When we caught up with Andrew Hozier-Byrne --- better known by his moniker, Hozier --- at a big London concert, he was visually nervous. "This is very much outside my comfort zone," he tells us, adding that he prefers intimate gigs. But given his Grammy and European Music Award nominations for Song of the Year (both for "Take Me To Church"), those intimate touring days are over. Big venues await.
Hozier explains 'Take Me To Church' meaning
The singer-songwriter’s anthemic track has made the Irishman the face of equality, but he says he's not ready to be the next musician-cum-humanitarian.
While Hozier is shy about performing, he’s not afraid to confront social injustices. “I think that it’s sad that what people think is controversial is that there’s a lad kissing in it than the implied murder at the end of it," he says of the reaction to his provocative “Take Me To Church” short, which sees a gay couple violently attacked by a gang for their sexuality.
The video itself references the abuses against the LGBT community in Russia. The singer, who received social media support from celebrities such as Stephen Fry, says, “I wasn’t nervous about its reception; I thought it was a delicate subject – but I don’t think there’s much controversy about the video. It was more about whether we did the idea justice.”
The 24-year-old, who is not gay, is also openly supporting a yes vote in Ireland’s referendum on civil marriage equality this year, which would offer gay couples the same rights as heterosexual unions.
So, is the singer-songwriter to topple Bono and Bob Geldof as Ireland’s premier humanitarian activist? “Hmm, I don’t know where my place is an activist.” After a considered pause, Hozier adds: “I have strong opinions about a lot of things as does everyone but I think all that an artist does is make music that reflects the way they see the world.”
“Irish people have a love-hate relationship with their culture – it’s had a troubled history and there’s still a great hangover that lingers and lasts,” he reflects before checking himself. “But I can’t speak on behalf of the Irish people.”
Voice of a generation?
Hozier, like millions of millennials dubbed ‘Generation Rent’, feels let down “politically and certainly through financial mismanagement”, lamenting in his words that “42 percent of the European banking crisis was paid for by Irish taxpayers."
Although reluctant to be the spokesperson for disillusioned twenty-somethings of Ireland, a great deal of what he says in regard to tolerance reflects the views and sentiments of his peers. “The slow progress with civil rights and the fact that homosexuality and divorce were only made legal in the last 30 years – these things need to be questioned and interrogated.” Hozier deplores the fact that “church and state are still very much in bed together. You don’t legislate for churches, you legislate for people.”