I've done a few things, but not enough to allow them to go out on a bender, you know? And if I am remembered for that one song, well, there are worse fates…" Still, he stopped playing 'Falling Slowly' altogether at concerts - not entirely sick of it, but in no hurry to revisit it. But then Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder invited him on tour, and insisted they sing it together nightly.
"Eddie made me feel slightly less self-conscious about it," he says.
"Not interested in all that," he scoffs, "and I'm not on the social media." Though he did make the gossip pages recently, photographed mid-singsong in a Dublin pub with the American comedian du jour Amy Schumer. "I didn't even know who she was." When you listen to the rough-hewn beauty of Didn't He Ramble, it becomes clear why Bob Dylan invited him on tour, and why his band, The Frames (currently on hiatus), have found success the world over since forming in 1990. "Early on, we worked out it would take us 60 years of touring here before we filled a room, at which point we just thought f**k having to beg this place for acceptance. "I'd started getting into trouble - drinking, glue, the usual stuff. They were young - they had me when they were 19 - and still figuring things out.
Ballymun was a troubled place: 45 children in my class, and none of us getting any particular attention or education." He frowns. Dad was drunk the whole time, hardly a figure of authority. He wasn't." Guidance came instead in the form of his headmaster, who took Hansard aside one day, concerned.
"He just wanted to know if I was OK, which was incredibly kind of him. He continues to live the only life he has ever known - the touring life - but increasingly craves the comfort of his home in Kildare, to watch the seasons arrive, and to tinker with his car.
"He knew I had a brain, just that I wasn't engaging it." The headmaster encouraged him to leave school.
"He told me to go and busk; he guaranteed me that, while I might not become a rock star, if I stuck at it, I'd likely make a living from it.
He said I should learn to embrace it, enjoy it." But he didn't, not quite.
Like The Commitments before it, Once went on to have a second life as a wildly successful stage musical, with productions all over the world.
The leads' on-screen love affair followed off-screen, and the following year the doomed sweethearts (they would split up shortly after) won Best Song at the Oscars for the track 'Falling Slowly'.