Hozier’s soaring voice and searing heart
From quiet beginnings, the ‘Take Me to Church’ singer’s music, and its political nous, are growing in depth and stature
Hozier: sincere and reflective
It might feel as though Hozier came out of nowhere, but the Wicklow musician has been simmering for a while. Let’s take his progress in reverse: the music video for his song Take Me To Church has, since being uploaded in September, accumulated 240,000 views. It’s the lead track on an intriguing EP that was released in July. Before that, he showed his vocal range with the slightly avant-garde Dublin group Nova Collective. He bailed from a degree in music in Trinity College to concentrate on writing and recording, but made his mark there as lead vocalist with the Trinity Orchestra.
Andrew Hozier Byrne is sincere and reflective. He hasn’t yet garnered the PR expertise of summing up his work snappily, which is a good thing, although his honest explanations can end up being hard to follow. He started playing music when he was 14 or 15, although he had been singing for years. He picked up a guitar and kept at it, concentrating on folk and blues. Now, his quiet demeanour is at odds with an incredibly commanding musical approach that has grown in depth and stature. Take Me to Church best captures this development. It’s musically and vocally powerful, with perfectly crafted lyrics: “My lover’s got humour / She’s the giggle at a funeral.”
Hozier wasn’t particularly satisfied with previous efforts. “Some of the earlier stuff I did in studio with producers was very pop-directed, which I was uncomfortable with.” When he was spotted at school singing a cover, meetings with labels followed. Demos were lined up, but nothing solid materialised. Rubyworks, his current label, had been in the background, articulating its support. “Just around the end of last year, I realised I had never been happy with stuff fully produced by other people and probably was never going to be,” he says. “Part of it is ego, lack of being able to let go. So I said I’d do it myself.”
To do this he retreated home, recording demos, figuring out the structures and the potential sounds. “Being in a studio is quite a creative and energetic process. ‘Let’s try this, let’s try that’ . . . You come away from it two weeks later and you look at it and go, ‘That’s not me. That’s not what I wanted. How did I get to that point?’ ”
This EP was different. Recording himself, he started to figure out who could enhance the tracks in a studio. “I used to almost not look forward to recording, because it was like, ‘Okay, what am I going to have to sacrifice?’ It’s a negotiation all the time. So it’s different now, I guess. Rob [Kirwan, his producer] was so cool about it. He just made it as good as it could be.”