Rice grew up in County Kildare, Ireland, and formed his first band, Juniper, with some classmates from secondary school (what Americans would call high school). The band got a record deal with Polygram in 1997, but Rice left the following year, and in 1999 spent six months in Tuscany, where he spent a lot of time growing vegetables before returning to Ireland and resuming his music career as a solo artist. Meanwhile, Juniper morphed into Bell X1, which became one of the most popular bands in Ireland.
While recording his first album, O, he formed a romantic relationship with Lisa Hannigan, a singer from Meath who sang the female vocals on the album. They stayed together on-and-off for a few years, but fell off while they were recording Rice's second album, 9, in 2006. She toured with him in 2007, but it got very contentious and he eventually kicked her off the tour and the couple broke up.
He dated the actress Renée Zellweger for a while in 2005; she married the country singer Kenny Chesney later that year.
Rice claims that when he recorded his first album (O, released in 2002), his intention was to do just that one, then quit the business. He clearly is in no rush to record: his second album 9 didn't come out until 2006, and his third album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy, didn't appear until 2014.
When Rice released his second album, 9, he didn't do any interviews to promote it, later admitting that he was uncomfortable with fame and had no interest in the cycle of promotion, including radio appearances and meet-and-greets.
He has little interest in money, and has said that in some ways, he misses being broke. His big purchase with the windfall from his first album: a boat.
credits an encounter with Damien Rice when he was 11 years old with setting him on the path to becoming a songwriter. Sheeran says he saw Rice perform and met him after show; that night, Ed went home and wrote a bunch of songs. Among Sheeran's many tattoos is Rice's name.