Andrew Hozier-Byrne, simply known as Hozier, might be a unfamiliar name to Australian audiences but he has had quite a mammoth year, from freely releasing his hit single ‘Take Me To Church’, which went viral, to performing on Saturday Night Live. If you haven’t yet heard the name Hozier, you are in for a real treat once you hear his debut self-titled album ‘Hozier‘, which is out now via Sony Music Australia.
We spoke to Hozier about his musical upbringing, recording music in an attic and his love for the music on True Detective.
So let’s start by talking about your debut album – You have quite the musical background with a musician parent and yourself attending a music college, tell me how that might have impacted your sound on the album?
It actually wasn’t a hugely musical upbringing. My father was a musician though, so all his record collection which was all Chicago Blues would have been my first musical education I suppose. So than I could sing as a child, so I started singing from a young age too. But everything I listen to while growing up was, for the most part, blues music, soul music, jazz music, and then discovering things like delta blues and than gospel music. So I think those were kind of a big influence on the album. It was kind of written on blues music and so maybe there some kind of folk blues there as well I suppose.
That’s right – your sound is so unique in that it incorporates a lot genres. How would you best describe your sound?
It swings from a lot of different influences anywhere from folk to soul or blues. But I think there’s any expression from an artist called Cold Specks used for her own music calling it “doom soul”. Which I think is a nice way of putting it. So it’s kind of like a Southern gothic doom soul and some doom folk as well.
The themes of the album are quite dark, yet they are presented in quite a bright way. What was the reason behind that?
I don’t know really. I always liked that way. I mean there are a few artists that influenced me I guess, Tom Waits would have been an influence. He describes that as ‘Bad news from a pretty mouth’ and I think it was just the way it was really. Some of the happier songs are happier sounding songs. To be honest I don’t really know.
So it wasn’t something that was thought out, it was kind of a natural thing than?
Do you ever get nervous sharing such personal opinions and experiences in your music?
Not so much, I think either way I’m going to make the music that I think I need to write and I mean there is a lot of personal experience in it but what I do really is I distance myself a little bit from the lyrics.
I distance myself entirely from the characters that take place in the songs and that way it is easier to put it out there.
I mean I think all musicians do that, all musicians bring their emotional baggage to their work to some degree.
So I wanted to talk to you about the EPs ‘Take Me To Church’ and ‘From Eden’ – do you think they shaped the album in any way, other than the fact that there are some songs that you used both on the EP and the album itself?
Yes I would think so, just from the first EP especially. It was new a way of making music for me. It was the first time that I’d ever decided that I’d produce music myself a bit more and I recorded myself. So the way the first EP started, I started writing those songs in my attic first and than brought them to Rob Kirwan. That had worked so well and I felt so comfortable doing that, so I started to do that for a bit and kept that going.
So basically I recorded them first in my attic and got a lot of the elements down and the arrangements and than took those ideas into the studio with Rob and maybe put on live piano and put on real drums and make the songs sound as rich as possible.
So you had quite a large success with ‘Take Me To Church’ – were you anticipating that?
No I wasn’t. As I said, the songs were formed in an attic space and at first we released ‘Take Me To Church’ for free, so its success has come as a big surprise!
Does that make you look forward to what the future holds, or are do you find the idea of having to performing to larger crowds quite daunting?
I’m actually looking forward to it. I mean as each day goes by, you learn a lot more and how to deal with that sort of thing. I was always very comfortable in much more smaller venues but we just had a long summer of very big shows in Europe, with much larger audiences. I’m excited to bring this music to people live and I have fantastic musicians around me.
Speaking of the success of ‘Take Me To Church’, the video clip for it is quite interesting, do you think that these clips are an important thing to consider when actually making music or that a secondary thought?
I think that music videos are very important, but for me, personally, I have trouble with music videos. I write songs and I make music so music videos can be tricky sometimes, because you have gone outside of your medium and it’s also something you don’t have control over but they can be a very important way of getting your music out to people. With ‘Take Me To Church’ I had a lot more time to really work on the project and be a bit more involved in it. But they are definitely important and even nowadays, radio stations check what’s getting viewed on YouTube. I know that sounds a bit silly but they are important.
I think I read somewhere that now videos actually count on the charts now in the US.
Well it wouldn’t be my priority because they are not my forte or strength.
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So your music has appeared on quite a number of TV shows, if you could any one of your songs played on a TV show, which would it be?
I really love True Detective and all the music for that, which was curated by T Bone Burnett. He picks music perfectly at that, to be involved in that would be great. I would have any of one my songs on the True Detective series. I’m very much looking forward to the next season.
So in terms of collaborations, if you could collaborate with any artist who would it be and what would it sound like?
I have no idea what it would sound like because you’d have to collaborate to find out (laughs) I am a big fan of a lot of artists, so I’m a huge fan of Feist, Bon Iver, and a few Irish artists that I have huge respect and admiration for, but Tom Waits is a big influence for me and I would love to do stuff with him
Lastly, you have had quite a big year now – so what has been your favourite and most memorable moment so far?
Performing the other night on Saturday Night Live was a big moment for me. It was a real dream come true. Also playing Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island was quite special and a big deal because there is so much history and musical history so being part of that was special for me.
Hozier’s self titled debut album is out now via Sony Music Australia