Irish singer-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne, known to most as Hozier, is hitting another high note in his musical career. After the release of his 2014 eponymous debut album, and with that his six-time platinum certified hit “Take Me To Church,” the now 29-year-old skyrocketed to international music stardom. After a five-year hiatus, he released his sophomore EP, Wasteland, Baby!, which ascended to the Billboard Album 200 chart this past March. “Nina Cried Power” proved to be one of the standout tracks on the album, even earning a spot on Barack Obama’s list of favorite songs in 2018. We sat down with the artist before his performance at The Fillmore Detroit on May 28 to learn more about his approach to making music.
Hour Detroit: Congratulations on the success of your sophomore album, Wasteland, Baby! Do you think it proves those who’ve called you a one-hit-wonder, wrong?
Hozier: I’m so thrilled and grateful for the support that was shown for the record. I would never comment on such a thing. I just wanted to keep creating music with the same ethos that I had when it came to “Take Me To Church,” and the entirety of Hozier. I think I have a fan base who understands and appreciates that.
In “Nina Cried Power,” you refer to a legacy of musicians who were also activists of their generation. In the corresponding music video, we see Irish activists listening to the song for the first time. What is the connection between the lyrics and the video?
In “Nina Cried Power” I’m speaking to a time when artists wrote lyrics more honestly and put their heart and values into their music, which was about the world around them and what they felt was important to sing about. It seemed right to contextualize that same spirit of protest in regards to Ireland, and what has been achieved concerning civil rights amendments in the last two years by these remarkable activists. As an Irishman and music maker, I try to draw upon everything that’s happening at home.
But you also broach social issues pertinent to America. In doing so, do you find that you embrace the perspective of an American or Irishman?
I’m an Irishman first and foremost, but my music is influenced by the political strife that Americans face. It’s why I’m appreciative of singers like Mavis Staples and Nina Simone, because the significance of their work throughout history is vital to storytelling. Staples was integral to the civil rights movement in America, and consequently, was a catalyst for the Northern Ireland civil rights movements in the 1960s. To your point, whether it’s American, Irish, or even larger European issues, we are all living in a time where this global upswing is occurring. We all have challenges to overcome.
You’ve said that Wasteland, Baby! is supposed to be an optimistic record. What is the value of that in today’s political climate?
I would never recommend being optimistic for optimistic sake. Nowadays, we have to be realists and realize that in some ways, we all share in a better vision for the world. Sometimes things are as bad as they look, and sometimes things really aren’t as bad as it seems.
Is it difficult to separate politics from your music?
Politics is in everything and anything that resonates with the experience of being alive. There’s value in representing how someone exists in the world, good or bad. I do sympathize with somebody who says, “F*ck off, I don’t want politics in my cornflakes.” That’s why I’m surprised “Take Me To Church” was such a hit, because the song itself is an elaborate comment on institutionalized religion — in particular, the Roman Catholic Church and gay marriage. It’s hard to market something like that as a hit. It’s great to sing about the less complicated parts of life, but for me, it makes sense to look at the more difficult things to talk about. There’s not much outside of that I vibe with.
We hear you’re already working on your next album. If Wasteland, Baby! was meant to be hopeful, what will be the mood for your third album?
I have to wait and see. Having released Wasteland, Baby!, I’m hungry to release more music. I’d love to just share my music and empty my pockets because I’m weighed down with all of these ideas for the next album. But we’ll see.
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