Ahead of Rockhal concert

Music, homophobia & hair - exclusive interview with Hozier

Interview with Hozier before his concert at Rockhal on January 21, 2016
Photo: Guy Jallay

By Josh Oudendijk

Today, Hozier has tied his hair up into a man-bun. “I joked with a journalist once that yeah, completely sarcastically, we row over whether the hair is up or down. I joked with him that my life is a tug of war,” he laughs. He assures me that his hairstyle won't reflect his mood before the first ever show in Luxembourg.

Together with two brown tour buses and a band of six, Hozier has been en voyage across continents for the past two years. Once playing local pubs and cafés as a young lad, Andrew Hozier-Byrne has been taking the music scene by storm over the year of 2015, seeing audiences multiplying from the hundreds into the thousands over time. “But there is so much energy and intimacy to a small room,” he thinks.

AUDIO: Listen to the full Hozier interview above

“Things happened quickly. It’s great when the single had such quick success, but you’re kind of caught on the hop. And so in a lot of ways I was still catching up with myself for a long time, and I still am catching up with myself.”

Hozier dropped out of his music studies at Trinity College to sign his first development deal with Universal Ireland at the age of 19. After settling into his cozy little studio and practice room in his parent’s attic, the young, soft-spoken Irish man collected everything he wanted to say, sat by the piano and wrote “Take Me to Church”.

Photo: Guy Jallay

  The soulful blues and gospel track, which has already notched up to a stunning 97 Million views on YouTube, set the character of the humble, passionate singer-songwriter. With that first single release, Hozier’s self-titled debut album shot up in the charts, and his music is now amongst popular artists aired all day around the globe.   

Take Me to Church” turned into a global phenomenon. “You aren’t afforded the time needed when something is blowing up like that and opportunities are coming in and you can’t turn them down.” Hozier remembers that the second time he was ever in front of a camera was the David Letterman show.

In this song, Hozier speaks up about homophobia. We live in a society with a lack of respect towards others with different beliefs and sexual orientations. The lyrics strike like a bomb, and the sad thing is that in fact Hozier is speaking the truth. But spreading the video on television and the internet had its difficulties.

“We had many frustrations about the fact that the video was not shown on daytime TV. There was no grotesque violence in that music video,” Hozier says. I nodded, mentioning to him I was a little surprised by a parental advisory logo at the beginning. 

“The actual videos coming out from Russia’s “Occupy Pedophilia” were in fact much worse.” Occupy Pedophilia”, a radical and vigilante group that hunts down same-sex couples was Hozier’s image while writing “Take Me to Church”.

“The negative, immediate backlash was that people were seemingly more shocked by two men kissing than a man possibly being killed towards the end of the video.”

He also shortly criticises the role of the church, saying it institutionalises homophobia itself. “You can’t be an openly gay man in the clergy.”

  Hozier’s goal is to spread the word, but also to get people off their screens, stop judging, start seeing the real world outside. “We live in a 140 character society. These two-dimensional pictures of what a gay person is are very common. A big part of it for me is normalising it and making it real.” Hozier is not afraid to speak up.  

Photo: Guy Jallay

“Take Me to Church” has become such a hit-single that some may argue it is even being overplayed on commercial radio. “I remember going to LA and hearing from pop stations that a dance beat had been put over Take Me to Church.” I asked him if he thought it loses its meaning that way. “It’s very easy when something becomes ubiquitous and something is enjoyed by the mainstream, its original founding people that are touched by it feel that it loses value, loses meaning. It’s the classic hipster joke.”

But the words will always remain the same. And no matter if his hair is up or down, he continues to impress on stage with his soulful blues blood. 

He has created compelling meaning to his music, and we shouldn't be scared to openly talk about the problems we face in modern society. Remember to always look up and respect others. And, in my opinion, to listen to Hozier.

Take a read of Josh Oudendijk's other articles in his own dossier: Josh Oudendijk: musician meets musicians

Read also Hozier concert review article: Hozier – Took us to the Rockhal

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