The Swell Season: Redemption Songs Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, stars of the hit 2007 movie Once, recently sat down with NPR's Melissa Block. Now performing as The Swell Season, they discuss their new album (Strict Joy), perform two songs and surprise each other with new revelations about a song's meaning.

The Swell Season: Redemption Songs

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This ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

And we're going to stretch out a bit in this part of the program for some extended music and conversation with two musicians, one Irish and one Czech. Together, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are The Swell Season.

And my co-host, Melissa Block, talked with them when they were here in Washington.


You may have seen them in the movie titled "Once." He played a busker on the streets of Dublin. She played the young Czech immigrant who stole his heart. This ballad from the movie, "Falling Slowly," won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

(Soundbite of song, "Falling Slowly")

Mr. GLEN HANSARD (Songwriter/Vocalist, The Swell Season): (Singing) Take this sinking boat and point it home. We've still got time…

BLOCK: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova came by our studios recently to sing and talk. Glen had with him the same extremely battered guitar he played in that movie. It has three gaping holes you can see right through to the struts inside.

Mr. HANSARD: 'Cause on the street, you tend to play a lot harder.

BLOCK: You used to busk all the time on the streets of Dublin.

Mr. HANSARD: Yeah, street musician for years. And using the guitar, you do - you definitely bang it a lot louder to get the volume out.

BLOCK: Glen Hansard tuned up that guitar, and he and Marketa started with the song "Low Rising," from their new album "Strict Joy."

Mr. HANSARD: Three, four...

(Soundbite of song, "Low Rising")

Mr. HANSARD: (Singing) I want to sit you down and talk. I want to pull back the veils and find out what it is I've done wrong. I want to tear these curtains down. I want you to meet me somewhere tonight in this old tourist town. And we'll go low rising. 'Cause we've got to come up. We've got to come up low rising. 'Cause there's no further for us to fall, low rising, 'cause I feel got to love someone. Low rising, oh, for the love of you.

I want to take you to the rock. I want to jump right in and see what that big ocean's got. I want to turn this thing around. I want to drink with you all night, until we both fall down, until we go low rising. 'Cause we got to come up. We got to come up low rising. 'Cause there's no further for us to fall, low rising, 'cause I feel we had to love someone. Low rising, oh.

BLOCK: The song "Low Rising," from the new CD "Strict Joy" by The Swell Season, that's Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. They're here in our studios.

Glen, this is your song. Tell me about how this song came about.

Mr. HANSARD: Well, the song is kind of a redemption song, as in, like, you know, I really want to make this work. I want to make this situation where I want to be - you know, this idea in life, you want to - there's these moments of inspiration where you just want to sit everyone you know in a room and say, look, I know that I've kind of fallen a bit behind, or I got a bit off the track. But listen, I've got it figured out and it's all going to work out. So it's a, you know, it's a kind of a it's all going to work out type of song.

BLOCK: Was it written with anybody in mind?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HANSARD: Yeah, probably Mar.

BLOCK: As she's sitting in this room...

Mr. HANSARD: Yeah.

BLOCK: ...was my question.

Mr. HANSARD: Yeah, but I mean, yeah, I guess, yeah. I guess it was. Hmm.

Ms. MARKETA IRGLOVA (Songwriter/Musician, The Swell Season): I didn't know that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: You didn't know that, Marketa.


BLOCK: You didn't assume that?

Ms. IRGLOVA: No. Actually, no, I didn't.

BLOCK: Marketa, you're watching Glen now as if…

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: …you're discovering something new about him.

Ms. IRGLOVA: Well, you know, I seem to discover a lot of stuff through his lyrics more than through his conversations with me. It's - I think Irish men are really like that, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. IRGLOVA: But I really - this is the first time I'm hearing it.

BLOCK: It's so interesting to me that you wouldn't assume it was about you, because for all of your fans who know this story of how you were both in the movie "Once," and fell in love and became a couple, and as I understand it, are now no longer a couple but are still a musical...

Mr. HANSARD: Yeah.

BLOCK:, I think we all assume all these songs that you've written, Glen, and that you've written, Marketa, are about the other. They're very intimate songs and they're, I think, excruciatingly painful songs, some of them.

Ms. IRGLOVA: Really?

BLOCK: Some of them.

Ms. IRGLOVA: Okay.

BLOCK: You don't see them that way.

Mr. HANSARD: No, it's like - it's almost like this - oh, God, it's so difficult, yet it's just great. And we're already into the deep stuff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: We had to get that out of the way.

Mr. HANSARD: Yeah, yeah. And sometimes when you write a song, a song can - I think a good song can have many different - you can take it many different ways. You know, in a lot of ways, you've got to trust the art and not the artist. And so, in a way, it's also not us discussing with each other the direct meaning of each song. It's kind of protecting the song more than it's protecting each other...

BLOCK: Sure.

Mr. HANSARD: ...if that makes sense.

BLOCK: Yeah.

One of your songs, Marketa, on the new CD is called "I Have Loved You Wrong."

Ms. IRGLOVA: Mm-hmm.

BLOCK: And it's this just beautifully wistful, sort of confessional. Really written…

Ms. IRGLOVA: Yeah.

BLOCK: …the first lines anyway, like a confession.

(Soundbite of song, "I Have Loved You Wrong ")

Ms. IRGLOVA: (Singing) Forgive me, lover, for I have sin, for I have done you wrong, for I have hurt beyond repair. When tears occurred, no, I didn't care.

BLOCK: What can you tell us about where that song was written and how it came about?

Ms. IRGLOVA: Well, I think the core of the song is this idea that, you know, we all make mistakes in life. And through making mistakes and through suffering you learn, you know, things about yourself and about the world. And then it's kind of put in the frame of a love story. You know? And within a relationship, there's always going to be times where, you know, where you do each other wrong, you know?

Part of the song is where this kind of not holding grudges against people. You know? Because I really do see everybody in my life as teachers, you know, who bring - who have important lessons to teach me. And ultimately, I - whether they're teaching me through hurt or through joy, I ultimately am really grateful to every single person like that.

(Soundbite of song, "I Have Loved You Wrong ")

THE SWELL SEASON: (Singing) So forgive me, for I have sin, for I have let you...

BLOCK: Glen, do you remember hearing this song from Marketa for the first time?

Mr. HANSARD: Yeah, I remember. I was in Amsterdam doing a gig with The Frames, my band. And Mar was on the other end of the phone, we were chatting and she was like, oh, I wrote this new song. And she played me the song on the phone, and I was really devastated by it. I thought it was really amazing. And at the same time, I was like…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HANSARD: …it was kind of prophetic, you know?

BLOCK: What do you mean it's prophetic?

Mr. HANSARD: When Mar wrote, forgive me, lover, for I have sinned. I've loved you wrong and I've let you go, that was a year before we split up. So it's, in a way, that's, you know, just to sort of put it straight, it's that thing, like, you see it coming. But even so, the song sees it coming. It's almost like you don't logically see anything. But for some reason, if you're honest and you allow the stuff to come from within and you don't edit, and you really just allow whatever is coming through you to come through, oftentimes, you're predicting the future, you know?

BLOCK: Marketa, is it harder to sing this song, now knowing what's happened, that…


BLOCK: …the things we were talking about actually did happen, that your relationship didn't survive.

Ms. IRGLOVA: No, I feel great peace about things. You know, the way things have gone. I really do. For me, it doesn't create pain, you know, or it doesn't break my heart. It's just, like I said, I think really that the song is written from a place of peace and acceptance. You know, sometimes, you know, you should not going to understand, sometimes things (unintelligible). And that once you accept them, that's enough.

(Soundbite of song, "I Have Loved You Wrong")

THE SWELL SEASON: (Singing) On my mind. On my mind. On my mind.

BLOCK: It's the song, "I Have Loved You Wrong" by the Swell Season, Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard are here in our studios. Thanks so much for coming in. And I wonder if you'd take us out with another song? Is there another one you'd like to do?

Mr. HANSARD: Yeah, yeah. We'd do another one.

BLOCK: So what are you going to play for us?

Mr. HANSARD: We'll play - this is a song called "In These Arms." And I guess the song contradicts most of what we've been talking about.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Why not?

Mr. HANSARD: The song is kind of like, you know, sometimes you have that thing where, you know, I was born to love you. That's the, you know…

BLOCK: We're going to go out in an up note here.

Mr. HANSARD: Yeah. Okay. One, two, three…

(Soundbite of song, "In These Arms")

Mr. HANSARD: (Singing) Use the truth as weapon to beat up all your friends. Every chink in the armor an excuse to cause offense. And the boys from the hallway are calling out your name. And true love will find them in the end. You are restless, I was somewhere less secure. So I went running to the row. And so now that the longest of places we were. I've quit my rambling and come home.

THE SWELL SEASON: (Singing) 'Cause maybe I was born to hold you in these arms. Maybe I was born to hold you in these arms.

BLOCK: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are The Swell Season. You can hear more of our conversation at We talk about the poem that inspired the album's title "Strict Joy." And there's a video of them performing live here at NPR.

(Soundbite of song, "In These Arms")

THE SWELL SEASON: (Singing) Maybe I was born to hold you in these arms. Maybe I was born to hold you in these arms. Maybe I was born to hold you in these arms. Maybe I was born to hold you in these arms.


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