Damien Rice was born in Dublin, Ireland to George and Maureen Rice and grew up in Celbridge, County Kildare, Ireland. He was originally in the band Juniper, a rock band which released the singles "The World Is Dead" and "Weatherman". On the eve of recording their first full album for Polygram in 1999, Rice became disenchanted with the commercial label and quit. His Juniper bandmates became Bell X1. He moved to rural Italy where he played acoustic guitar, wrote songs, and busked around Europe until he was able to form a band and get coffeeshop gigs in the Dublin area. Exploiting a lucky connection to David Arnold, his second cousin, Rice was able to record O, for which he won the Shortlist Music Prize in 2003. The other members of the band are Lisa Hannigan who sings and occasionally plays guitar and bass; cellist Vyvienne Long; percussionist Tom Osander (aka: Tomo) a member of the 90's jam band God Street Wine; and bassist Shane Fitzsimons.
Rice recorded an old Juniper track, "Crosseyed Bear" (originally titled "Jewelry Box"), for the new War Child album. He spent 2004 and 2005 recording the follow-up to O. The new album, 9, was released in Ireland on November 3, 2006 and North America on November 14, 2006.
Rice's songs "The Blower's Daughter" and "Cold Water" featured prominently in the 2004 film Closer.
In recent years, with the increase of digital cameras and mobile phone cameras, Rice has stopped mid-song to ask the audience members to simply watch the concert rather than record it. At a gig in Toronto in 2006, he changed the lyrics of his song, "I remember" from "I remember it well, taxied out of a storm, to watch you perform, and my ships were sailing" to "I remember it well, when we used to watch concerts, not through a camera, please turn, them off please".
His songs "Cold Water" and "Cannonball" have featured in The Black Donnellys.
Rice is involved in a human rights campaign to free Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is presently being subjected to her third term of house arrest in Rangoon by the Burmese military junta. Aung San Suu Kyi has been confined to her home since September 2003. Rice and Hannigan recorded a charity song, campaigning for her release, called "Unplayed Piano".