Irishman Glen Hansard takes this call in Memphis, Tennessee, where he is (loudly) grinding his own coffee. While travelling in the US, it may be a necessity to grind your own if you care at all about a decent brew but it’s about the only real indulgence for the singer, songwriter and occasional actor.
Hansard did not have to look far to understand the characters he played in the films Once and The Commitments – a busking songwriter and a struggling young musician, respectively. He left school at 13 and started busking in Dublin’s streets. Until his 2007 Oscar win for the Once soundtrack and the movie’s subsequent adaptation into a Tony-winning Broadway musical, Hansard’s 25-year career had never produced serious money – or the chance to be fussy.
”Coffee is the only thing I get snobby about,” he says, a little bit embarrassed. ”I have to admit we bought an espresso machine and we bought a flight case for it.” Small constants are vital for a man who spends so much time on the road. This month he is touring Australia, with concerts at the Opera House next week.
”Do you know what I like to do on tour? I like to sew,” he says, with a laugh. ”There’s always shirts that are ripped and I like to buy a lot of second-hand stuff that might be torn.
”The gypsy life is definitely an interesting existence. I don’t bemoan it or celebrate it particularly, because in one way you are uprooted completely and in another way you get used to living and there’s something very beautiful about it as well.”
What else brings bring him joy off stage? ”I love cooking. There’s nothing I like more than being at home, calling my mother and brothers and sisters over and then, basically, I head down to the supermarket, buy all the bits and I spend the whole evening cooking for my mother,” he says.
”That’s one of the most joyful things I can imagine. And the way my family hang out, we usually end up sitting around chatting until 5 o’clock in the morning.
”Those are the days that are like pure gold, that give me the highest joy.”
Thanks to Once, he was able to hire an eight-bedroom house in France and fly his family in for two weeks.
”It was bliss, it was heaven,” he says. ”You know how people say if you think you found enlightenment, go and hang out with your family for a week? I kind of don’t agree. For me, it’s the other way round; I can become so un-anchored [without them].”
The search for an anchor is something that has cropped up in Hansard’s songs throughout his career: in his long-running band the Frames, in his work with Marketa Irglova (who co-starred in Once and was his on- and off-stage partner for a few years) and last year’s solo album, Rhythm and Repose.
”A lot of the time you are just singing and sometimes you realise that stuff you are singing about is telling you that you are on some kind of path and you’re looking for some kind of certainty,” he says.
In his songs, there is little sense that Hansard has found that stable place. ”Maybe it’s some kind of resistance to get into that spot,” he says.
”I’m 42 years old and the older I get, the more I realise it’s the simple things that move me. Maybe it’s time for me to have some kids. I think, ultimately, it’s the thing I’m looking for. It comes back to family.
”At some point, does the gypsy life somehow excuse some behaviour? At some point you have to go, dude, maybe it’s time to be a dad, maybe it’s time to be a son, maybe it’s time to be all these things in balance. Sometimes you over-identify with your own role of being the street-musician guy all over the world.’