Sex, Bog Bodies And Nina Simone: Hozier Reveals His Surprising Influences
He's been nominated for a 2015 Grammy for "Song of the Year" and performed on "Saturday Night Live." He shared the stage with the likes of Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande amid prancing Angels at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show and has had the most viral track of 2014, according to Spotify. He's Andrew Hozier-Byrne -- and you might not know quite who he is. Yet.
Hozier-Byrne -- more widely known as Hozier -- broke out in 2013 with his single "Take Me To Church," off of an EP of the same title. Aside from being a gorgeous track that showed off Hozier's rich, wise-beyond-his-years voice and blues background, the song also touched on LGBTQ rights, centering on two women who fall in love despite a religion that tells them it's wrong.
But the song really took off, according to Billboard, when he dropped the accompanying video in fall 2013, a clip that now has nearly 50 million views and highlights the very timely issue of anti-gay discrimination in Russia.
And to think, it wasn't long ago that the 24-year-old (I know, we were surprised by his youth, too) was studying music at Trinity College and singing covers at parties -- where he was discovered. Lucky for us, he dropped out of school, ditched the covers -- and outside producers -- and honed his own sound in an attic in Ireland where "Take Me To Church" and Hozier was born.
MTV News recently got a chance to chat with Hozier. Find out what he had to say about his earliest musical memory, underwear and, of course, bog people.
MTV: So how did you feel when you heard you were nominated for a Grammy?
Hozier: I was shocked at first. I’m usually quite bad at assimilating good news real quickly, especially something that’s as fantastic as that. So, you know, I think it took me a day or two [to] just realize it was a real thing, you know? But I’m thrilled; like I’m over the moon with it, you know?
MTV: Speaking of over-the-moon, how was the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show? How do you think your music goes along with a bunch of ladies in lingerie?
Hozier: I mean, 'Take Me To Church' is about sex. So, it’s not all that inappropriate. I mean, you know, it’s lingerie. It’s underwear. And it is sexual. I mean, the song is sexual. [Lingerie] has something to do with female sexual agency and having control over your own sexuality and your own body. For me that’s something that the music deals with also.
MTV: Taking it back now, what’s your earliest musical memory? When do you first remember music becoming important to you?
Hozier: I’ve always had a fascination with a lot of music -- blues music and jazz music -- but I think the earliest memory I had to do with music was as a very, very young child. My father was a drummer, and he played blues music in Dublin. So I remember quite early on, somewhere between walking and crawling, being at one of his gigs at a very young age.
MTV: Do you remember your first record?
Hozier: Yes, I think I do. I remember one of the first albums I got was an album called Thin Lizzy: Live and Dangerous. I [also] remember buying Daft Punk singles -- and this is way back -- I remember the Lighthouse Family for some reason.
MTV: So your first show was, I know, probably your dad, but aside from your dad, what's the first band you went to see?
Hozier: I think my parents took me to see Sting when I was very, very young. I remember the first gig that I definitely really wanted to go to as well, which was Stereophonics.
MTV: I know you were definitely influenced by your dad, and I know you’ve mentioned James Joyce before in interviews, but how much has where you’re from affected your music, do you think?
Hozier: I love a lot of Irish folk music and Irish folk songs. Lyrically, there’s a lot of Irish writers who inform some of the themes and inform some of the language as well.
In some cases, like, 'Take Me to Church' -- I wouldn’t have written a song like that if I had grown up in a country that didn’t have a history of church-state relations like that.
MTV: What are some of the other Irish writers that have affected your songwriting?
Hozier: Oscar Wilde -- he has all these gorgeous short stories. And W.B. Yeats a little bit. And there’s Seamus Heaney who I f--king love, and yeah, he’s got some beautiful stuff. It wasn’t until he died that I realized how much I kind of loved him. He’s got this series of poems that describe bog bodies -- I don’t know if you know what bog bodies are...
MTV: Like, bog people? The mummies that people found in bogs?
Hozier: Yeah, essentially, yeah. He has a series of poems that describe them, and I remember just being fascinated.
MTV: Would bog people ever end up in one of your songs?
Hozier: Well yeah, a little bit. Not so much about bog people... There are some references, I think, in 'Run,' but certainly in 'Like Real People Do' -- that’s about somebody digging somebody up from the earth and falling in love with them.
MTV: You’ve spoken a lot about 'Take Me To Church' and gay rights -- and you mention rape culture in 'To Be Alone.' How important is it to you to that you incorporate social issues in your music?
Hozier: I kind of think if there’s nothing to say, don’t say it. The lyrics are, for me, one of the most important parts of the song, and the way I see it, whether you’re talking about that type of stuff, or you’re just talking about anything, either way, it is a reflection of the times and it is a reflection of what’s going on now at the minute.
All songs, all pieces of art, reflect the world that they were made in and the values of those artists and the hopes and aspirations of the people who listen to that music and who made that music.
I'm influenced a lot by Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, even Paul Weller -- Billie Holiday as well: People who wrote and sang songs that were reflective of their times. I quite like that. I quite admire that. I think it’s important not to be afraid of saying that -- saying things like that.