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Glen Hansard Talks Riding Trains With David Letterman For U2’s Homecoming Special

The invitation came from Bono, who has known fellow Dublin native Hansard for decades
Glen Hansard performs with Eddie Vedder and Earthlings on Feb. 25, 2022 (photo: Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic).

The members of U2 may be Dublin’s favorite musical sons, but Glen Hansard isn’t far behind, thanks to his work as a solo artist and with the Frames and Once cohort Marketa Irglova. As such, it’s fitting the veteran troubadour appears in U2’s David Letterman-hosted Disney+ special A Sort of Homecoming, which will be released tomorrow (March 17).

Hansard tells SPIN the invitation to be involved came from Bono himself. “He had a nice idea to have some music in a bar, and he wanted me there, and a couple other musicians we know,” he says, referencing the participation of himself, Irglova, Imelda May, Saint Sister, Fontaines DC’s Grian Chatten, and Dermot Kennedy during two nights of music at the tiny McDaid’s Pub in mid-December. Among the songs performed was U2’s “Desire” by Bono and Hansard.

Afterward, Hansard thought his on-camera duties were complete, but then Bono asked if he’d talk with Letterman, who serves as a kind of spirit guide to U2’s Dublin in the special. Hansard told Bono he was game, but that he’d actually never spoken to Letterman before despite performing on his CBS late night show on several occasions.

“We have a local train in Ireland called the DART, and he wanted me to ride the train from terminus to terminus, which is about an hour,” Hansard recalls. “I’ve never met this guy, and suddenly I’m sitting on the train with him for an hour. He was an absolute sweetheart. We did talk about U2, but almost the whole conversation was about our sons, which was just a lovely, lovely way to meet him. The first thing I said was, ‘I’ve done your show, but I’ve never spoken to you.’ He said, ‘you were probably told don’t look me in the eye, right?’ I said, ‘yeah.’ He said, ‘yeah, that’s how I like it’ (laughs). He was really, really sweet. We rode the train for an hour and then we went to a bar. David really surprised me. Not that I was expecting a cold fish, but he was an absolute gent.”

As previously reported, Hansard and Irglova are gearing up to reprise their short 2022 tour in celebration of the 15th anniversary of Once, which was both an Oscar-winning film and a Tony-winning Broadway smash. The outing kicks off Aug. 8 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and wraps Aug. 27 at the Orpheum in Los Angeles. Hansard is also working on his next solo album, which should be out in August.

Meanwhile, A Sort of Homecoming arrives simultaneously with U2’s new album Songs of Surrender, featuring 40 new versions of tracks from its back catalog. The group, minus longtime drummer Larry Mullen Jr., will return to the live stage for the first time in four years this fall with “U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at the Sphere.” The shows will celebrate the opening of the state-of-the-art MSG Sphere at the Venetian in Las Vegas.