At the time it had been three years since the release of his last record, 2019’s ‘This Wild Willing’, and what feels like a lifetime since the world suddenly stopped. Hansard kept busy in the intervening period: collaborating on the Flag Day soundtrack with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Cat Power, touring with Eddie Vedder as a member of The Earthlings, and reuniting with Markéta Irglová for a sold-out run of shows commemorating the 15th anniversary of the film Once. He also joined the cast of Cyrano for filming in Italy at the bequest of the Dessner twins (The National) who were scoring said film. Amid this intense schedule there has been little time for Hansard to focus on working on his own new music in front of an audience – a significant hindrance for a performer who sees himself as a live musician first and foremost.
Hence this back-room assembly, where over the course of five Tuesdays a crowd of fans, friends, and unsuspecting pubgoers gathered to listen as Hansard - alongside The Frames bandmates Joseph Doyle and Graham Hopkins, violinist Gareth Quinn, and pianist Megan O’Neill - play through dozens of songs and ideas. Hansard explains: “I couldn’t get my feet under what I had or what the record was until I played the songs on a stage with a band. It’s only when a song is witnessed that it finds its shape, its place, its identity. We set up in the corner and played to the locals, some of whom were only half listening. A collection of farmers and workers, dart players, pool sharks. I played two hours of new songs each week, some songs finished, some heart half baked. Through this process I realized what I had and what I had to work on further. Which songs landed and which ones were only good in my imagination. It solidified my choices right away. It was as if the album appeared in that bar. And not before.”