Say hello to Andrew Hozier-Byrne, a rising Irish artist who's equal parts sacred and profane.
Excuse me, sir or madam, do you have a moment to talk about Hozier? For those not of the flock, Andrew Hozier-Byrne is an Irish musician whose stirring, choral-meets-gospel-meets-folk sound has been steadily converting more and more listeners over the past few months.
On Monday night, I was fortunate enough to meet up with the "Take Me To Church" singer to ask him a couple of questions before his show at New York's The Slipper Room, the Lower East Side burlesque venue where Lady Gaga got her start. (Maybe you've heard of her?)
Buzzworthy: In "Take Me To Church," I could definitely hear a lot of choral background training. How much of that consciously goes into what you're creating now?
Andrew Hozier-Byrne: Quite a bit, to be fair. I love the sound of voices singing together, congregational singing, anything like gospel, or folk, or sea shanties. I spent quite a bit of time in choirs growing up, and in the world-touring music group, Anúna. It's a sound with very rich texture, voices singing together.
BW: I also heard a very American-style gospel singing. Was that intentional, too?
AHB: Absolutely. My influences are heavily based in the roots of African-American music, so gospel, blues, Delta blues. [What you heard] would absolutely be gospel. I was raised on blues. My dad is a blues musician in Dublin, so all the music I heard as a child was Chicago blues, stuff like that.
BW: What is "Take Me To Church" about?
AHB: It's about humanity at its most natural, and I guess the song is very much about sexuality, about the sexual act itself. It's also a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek swipe at, say, the Church and organizations that would undermine humanity at its most natural by pontificating over things like sexual orientation or natural humanity.
It's about asserting your own humanity through a very natural act, because there are very few things more human than that act itself. Also, electing something tangible that you can love, something that's worth "worshiping."
BW: I've read a lot of comparisons between what's depicted in the "Take Me To Church" video and what's happening to LGBT people in Russia right now. Was that comparison intentional?
AHB: The video was expressly referencing that. Far-right gangs attacking LGBT youth with impunity also, without recourse from law enforcement. Because the song was always about sexuality, humanity at its most natural.
It's about organizations that would undermine or condemn a natural part of humanity. It's about a human injustice -- a human-rights issue -- so that's where the video and the song kind of meet.
BW: Do you have anything coming up in the future that your fans might want to hear about?
AHB: Yeah, the second EP is called From Eden. It's on soft-release in the U.K. and Ireland, and I think in April it will be released here in the U.S. Probably have an album by August or September, and we'll be back here in May to play New York again.
The sounds coming out of this man. Amazing.
You hear that? Andrew and his amazing band will be back in May, which means that you've got approximately two months of your schedule to immediately clear. (Hey, nobody said camping outside of ticket booths was easy.)
As for the show itself, Hozier played some songs off of his Take Me To Church EP, as well as a few unreleased tracks, including "It Will Come Back," "To Be Alone," "From Eden," "In A Week," and "Someone New" -- which he noted was about the "vapid, vacuous nature of love." #aw
If you think you can handle it, check out the snippet of "To Be Alone" I recorded below. Warning, though: The following clip may or may not compel you to immediately break up with your significant other because he or she will never vocally compete with Andrew Hozier-Byrne. Just saying.
Photo credit: John Walker/MTV, Rubyworks