Perhaps it's fitting, then, that his first Grammy nomination honors him for his work with a film. Thanks to the Fox Searchlight release "Once," Hansard is no longer an artist known primarily to fans of independent music.
Along with Markéta Irglová, the two perform as Swell Season. Their work scoring and composing the songs of "Once" has earned them two Grammy nominations -- one for best compilation soundtrack album for a movie, television or other visual media, and one for a song written for the same media.
Hansard said he hasn't been asked to perform the nominated song, "Falling Slowly," at the Grammy ceremony on Sunday. If invited, he said he would go, but there was initially some hesitation in his answer. "That's a party that we might not necessarily want to go to, if that makes sense," Hansard said. "If you imagine what the Grammys are as an idea, I wouldn't necessarily be all that interested in seeing anyone who's going to be there, except maybe Eddie Vedder, but he'd be our competition. I'm into it, but I guess I don't have much hope for us in the Grammys. . . . But I love the fact that 'Once' got a nod."
Vedder's "Guaranteed" from "Into the Wild" will compete against "Falling Slowly" for best song. But there's some doubt whether Vedder will attend. Accepting a Grammy in 1996, the rocker said, "I don't know what this means. I don't think it means anything."
The two stand out in the movie song category. Their acoustic offerings are sparse compared with the more lavish Hollywood productions, including "Love You I Do" from "Dreamgirls," Prince's "The Song of the Heart" from "Happy Feet" and Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" from "Casino Royale."
But if Hansard feels like an outsider in the best film song category, he definitely feels out of place in the best compilation soundtrack field. And there he has company.
Even big-budget "Hairspray" composer Marc Shaiman feels small being pitted against the Beatles-related project Cirque du Soleil's "Love," which was overseen by Beatles producer-collaborator George Martin and his son Giles.
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Said Shaiman, "Being nominated against the Beatles? That's like being nominated for best preacher and find you're nominated against Jesus."
PERHAPS Shaiman's best chance at winning in the best compilation soundtrack field is if the Beatles split the vote. Rounding out the category is the 2007 film "Dreamgirls" and another Beatles-related project, the soundtrack to "Across the Universe."
Although well aware of "Love," "Across the Universe" composer Elliot Goldenthal said he purposely avoided those particular theatrical reworkings of the Beatles. "Since we were working so closely with the same composers, in terms of source material, I didn't want to be influenced by it," Goldenthal said. "Their work as a band was brilliant and absolutely perfect in terms of their stylization of particular tunes. I thought of them as composers, as we would George Gershwin or Mozart or Isaac Hayes."
When it comes to its film categories, the Grammys take an all-encompassing approach, allowing TV and "other visual media" into the fold, as long as it was released for the first time during the eligibility year, which for the Grammys is Oct. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30, 2007. That's why, for instance, only one 2007 film, "Ratatouille," is nominated for best score soundtrack, having to compete against late 2006 releases such as "Babel," "Blood Diamond," "The Departed," "Happy Feet" and "Pan's Labyrinth."
"That's the weird thing about the Grammys," said "Ratatouille" composer Michael Giacchino. "You feel like you're up against something that was out two years ago." Giacchino has been nominated before, for his work on "The Incredibles," but "Ratatouille" comes with a discovery: French singer Camille. Giacchino found her by typing "French female vocalist" into a Google search.
"We went through this list of people, with quite good singers but there was nothing that felt original to me," he said. "It was made up of people who won ' American Idol' type contests. Not to take anything from them, but I wanted someone I had never heard of before."
For as many categories as the Grammys has, said Shaiman, it's odd that so many projects are grouped together in these two categories.
"It's an honor to be nominated against the Beatles," he said, "but it's odd for a movie soundtrack to be nominated against Cirque du Soleil."
Todd Martens writes the Extended Play blog at TheEnvelope.com.