Irglova. (She is heard on one song, the slow-burn "What Are We Gonna Do.") The low-key album is filled with world-weariness and Irish passion that assures us that while breaking up is hard to do, there's still the promise of tomorrow.
In concert, Hansard -- who memorably opened solo for Eddie Vedder last year at the Orpheum -- promises to play songs from all phases of his career.
"I wouldn't restrict it to one identity," he said. "The one constant is the guy who writes the songs, and he doesn't change that much."
Whatever he chooses to play, Hansard will have several musicians to accompany him, including some brass and string players.
Money no longer a motivator
The status of both Swell Season and the Frames is undetermined.
"Neither one, in all honesty, is finished or continuing," Hansard said. "Right now I'm doing this. The boys in the Frames are touring with me, and we'll do some Frames music on the tour. The Swell Season, Marketa lives in Iceland, and she just made a record and finished a tour herself.
"The only way the Swell Season will get back together is if me and her find ourselves in a room together and love making some songs. I don't think we could get back together if it were self-serving or a money thing. I don't know. I'd like to think we'd do it again, but I can't say when."
Now 42, Hansard said he isn't motivated by money or career.
"If it's all about me and my career and my bank account, then it just becomes a really sad existence," he said, sounding forever philosophical. "It has to be about something that's greater than yourself. On this record, I speak a lot about relationships. If there's a gathering of people in a room, are they really paying to hear about my relationship issues? I really hope not.
"What motivates me at this point of my life is connecting with people on a real level. You might get people thinking. Sometimes there's something emotionally transmitted that's about the greater good of us all, not just the individual."
Of course, something great happened to him with "Once," the 2006 movie in which Hansard played a Dublin street busker romancing an aspiring Czech singer (Irglova). The movie cost $150,000 to make and grossed more than $20 million worldwide, while earning them an Oscar for best song for "Falling Slowly."
The film was adapted last year as a stage musical, something Hansard did not advocate. However, he's come to terms with its success on Broadway, which includes an impressive eight Tony Awards.
"They could have easily [messed] it up but they didn't. They treated it with respect," he said of the people who staged the musical. "I don't know how to feel about it other than to say I'm very happy for them. It's making money.
"As a musician, you spend your whole career earning nothing and bang, overnight you earn way more than maybe you should. Suddenly you enter a different tax bracket. I never thought of taxes in my life. With success comes all these responsibilities and you start asking yourself questions. It's all very new to me, and I'm happy to take the challenge."
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719 Twitter: @jonbream