Dalayrac was born in Muret, Haute-Garonne. Although trained as a lawyer, he was encouraged by his father to abandon his career and follow his passion for music. His earliest works were violin duets, string trios and quartets, but his main fame was as a prolific composer of operas for the Comédie-Italienne (later remamed the Opéra-Comique). He was a Freemason and is said to have composed the music for the induction of Voltaire to his lodge. He married the actress Gilberte Pétronille Sallarde. After the French Revolution he changed his name from the aristocratic d'Alayrac to Dalayrac. In 1804, he received the Légion d'honneur. He died in Paris, aged 56.