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"He knew I had a brain, just that I wasn't engaging it." The headmaster encouraged him to leave school."He told me to go and busk; he guaranteed me that, while I might not become a rock star, if I stuck at it, I'd likely make a living from it.That was his job, he said: to help me make a living." At 20, he landed his first record deal and, shortly after, was cast in the film adaptation of Roddy Doyle's The Commitments.The film was an international sensation, and in its slipstream the fictional act became real, touring the UK and America to packed houses. So he grew a beard, and refocused his sights on The Frames.People told me later that he might have been aiming for me." Vedder read about the incident, which reminded him of a similar accident that had affected him.In 2000, during a Pearl Jam performance at the Roskilde music festival near Copenhagen in Denmark, eight fans were crushed to death in the crowd (a ninth died later in hospital).Surveying the oil and grime that sits beneath his fingernails, Glen Hansard beams with an almost paternal pride as he tells me he has spent the past few days at home in Kildare, tinkering with his car."It's an old Land Rover Defender, and I'm restoring it," he says, blue eyes blazing.

Ballymun was a troubled place: 45 children in my class, and none of us getting any particular attention or education." He frowns. Dad was drunk the whole time, hardly a figure of authority. He wasn't." Guidance came instead in the form of his headmaster, who took Hansard aside one day, concerned."I've been filthy for days, and I'm happy as a pig in shit.There's a logic and satisfaction to fixing things you could never get from songwriting." Hardly a sentiment one might anticipate from a singer-songwriter whose new solo album, Didn't He Ramble, might just be his most personal, and loveliest, yet; but Hansard is nothing if not a plain speaker. "Songs are these weird, ethereal things - like birds that land in the garden you try to coax into the room.It's all very abstract compared with nuts and bolts.I've always loved nuts and bolts." Hansard is one of Ireland's most successful musicians, an Oscar-winning songwriter, and far more the folk troubadour of tradition than he is modern-day celebrity. We've done all right." Raised in Ballymun as the second of four children, Hansard quit school at 13, intent on becoming a busker.In the crowd was a young man who had been spurned by his girlfriend (also in the crowd, and a huge fan of Once).

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