“It’s an incredible feeling to be serving this other life and family and to suddenly have a sense of family in a whole new way”
The hit songwriter and member of The Frames had a son, Christy, with his partner, poet Maire Saaritsa, at the end of October.
“It’s the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me,” Glen says. “You would imagine anyone would say that…that’s exactly how it feels, it’s the most abstract and beautiful.
“Suddenly you realise that everything is secondary, one’s life, one’s career, one’s thoughts. I’m not the most important person in my own life anymore… that’s a very natural thing, one day I was and the next day I wasn’t.
“And it’s an incredible feeling to be serving this other life and family and to suddenly have a sense of family in a whole new way. My parents are gone and I’m sorry they weren’t around to see this. My heart is blown wide open and everything I do now has to have purpose.”
Oscar winner Hansard is gearing up for his annual charity busk, which has been taking place in Dublin every Christmas Eve since 2009.
The singer and songwriter told how he first persuaded Bono to busk with him when he came to the rescue of the U2 frontman in the early hours of one morning after his car broke down.
Hansard also reveals how the annual celebrity busk for the homeless happened by chance after he personally felt guilty about snubbing a group of Simon Community carol singers while doing his Christmas shopping.
“How it started was, Simon were doing their Christmas carolling, I was in town trying to get the last few bits and they asked me to sing a song,” Glen says.
“I didn’t stop because I was too busy and I felt bad the next day. I went back into town and I took out the guitar and I decided, ‘I’ll play a few songs and I’ll give the money to the carollers.’
“Then Mundy was there and he jumped in with me and John Sheahan (The Dubliners), Damien Dempsey, Imelda (May)…because everyone was out shopping. Suddenly we had a busk, we had a situation where people were playing songs… Liam O Maonlai came long and he did something. That’s where the genesis of the thing is.”
Then he reveals how he came upon Bono by chance one morning, and their encounter led to the U2 star joining the now famous Christmas Eve busk.
Glen says: “Bono’s car broke down at four o’clock in the morning. I helped him push his car into the garage and I said, ‘Would you be up for singing a few songs on Grafton Street?’
And he was like, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘We’re just doing a bit of busking and then we give the money to Peter McVerry or Simon or whoever.
“He said, ‘What’s it like?’ I said, ‘Here’s the deal, there are no lights, there’s no security, there’s no tickets, nothing, there’s not even a stage.’ He was like, ‘F**k it, I’ll be down…and then he came down. I’d had very little contact with him before that.”
Hansard says he admires the fact that Bono joined in the spirit of the busk and how “someone with a self-confessed massive ego is able to leave it at the door and go, ‘Right, let’s do this.’” Bono, he says, also makes an undisclosed personal financial contribution to the busk.
The Frames frontman recalled how he first started out as a singer busking on Grafton Street when he was 16. “What attracted me to busking first off is that I loved Bob Dylan, I loved Joni Mitchell,” Glen says. “I wanted to learn that music, I wanted to sing it. I had no idea how concerts worked,
“I had no idea about the entertainment world, I just knew that I wanted to play and my headmaster said ‘busking is the bottom rung of the entertainment industry and you need to step on the first rung.’
“I remember going out and it was terrifying. I went to Grafton Street because my mother sold fruit on Moore Street and so did my grandmother, and I didn’t want to busk there because I knew all the women around there.
“So I made the venture over to the southside, which was a whole other world and I didn’t know anyone. The first person I met was Pete Short — he used to sell the In Dublin magazine outside Bewley’s.
“I was a big Dylan fan, so I was singing Dylan songs and he was telling me which lyric was wrong and immediately I found a friend who was quite hard on me, but he was my guru, the first one I looked up to.”
While busking, he says, “you got to know the pickpockets because you’d see them working and the shoplifters because you saw them coming out. You got to know the drug squad because they always looked really inconspicuous.”
Hansard remembers volunteering with the Simon Community when he was a teenager. “I loved it because I love homeless people,” Glen says. “It’s a funny thing to admit… I thought they were so cool these kind of lost souls because I had them in my family… uncles or ‘drunkles’ … I had people in my family who were lost souls and I was always attracted to them because they were mad f**kers.
“They were free in their way and their freedom cost them the societal securities. So I always had great time for that spirit and it was never out of pity, it was always out of camaraderie or brotherhood.
“When I volunteered with Simon I had a couple of weird experiences where people were heavy with me, so I kind of got out of that. And then I remember in 1986 myself and me mate Jimmy decided we would sleep on the street for two weeks, just to see what it was like because we were going to try to set up a shelter.
“We were serious about it, so we slept on the street and then we did a gig in Trinity College and got Brush Sheils to headline it. We made a few quid but one of the guys we were working with, an alcoholic, ran off with all the money and that put paid to that.
“The reason we do The Busk is because if the government were doing their job correctly there would be no need.”
The Busk Record, an all-star charity live album for the Simon Community recorded in St Patrick’s Cathedral last Christmas, has just been released on vinyl and features artists such as Bono, The Frames, Damien Rice and Lisa O’Neill.
The celebrity busk will return to Dublin this Christmas Eve, the first since Covid-19.