Interview: Markéta Irglová’s Roots Go Deep on Beautifully Vulnerable Album ‘Lila’

Marketa Irglova © Lena Bushart
Marketa Irglova © Lena Bushart
Acclaimed Czech-Icelandic singer/songwriter Markéta Irglová returns after eight years, ending her trilogy with the album ‘Lila’, a warm and spirited culmination of love and indie folk wonder.
Stream: ‘Lila’ – Markéta Irglová

I will always be inspired by stories that make the world seem smaller than it actually is.

Eight years have passed since Markéta Irglová’s last record.

The Academy Award winning singer/songwriter and actress – best known for her work in the critically acclaimed film Once and her membership as half of indie folk rock duo The Swell Season (with Glen Hansard) – took some time away from the spotlight, had children, and built a studio. That time wasn’t exactly quiet, but it wasn’t a time of creating music.

Lila - Markéta Irglová
Lila – Markéta Irglová

The second half of 2022 saw Irglová return with her third full-length record – the third in a set of albums about love, each in a different form. First expressed in Farsi, then in Arabic, and now in Hindi, Irglová ends this trio with Lila, a word for when divine power is at play. Irglová sings about a love that hinges on faith. Faith strengthens her identity, and is a vessel for her music. After eight years, Irglová understandably approaches this record from a different place, yet manages to create a seamless ending to her three-part story.

Marketa Irglova © Lena Bushart
Marketa Irglova © Lena Bushart

With ‘Lila’, I’m combining the two (personal relationships, spirituality and God) with a meeting of heaven and earth. It’s an expression of unconditional love, something all-inclusive.

Irglova’s strengths lie in her piano skills and flawless arrangements. Her warmth fills every track with a gold light, every corner of sound bursting with fullness.

Previously seen only in shades on last records, Lila carries a ferocity, a different kind of strength. Lead single “My Roots Go Deep” features an unapologetic boldness, both in lyricism and instrumentation. Irglová repeats affirmations, “I allow all things to come to me, I’m a tall and mighty tree, I can weather any storm.” Her piercing falsetto rises over the crashing waves of horns, cello, and cymbals. A chorus of competing harmonies and chants of “Lila” end the track.

Can’t take it off
This weathered token of our love
You made for me when we were new
From threads of dreams in shades of blue
In those days, we made circles ’round the moon
And those times were over too soon
Lord, I do not weep upon waking from a sleep
Dreaming of heaven
For I remember all too well, how close heaven is to hell
And all of them crash landings I’ve endured
Letting down my roots
I am getting good at being still
I’ve stopped chasing after things
I’m like the church upon a hill
I allow all things to come to me
I’m a tall and mighty tree
I can weather any storm, ’cause
My roots go deep, my roots go deep…
– “My Roots Go Deep,” Markéta Irglová

Another single, “Girl From A Movie,” is profoundly personal and easily autobiographical, detailing Irglová’s life after Oscar-winning film Once with singer/songwriter Glen Hansard, carrying an infectious melody and an upbeat sound that defies expectations. Irglová pens her autobiography with this track, simultaneously looking at the past and the future with focused eyes. There is a new vulnerability to Irglová, a bravery inspired by identity.

Here I am, finally, after all this waiting
I can’t believe it’s really you
You’re just like I’d always imagined
Better than I had imagined
Oh, what a waste of time it’s been
Chasing this dream, making my thoughts all about you
I never had a fight in this to win
I just thought I found love and followed you blindly, but
You’re not the man I had hoped
You’re not the same as I imagined
You’re not at all who I thought you to be
When you look at me, what do you see?
Am I not more to you than a girl from that movie?
One of these days you’ll see me on TV
Maybe by then you’ll realize what you had in me
And you’ll be sorry you let me go
– “Girl From A Movie,” Markéta Irglová
Marketa Irglova © Lena Bushart
Marketa Irglova © Lena Bushart

In our conversation, Markéta Irglová described a complete surrender before starting a piece of music, staying still and allowing whatever comes to her to be.

Irglová is grounded in her musical identity, with complete trust in what she makes, as she knows it is and always will be bigger than herself. Lila is the culmination of this feeling, a trust in a kind of love that stands on solid ground, prepared for any storm.

Atwood Magazine sat down with Markéta Irglová to discuss her past success, her current day-to-day, and her new album. Dive into our interview below, and stay tuned for more exciting things to come in 2023: Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard recently announced that they will “once again” be reuniting for an extended run of dates in celebration of the 15th (and counting) anniversary of their film Once. Ticket links can be found on The Swell Season’s website here.

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I am the girl from the movie, but I’m also more… It’s part of us, but I just want to be accepted as all of the additional things I have become since then.

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:: Tour Dates ::

Tue 8/8 – Nashville, TN – The Ryman
Wed 8/9 – Atlanta, GA – Symphony Hall, Woodruff Arts Center
Fri 8/11 – Boston, MA – Boch Center, Wang Theatre
Sat 8/12 – New York, NY – Radio City Music Hall
Mon 8/14 – Durham, NC – DPAC
Tue 8/15 – Washington, DC – The Anthem
Thu 8/17 Grand Rapids, MI – TBA
Fri 8/18 – Chicago, IL – Salt Shed
Sun 8/20 – Denver, CO – Levitt Pavilion
Mon 8/21 – Salt Lake City, UT – TBA
Wed 8/23 – Woodinville, WA – TBA
Thu 8/24 – Portland, OR – Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Sat 8/26 – San Francisco, CA – The Masonic
Sun 8/27 – Los Angeles, CA – The Orpheum
tix & more info here

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:: stream/purchase Lila here ::
Stream: ‘Girl From a Movie’ – Markéta Irglová


Lila - Markéta Irglová

You’ve had quite a career, and your music is this complete wheelhouse. The trilogy in your albums is ending after twelve years - from Anar, Muna, and now Lila. How have you changed as a storyteller?

Markéta Irglová: My lens has been zooming out a bit. I think it comes with age! When we are younger and new to love, it is so easy to chase after it or allow it to be bigger than everything else and get lost in it. It’s not really love, it’s more like attachment to a certain feeling, or to a person. Over the years, my idea of love has been changing. I’ve realized that the burning, all-consuming emotion that we call love is not what I want.

It’s like you’re in your own microcosmos and zooming out lets you see things from a distance, you get a clear picture of the world. In Anar, I talked about my personal relationships. Muna was focused on spirituality and God. Now, with Lila, I’m combining the two with a meeting of heaven and earth. It’s an expression of unconditional love, something all-inclusive.

Were you a bit nervous about releasing an album that has such a different definition of love from our cultural norm? Art nowadays is more focused on passion and fire.

Markéta Irglová: I do my best to work on the raw stuff I receive. I try not to focus much on what is popular or palatable. I never question the things that I receive. I always have this faith and trust in what I make, allowing it to be what it needs to be. It takes a lot of the pressure off, to not chase the popular or fit myself into some box. I realized very early on that wasn’t a priority for me, that’s why my songs are longer than three minutes. (laughs) My husband and I have been together for ten years and have three children together. It would just feel awfully silly for me to sing about things I felt as a teenager. The lyrics are super important to me, and I want them to reflect me now.

I never question the things that I receive. I always have this faith and trust in what I make, allowing it to be what it needs to be.

Markéta Irglová © Lena Bushart
Markéta Irglová © Lena Bushart

One of my favorite things about your music is your larger than life passages. They are consistent, but never boring. What do you listen for in your music?

Markéta Irglová: I actually listen to very little music. I am in the studio all day while the children are at school. The whole day is either writing or rehearsing. When the kids come home, it becomes very noisy, so I become very grateful for the silence. Otherwise, I listen to my own mixes and review them. I’m looking for a perfect balance, for everything to be in tune and in time. I like a sense of harmony and togetherness, for it to feel tight. If I’m hearing additional things, I’ll just go back and add them. Fine tuning, essentially.

This record features more upbeat tracks! What caused this shift?

Markéta Irglová: Lately, I’ve found it easier to channel that energy! When I was playing with Glen [Hansard] he was always the fire and I was always the water – he was the very dynamic element and I was the supporting role. It’s taken me all this time to channel that strength in my own core, which I think is related to becoming a mother and having to find that strength. It’s easier for me to access that, so the music tends to reflect it. I’m really enjoying it!

Markéta Irglová © Lena Bushart
Markéta Irglová © Lena Bushart

You have quite the wheel of collaborators, continuing work with Aida Shahghassemi, your husband and producer Sturla Mio Thorisson, and adding musicians Maria Gaynor, Manuel Baretto, and Peter Moc. How do you keep this community around your music?

Markéta Irglová: I’m always drawn to people that have a similar energy to mine. That’s how I find them, and the collaboration seems to be effortless. We just resonate. It’s this beautiful dance of ideas and execution, from both sides. They sort of change the whole song for me a lot of the time. I don’t experience creative differences really. I don’t really work with people who have an ego. I subconsciously choose selfless people, especially selfless in their contributions. Even with my husband, we agree most of the time. But whoever cares more, wins. We kind of push and pull, but it’s always fun. I have certain sonic scopes I enjoy – I love strings and a choir. I lean on my classical background a lot, because I enjoy the timelessness.

Almost sixteen years after your hit film, Once, you’ve released Girl From A Movie. Is this autobiographical track a description of how you felt at the time or how you feel now?

Markéta Irglová: These are more current feelings. I have always had a really good relationship with the movie, the character I played, Glen, the music. I never get tired of being asked to play “Falling Slowly” and I’m not upset that the movie will probably be the highlight of my career. I have so much gratitude. I think it comes with being in a different place of work, especially after taking eight years away from the music scene.

Returning to it and putting out a record is difficult, it feels like the music industry has changed a lot. I’ve found it shocking that a lot of the time you need a story that is juicy enough to catch people’s attention. I see it everywhere now – Demi Lovato has a new record after rehab, Adele has a new record after a divorce. These are big stories that are worthy of headlines, but I don’t have anything to offer in that sense. I am pretty content and I have a record for you to hear.

Part of the reason why Once was popular was because the story was against all odds, which I didn’t realize at the time. I’m turning a page, reaching out to the world but I realized I am a certain thing to the world. I am the girl from the movie, but I’m also more. I’m in a different place now, which is also of value. We project so much, with people we know or don’t know. It’s part of us, but I just want to be accepted as all of the additional things I have become since then.

You’ve said that in your music, “You are trying to find a chord that resonates with people.” What art resonates with you?

Markéta Irglová: Most of all, stories. Across the board, from music to movies or TV episodes, I seem to be drawn to stories because I find connection. We go through similar things in life and similar challenges and the core is all the same. I tend to look for those connections and similarities and weave these stories together through my own experiences and feelings.

Someone said to me that comedy is about recognition, that we laugh about things we recognize from our own experience. That’s why it’s funny, because we are afraid to voice our own thoughts out of embarrassment or fear. I think we experience the same thing with love stories – the really sincere ones, not like Hollywood. We pick up on that raw feeling of love and it resonates with us. How could it not?

Markéta Irglová © Lena Bushart
Markéta Irglová © Lena Bushart

I think we experience the same thing with love stories – the really sincere ones, not like Hollywood. We pick up on that raw feeling of love and it resonates with us. How could it not?

What does that mean for “Lila”?

Markéta Irglová: In music we are drawn to things that mirror our emotions, that make us feel less alone. I’ve been very aware of that in my own music, I generally let things come to me. I think of myself as a channel, of a sort, and I acknowledge that everything I do comes from another place. I try to anchor this in a song, as it passes through me it passes through my filter of experience, and that’s how it becomes personal to me.

I have this kind of surrender when it comes to my music. I always give thanks for whatever I receive. But I will always be inspired by stories that make the world seem smaller than it actually is.

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:: stream/purchase Lila here ::

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Lila - Marketa Irglova

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