The former Frames frontman’s new album was recorded at Black Box studios in Paris and is rooted in experimentation, improvisation and spontaneous collaboration. Hansard utilized the support and influence of classically trained musicians—the Khoshravesh brothers and Dublin-based electronica artists Deasy and Dunk Murphy. In an interview between songs, the enigmatic Hansard explained that he had no clear framework mapped out for this LP:
There are times in one’s life where you feel like you have to take something by the horns, and you have a vision and you follow it. You go after it and captain the ship from top to bottom. That’s the imagined songwriter’s lot. You have a burst of inspiration. You write it down. You basically instruct the double bass player or the piano player, and you give a reference of what kind of sound you want it to have. You go after it and the idea is that you come out the other end, and it sounds like your vision of the song. And nine times out of 10, that’s probably how it goes. But for me, whatever was going on in my life, I just had this feeling that I wanted to draw people in because I knew that I didn’t know. I knew that whatever was going to happen with this record, my vision for it was very unclear, which for me is really freeing because usually I’d be quite specific. I invited all of these people in kind of a vulnerable way. I said, ‘Just come and join me.’ I had these scraps, I had these thoughts, I had these lines, these threads. I didn’t have anything built. I knew if I had the right people beside me, I would be propelled somehow. Really operating on this idea that beauty exists outside of comfort.
Hansard performed the opening four tracks from This Wild Willing: “I’ll Be You, Be Me,” “Fool’s Game,” “Race to the Bottom” and “Don’t Settle.” Hansard puts on a hair-raising performance of “I’ll Be You, Be Me,” marked by a pulsing electronic drum beat, cooing piano, rousing synths and Hansard’s grizzled, hushed vocals. His performance of the sparse “Fool’s Game” is another highlight as it’s the kind of subtle, moving folk song that slowly sparks until you realize there’s a robust blaze crackling in the hearth of your soul.
You can catch Hansard in Pelham, Tenn. for a live taping of PBS’s Bluegrass Underground on March 29, and he’ll return to the states in May for tour stops in Boston, Philadelphia, New York City and Washington D.C.