Born to a working-class Dublin family in the spring of 1970, he left school at age 13 in search of making music his career. He began busking in the streets of Dublin, laying the groundwork for his engaging stage persona and, ironically, mimicking the plot line of Once, the movie that would later make him a star in multiple countries. By his late teens, Hansard had recorded his first demo with the help of his Mum, who'd lent him some money for the project. One of the 50 tapes he pressed landed in the hands of Island Records' Denny Cordell, a former producer and A&R man who'd previously signed Tom Petty and Joe Cocker. At Cordell's flat, the 17-year-old Hansard also met Ron Wood, Marianne Faithfull, and Stewart Copeland. The meeting, to say the least, left a lasting impression on Hansard, and in the end, Cordell signed him with the approval of Island founder Chris Blackwell.
From there, Hansard quickly gathered a group of fellow buskers and formed the Frames. Unfortunately, quick accolades proved daunting for Hansard and the Frames, whose grunge-influenced release Another Love Song came and went without selling much. Island Records responded by dropping the group. To distract himself from the disappointment, Hansard took on the role of Outspan Foster, a guitarist in the famed Alan Parker film The Commitments. He would later admit that he shouldn't have taken the role, as it merely placated his struggle with making music. But a trip to New York gave Hansard the space and time to dream it all up again, and with a newfound focus, he wrote the guitar-blazing anthem "Revelate" and "Say It to Me Now." Both songs eventually landed on the Frames' proper debut album, Fitzcarraldo, which was released in 1996 and helped make the Frames a popular group in Ireland.
Over the next decade, Hansard and the Frames continued releasing albums while also becoming one of Ireland's finest live acts. In 2003, Hansard played host to Other Voices: Songs from a Room, a popular television show featuring Ireland's best in new music. Three years later, while the Frames readied the release of their sixth effort, The Cost, Hansard unveiled a new side project called the Swell Season. The acoustic-based group featured his collaborations with Czech songstress Markéta Irglová. He and Irglová also appeared as working-class immigrants in the Irish movie Once, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007 and won an Oscar later that year. Thanks to the movie's success (not to mention its popular soundtrack, Once: Music from the Motion Picture, which featured the band's music), the Swell Season became a popular act in Ireland and abroad, leading to the release of a mature sophomore album in 2009.
Rhythm and Repose, Hansard's solo debut released by Anti in 2012, was produced by Thomas Bartlett (the National,Antony & the Johnsons) and inspired by the singer/songwriter's year and a half spent as a denizen of New York City. Later in 2012, Hansard's track "Take the Heartland" appeared on the Hunger Games soundtrack, and the following year he joined up with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder to record a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Drive All Night," which was included on an EP of the same name issued in November by Anti in support of music education charity Little Kids Rock. In 2015, Hansard released It Was Triumph We Once Proposed: Songs of Jason Molina, an EP in which Hansard presented reworked interpretations of five songs by his late friend Molina, best known for his work with Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. In September 2015, Hansard returned with a new album of original material, Didn't He Ramble, followed by an American concert tour. In January 2018, Anti- brought out Hansard's fourth full-length album, Between Two Shores; in support, he staged an international concert tour, including a special show with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. ~ MacKenzie Wilson, Rovi