"Say It To Me Now" by Glen Hansard and The Swell Season
One of the most powerful concert experiences of my life was hearing this song live.
This week, I noticed that Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová are reuniting for a tour to perform the music from the film "Once." I was fortunate enough to experience a live concert of this music with my wife in a Chicago theater long before we had children. The performance that particularly resonates with me is Hansard's solo rendition of "Say it to Me Now." However, before delving deeper into that, it's essential to understand the intricately beautiful story surrounding these two artists. So, let's explore the timeline.
Glen Hansard, hailing from Ireland, is a singer-songwriter who performs both solo and as the frontman of the band The Frames. He also took on a role as a musician in the 1991 film "The Commitments." While not overtly emo, Hansard's most poignant musical moments showcase a deeply emotional quality. He can best be described as a balladeer, singing at the top of his range in a manner that my soul can barely contain the surge of emotions.
This is a huge aside before I return to The Swell Season because I’ve become a gigantic fan of Hansard’s over the years. He’s done incredible songs with Eddie Vedder, including “Tender Mercies,” which has all the power and emotion of everything he did with The Swell Season.
I could go on and on about Glen Hansard. I’ll just say you should go listen to “Revelate” and “Fitzcarraldo” by The Frames and see where it takes you.
Enter Marketa Irglova, the Czech singer-songwriter. She and Hansard were chosen to star in one of the most remarkable musical films I've ever seen, which was far from a typical Broadway production.
The film "Once," directed by John Carney, has left an incredible impact on many viewers, and it certainly struck a deep emotional chord within me, mostly thanks to the music. The story of two musicians, played by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, falling in love through their shared passion for music touched me profoundly. Watching their characters forge a bond on screen, not just as artists but as individuals navigating life's complexities, allowed me to experience the palpable connection between them.
What made "Once" even more special was the knowledge that the stars themselves, Glen and Markéta, had fallen in love off-screen. This real-life love story added an extra layer of authenticity to the on-screen romance, which I couldn't help but be captivated by. Their musical chemistry was nothing short of magical, as their harmonies and heartfelt lyrics weaved together seamlessly, creating an unforgettable experience for viewers.
As an outside observer, I lived vicariously through this rare and beautiful moment where art and humanity intertwined. The film served as a poignant reminder of the power of love and the undeniable force that arises when two souls connect, both musically and personally. The raw emotions displayed by the actors and the enchanting music allowed me to experience a spectrum of emotions that stayed with me long after the film had ended.
In the end, "Once" entertained me and moved me in a way few films managed to do. It’s probably not a coincidence that my favorite film of all time is “Almost Famous,” by the way. Another film that is inextricably tied to incredible music?
So, we went to the show in Chicago in some incredible theater with essentially perfect acoustics. So, what did Glen Hansard do? He came out by himself with his guitar which was so well-worn that it had a hole in the body. He walked away from all the microphones and amplification and acted like a street busker at the front of the stage, filling the theater with booming vocals and staccato, violent guitar strumming, and foot stomping.
'Cause this is what you've waited for
Your chance to even up the score
And as these shadows fall on me now
I will somehow
'Cause I'm picking up the message, Lord
And I'm closer than I've ever been before
So if you have something to say
Say it to me now
Just say it to me now
My soul aches just thinking about it. I didn’t have seats this good, and I can’t remember if this is the show we went to or not, but this video is one I’ve watched many times to try and bring me a fraction of the way back to that moment.
And of course, the biggest song from “Once” was “Falling Slowly.” It’s a song that I learned to play and performed it a few times at open mics over the years, because I loved it so much. In that tune, you hear Glen and Markéta trade harmonies. She sings a higher harmony in the verses and then in what isn’t very common in male-female duets, he takes the high notes in the chorus. This includes an absolutely gorgeous falsetto from Hansard. This criss-cross style works to maximum effect on a very sparse piano-driven song.
When I frame my favorite concert moments of all time, I often frame them as getting to sing songs with the artists from the audience. Getting to sing “Falling Slowly” with The Swell Season may seem like a strange one to put up there with “Hunger Strike” and “Hey Jude” on the Rushmore, if you will. However, I dare you to sing “Falling Slowly” and really try to feel the words and then imagine singing along with them on a perfect night in a perfect theater. Also, pay attention to the fact that this is the kind of music that brings out every kid who ever sang in chorus growing up. When I tell you that the audience magically chose their parts and half went for Hansard’s notes, and the other half went for Irglova’s and actually hit them, I’m not lying. It sounded like we were rehearsed. Trust me when I tell you that most people trying to sing “Hunger Strike” didn’t sound rehearsed.
Well, you have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It's time that you won
Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice
You've made it now
Falling slowly, sing your melody
I'll sing it loud
Take it all
I played the cards too late
Now you're gone
Which is all just a really long way of saying, live music is undefeated. With the couple of weeks I have had of late and the obituary post I had to write last week, make sure you always go to the show. Convince your friends to go with you. Celebrate the beauty. Allow yourself to tear up and cry. Make friends with the people around you. Sing along as loud as you can.
Just as long as it’s not Jimmy Buffett.
Kidding! I won’t see you there, but if “Margaritaville” does it for you, I’m happy for you. Go to that show and feel (or don’t feel) all the things you can (or can’t) in that moment.
I’m on Spring Break next week, which means one of two things. Either I’ll have the mental capacity and desire to write something, or I’ll take the week off and talk to you in April. I’m giving myself the freedom to go either way.
Thanks for sharing. I'm definitely going to find the Once movie and give it a watch.
I saw the Swell Season in Tucson in 2011 and I can truly say I have never been moved so much. I even met Glen and Marketa after the show and spoke with them in the parking lot, Marketa shoeless in the summer heat. I still cherish the autographs they gave me. Every time I watch Once I cry because all those emotions I felt come rushing back. I would love to see them again, but I am in the Philippines and don't think I can make one of the dates. It was a truly magical experience to see them live and I will never forget it. That you for writing such a great piece on some great musicians.