Prior to the formation of Hawk Nelson, Dunn, Clark, and Paige had formed the Peterborough-based group called SWISH (they also used the name Reason Being briefly), while Biro sang lead vocals in a four-piece group called the Cheese Monkeys from Planet Nine from Barrie, Ontario.
After the band formed, they played and toured independently in Ontario, Canada, before being signed with Tooth & Nail Records, largely on the recommendation of Trevor McNevan, the lead singer of fellow Tooth & Nail band Thousand Foot Krutch and FM Static. McNevan, also from Peterborough, Ontario, is credited with discovering the band. In July 2004, Hawk Nelson released their major label debut Letters to the President. It was produced by Aaron Sprinkle and McNevan, who also co-wrote the album's fourteen songs. He has also appeared on some of the band's songs, as well as in their video for the song "California".
The band has achieved some success in the mainstream as well. They portrayed The Who on an episode of the NBC drama American Dreams, and they recorded a song named "Bring 'Em Out" for the 2005 motion picture Yours, Mine and Ours featuring Drake Bell. This song and another hit song "The Show" were both used on Sunday Night Football commercials. "Things We Go Through" from Letters to the President was also featured in Yours, Mine and Ours.
In October 2005, the band re-released Letters to the President, with new material including their cover of The Who's "My Generation", three acoustic versions of some of their hits, and a limited edition cover. Hawk Nelson plays the party band for the film Yours, Mine and Ours (2005). Their songs "The Show" and "Something on my Mind" were featured in the game Thrillville in 2006.
The band released their second studio album, Smile, It's the End of the World, on April 4, 2006. The album was also co-written by Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch. The album won a GMA Canada Covenant Award for "Modern Rock/Alternative Album of the Year" in 2006. The album's first single, "Everything You Ever Wanted", went on to hit #1 for 9 weeks on the R&R Christian CHR chart, and was the fourth most-played song of 2006. The band spent the summer of 2006 touring the major Christian music festivals, and also took part in Jeremy Camp's Beyond Measure tour. Hawk Nelson released a three-track Christmas EP titled Gloria on November 21, 2006, and in winter of that year they toured with TobyMac's Winter Wonder Slam tour along with The Afters, Family Force 5, and Ayiesha Woods.
Bulletproof Records and producer Ralph Sall have assembled the compilation Charlotte's Web: Music Inspired By The Motion Picture featuring music by Christian artists including Hawk Nelson, Amy Grant, and Billy Ray Cyrus, which was released December 12, 2006. In addition, Bob Carlisle, Leigh Nash (Sixpence None The Richer), and The Send have all contributed exclusive tracks.
Hawk Nelson performed in 2006 on the Fringe Stage at Creation Festival Northwest, then again on the main stage at Creation in 2007. They performed sometime between July 25–28, 2007, at Creation Festival Northwest on the Main Stage, and they played again on the Fringe Stage at Creation Festival Northeast sometime between June 27–30, 2007. In 2007, (and again in 2009), Hawk Nelson performed at Winter Jam with a variety of other Christian bands, which were Newsong, Jeremy Camp, Steven Curtis Chapman, Sanctus Real, and Britt Nicole. Hawk Nelson also toured with MxPx, Run Kid Run, Project 86, The Fold, and The Classic Crime on the Tooth and Nail Tour (Green Tee Show Photos.
In 2007, Aaron Tosti left the band to pursue other musical ventures and was replaced by Justin Benner. Justin had previously toured with Hawk Nelson before with The Send.
Hawk Nelson's third full album, Hawk Nelson Is My Friend was released on April 1, 2008, and featured songs co-written by Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch, Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace and Richard Marx.
In 2008, the band also contributed a cover of "Don't You (Forget About Me)", originally by Simple Minds, off the Don't You Forget About Me: The Covers EP. The song was also featured in back-to-school commercials for J.C. Penney.
In January, 2008 The band headlined their own tour, that they called the Green T Tour, which also featured Capital Lights and Run Kid Run (Green Tee Stage Show Photos).In the summer of 2008, Hawk Nelson played their second annual Faith Nights Baseball Tour.
Hawk Nelson was nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award in the category for Best Recording Package, for their 2008 album Hawk Nelson Is My Friend.
On July 21, 2009 Hawk Nelson released their second single from their fourth album Live Life Loud called "The Meaning Of Life", and on August 8, the song "Alive" began to be played on Christian Radio. They released their fourth album, Live Life Loud on September 22, 2009. The title song "Live Life Loud" was made available in the Rock Band store during the first week of April 2010. The song "Live Life Loud" was featured in the trailer for the movie, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules"
On October 18, 2010, they released the tracklisting and release date of their fifth studio album, Crazy Love. which was released in stores February 8, 2011.