In the 2007 musical Once, Glen Hansard of Irish rock band the Frames and the young Czech-Icelandic singer-songwriter Markéta Irglová play buskers who fall in love and literally make beautiful music together. While making the film, Hansard and Irglová formed an actual band called the Swell Season, recording two albums together and touring the world. They also dated for two years during this stretch, but that ended after two years, and by 2011 the band also broke up. Last year, Hansard and Irglová reunited for their first tour as the Swell Season in over a decade, and today they’ve shared a video for their first new song together in 13 years.
“The Answer Is Yes” emerged last month when Hansard visited Irglová in Iceland to prepare for their upcoming Swell Season tour dates. It’s a grand, sentimental ballad that directly references this duo’s tangled personal history; the title is a reply to the question, “Was it all worth it?” The meta-ballad may strike some listeners as a bit saccharine, but if the Swell Season’s music ever appealed to you, this one also might pack an emotional wallop. In the YouTube description, Irglová shared a lengthy reflection on “The Answer Is Yes” and how both musicians’ lives have evolved since their initial run together:
This song was given as an answer to my prayer some months ago. Glen and I had been talking about releasing new music prior to our upcoming US tour, and I made a wish in my heart to write a beautiful duet for us to sing together. Something that felt just right for the time and place. Something deeply personal and yet widely universal. Something that summarized our journey through the past 20 years, paying tribute to all that once was and celebrating all that now is. Some things have remained the same, like the strength of our personal and musical connection, while others changed in big and small ways.
Glen was getting married, and that was big. It was significant and it felt joyous. And so it made its way into the song, probably also largely due to the fact that the chorus chants of YES kept reminding me of a person saying “yes” during a marriage proposal, or while standing at the altar. I imagined being able to take the energy and enthusiasm of the easiest yes any of us have ever given and bringing it into other, less important yeses of our lives. For anything worth doing is worth doing fully, and no yes should ever be said with half a heart.
When I was half way through writing this song, I sent it to Glen in hopes of having him finish it with me, but he was busy mixing his upcoming record and the song finished itself before he could chime in with ideas. It felt as if it had long waited to be written, and it grew impatient on its last stretch. It simply knew what it wanted to be. Positive, celebratory, joyous and yes, nostalgic. For there is, after all, a lot to reflect upon and be nostalgic about.
When Glen agreed to come to Iceland and record this and one other song with me, I was beyond excited. Both about recording with Glen and doing so in our own studio. It is my favorite and preferred place to work, and it meant we could keep things cozy and comfortable, which in turn absolutely benefited our creative process, yielding way more material than we originally set out to write and record. Not to mention the time it gave Glen and me to catch up and our families to become as close as they did in this relatively short time.
Mio assumed his well “broken in” position of producer and studio engineer, and Glen and I agreed to keep things simple and invite local musicians to join us in the session, with the exception of Marja Gaynor and Bertrand Galen who recorded string parts remotely in Ireland with Cormac O’Connor. Our lovely neighbors and dear friends Tina Dico and Helgi Hrafn Jónsson joined us on vocals, and Þorvaldur Þór Þorvaldsson and Guðmundur Óskar Guðmundsson on drums and bass. I later asked my dear friend Peter Moc, a fellow Czech based in Ireland to record some electric guitar parts on a couple of other songs, ones you have yet to look forward to hearing.
It made sense somehow, for this song to be the first single for us to release. We wanted to open with this kind of positivity and celebration, inviting others to join in our joy. The cover of the single was taken by David Cleary, who also captured all stills photography in Once, and documented our recording process in Iceland.
I had a vision for the cover involving a Claddagh ring, traditionally used as a wedding band in Ireland, and David was just the man to execute this vision. I liked the idea of it resting on blades of grass and wild flowers, as if it had been lost or still waiting to be found. The two hands holding a crowned heart is one of the most beautiful symbols I know. Originally the heart stands for love, the crown for fidelity and hands for friendship, but to me it symbolizes that love is the highest authority there is, and to serve and safe-guard it, the highest honor.
Glen and I have been friends for a long time, and our friendship is a manifestation of deep love. The kind that does not die and nor does it end, it simply is and always shall be. As I grow older. I cherish having people in my life who I’ve known for a long time. It means that certain things need not be explained. There is a quiet understanding. We were both there when it happened and there is a comfort in that. We know it wasn’t all roses and glory, but we have a lot to be proud of and an even more to be grateful for.
The little set of live shows we did together in March of 2022 blew my mind. It was our first series of shows in more than a decade. On the opening night, when I walked on stage and saw, heard and felt the audience, eager and excited to have us back, a part of me couldn’t believe they were still there, after all this time. It certainly offered many moments of deep appreciation for the loyalty and generosity of such a loving audience. Becoming still and looking around, we received all the confirmation one could ever need, of it all having been absolutely worth it. Not that I ever doubted that for a second.
Thank you for listening, I hope you enjoy.
Below, watch director David Cleary’s video for “The Answer Is Yes” and check out the Swell Season’s tour dates.
07/13 – Dublin, Ireland @ Vicar St. – SOLD OUT #
07/14 – Dublin, Ireland @ Vicar St. – SOLD OUT @
08/08 – Nashville, TN @ The Ryman – LOW TICKET WARNING %
08/09 – Atlanta, GA @ Symphony Hall, Woodruff Arts Center – SOLD OUT %
08/11 – Boston, MA @ Boch Center, Wang Theatre – LOW TICKET WARNING %
08/12 – New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall %
08/14 – Durham, NC @ DPAC +
08/15 – Washington, DC @ The Anthem +
08/17 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Meijer Gardens – SOLD OUT ^
08/18 – Chicago, IL @ The Salt Shed – SOLD OUT ^
08/20 – Denver, CO @ Levitt Pavilion &
08/21 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre &
08/23 – Seattle, WA @ Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery =
08/24 – Portland, OR @ Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall – LOW TICKET WARNING =
08/26 – San Francisco, CA @ The Masonic – LOW TICKET WARNING =
08/27 – Los Angeles, CA @ Orpheum Theatre – SOLD OUT =
# Leah Moran
@ Dylan Harcourt
% Lisa O’Neill
+ Corey Ward
& Lizzie Webber
= Eric Harper