Als ich Andrew Hozier-Byrne, bekannt als Hozier in Berlin treffe, hat der Singer-Songwriter aus Irland gerade ein ausverkauftes Konzert im Grünen Salon gespielt und ist auf dem Sprung nach London. Um so besser, dass er sich die Zeit genommen hat mit Bedroomdisco über seine Songtexte, seine ersten Versuche als Singer-Songwriter und sein Video zur Single ‘Take Me To Church’ zu sprechen.
Teresa: You’ve recently played your first gig in Germany at Maifeld Derby. How did that go?
Hozier: To a degree I didn’t know how many people in Germany know my music at all so I didn’t have any expectations. Also festival gigs are always very different, because you rush on and and if there are any problems, you just have to go with it. When it starts raining, everyone is freaking out because of all the electrics and stuff which happened at Maifeld Derby, but it was great! At the Grüner Salon in Berlin people where really warm and responsive which felt good.
You also did some touring in the States. How was the reaction from people in the States different to your music?
There was a difference. To date they were the warmest kind of reaction that I received! During New York people where mental in a good way- and I had not expected that as well being so far from home. There were sold out shows across the tour and the crowds were exceptional! People would sing the songs and stuff that was cool!
Do you think that is because your music is inspired by African- American music so much?
I think it might help in the sense of speaking in the kind of language of American music you know. There is still a lot of love and still a lot of time for Blues and Jazz in American taste. Maybe it’s a bit of a novelty to see and Irish person come over and play those tunes.
What made you be drawn to Blues and Jazz especially?
I always loved Blues as a really raw human music. Even in it’s really simple forms it’s a really raw expression of either self or loneliness or sexuality or whatever it is. When I first was introduced to it I was a baby at my house, I just kind of absorbed it and my dad played a lot. In that way, music feels like home to you before you even realize it –that is what blues always feels like.
When did you first start writing music yourself?
I must have been 14 or 15 and I was just penning lyrics and stuff like that. I taught my self how to play guitar at the same time so it was few years before I finished writing songs and played shows. To me the people I looked up to the most were all songwriters so I had an obsession with people like Tom Waits who was a huge influence. I think it was born from that. I just wanted to be and do what those people do. It’s nice to have something that’s your own when you are a teenager and growing up. Something that feels like it’s your own private thing.
Bad lyrics can ruin a song for me. You seem really perfectionist about yours, is that right?
I spend most time on lyrics more than anything else. You can feel your way through music, if it feels right you know it. Sometimes the flow in the lyrics feels right but the repetition to that word does not feel right. The edges are too sharp, its got too many consonants… Lyrics are the first thing I hear when I listen to music, I often judge a song by it because that is what a song is. A song is really different from music I think. There is something that the song has that music alone doesn’t.
That is interesting! Can you explain that further?
Yeah. What’s in a song is often what the human is it could be the story, it’s the feeling, it’s the emotion behind it, it’s the motive behind the person, the person is in the song whether it’s a story, whether it’s a sea-shanty a work song or a shout song. The song contains the person, the music is just more like the medium that get’s it there. Music is absolutely incredibly important but you can feel your way more naturally through the music. Sometimes you hear a song and the lyrics are a bit by the numbers, it feels like you’re listening to something that was penned to sound pretty. The song is where the weight is- the chore of it.
A little like: the song is the picture but the music is the frame?
Kind of! Yeah! Not in every case but I think that is a good way to put it!
Other people would never differentiate between music and song that is so interesting!
Yes, especially when you think of real classic songs. If you listen to some Jazz standards there are some beautiful songs and the song is there, the chords are there. Sometimes a song can be interpreted by different artists and the music will change but the song is always the same. It’s the same when you’re doing a pop cover or you’re doing a cover of Jazz, that is how Jazz developed, of taking the song and interpret it with different music but the song stays the same.
Also religion and words that are related to church seem to be a strong motive in your music.
Yeah especially in ‘Take Me to Church’ of course and ‘From Eden’ there is a lot of words from a biblical background. It’s not an intention and certainly not something i want to be known for but it depends on the song. There is a few influences: one is growing up in Ireland of course, the catholic church and church culture prevails society. God is in the language and everyday things still. The greeting in the Irish language in Gaelige is ‘Dia dhuit!’ which means Hello but the direct translation is ‘God be with you’. God is everywhere it is in the vernacular, the native tongue. The devil is also a very, very pregnant motive in Blues music as well. I suppose it is in gospel too. In ‘Take Me To Church’, using the language of the church is a way to reflect on how invasive the culture is and how it can invade on a person. It is not an intention. ‘From Eden’ is more a song about idealizing a person who appears innocent to you. You idealize the person from the outside looking in and I originally imagined that song being sung by the devil. There is always one quote from 1984 from Winston Smith where his character goes on about how he is poisoned by the militaristic police state. He has an affair with this women and he loves her very much, which is against rules. He describes their embrace as a battle and their climax as a victory which is very sad, ‘caus he realizes just how poisoned he is by the culture that is around him. That is maybe why ‘Take Me To Church’ is using the language of a culture that pervades and invades upon yourself. Using that language only means that you can express yourself.
For me the song almost seems to upraise love and obsession into a religion.
Absolutely! The other message is turning your back against something that is hypothetical lore or theological, and electing, in its place something that is tangible and real and worth worshiping and loving. That is human love to a person.
Have you ever been criticized for using church as a metaphor?
It hasn’t really happened to this point but I am sure it will! People get offended but I try to make clear that it is not an attack on faith or people who have beliefs. I think faith can be a really good thing as long as it is not used to justify treating people badly whether it’s your ideology or faith or God- that is a complete absurdity. The song is an attack against a man made organization that pontificates and points a finger on what it is to be human in a sense of what God wants- which is absurd!
How important was it to get involved in the story for the ‘Take Me To Church’ video?
Very! It was directed by Brendan Canty and Conal Thomson they are a team called Feel Good Lost.They had some visual ideas and we sat down and talked about it. We wanted to capture an example of an organization undermining what it is to be human in whatever sense but didn’t want to focus on the church. We wanted to focus on a modern day interpretation so we landed on the far right attacks against the LGBT community. We discussed the whole story.
How has everything changed since you got involved with labels and the whole music industry?
You have no time anymore, you’re on tour! It’s always like ‘the next single is coming out- we need a video asap!’ and you don’t have time to sit down and talk to people- I think that is worst. Videos are always really difficult because you are handing over the idea to somebody else and regardless of what you say or how much you discuss it, you can’t make it yourself. Fortunately I’ve had years where I have been working with other producers though I never felt like it was something I could release but I’ve had a lot of learning to let go. My label is like: we like what you are doing, people like what you are doing so we are not gonna mess with that! Just do it!
Do you have vision for yourself next year?
I have no idea! I will probably be touring quite a bit and do a lot more promo. To be honest I would love some time away from everything to work on the next few songs. The greatest fear is waking up not able to write a sing or not having time enough to write a song and then you produce something that disappoints yourself and let’s down the people that trust you to make good music. So I’d really love some quite time and have more control over my time. Maybe if I have run out of things to say or don’t have anything to say anymore I would hope that I stop. I hope I can just keep producing music that is worthwhile in whatever way.