Even if you don’t know recognize Hozier by name, you may have already run across “Take Me To Church,” the soulful ballad that showed up in a key moment during HBO’s The Leftovers and comes pre-approved by Revenge, Arrow, and The Fault In Our Stars music supervisor Season Kent. The track steadily climbed up the Irish singles chart last fall, then made its first impact in America after Hozier performed it on The Late Show With David Letterman in the spring. It currently sits at 62 on the Billboard Hot 100, has over 13 million views on YouTube, and promises to leap even further into the consciousness thanks to his appearance on Saturday Night Live this weekend. Not bad for a song cut in a cramped storage space.
“I recorded it in my attic on a very simple home set-up,” Hozier (born Andrew Hozier-Byrne) says. “That’s where I started recording. All the vocals that are still on the track were recorded in that attic. It was a part of the songs on the first EP I ever released, and we released it for free. It doesn’t have a contemporary kind of popular structure. It doesn’t sound like other pop songs that end up on radio. For that reason, I didn’t think that it would end up on radio.”
“Take Me To Church” acts as a fantastic entry point into his exceptional just-released self-titled full length debut. Hozier is full of soulful homegrown R&B, lots of folk flourishes, and lots of the singer’s confident, buttery tenor. The highlight is “Jackie and Wilson,” a strutting blues swagger that shows up early on the album. “It was trying to capture the excitement of soul music,” he explains. “I just wanted to do something a bit more fun and a bit more energetic. It’s a little runaway song, like if you imagine running away and being saved by this idea of somebody—that kind of infatuated way that people idealize people. Like that kind of Holden Caulfield idea of running away and being happy forever.”
As for this weekend, Hozier couldn’t be more excited to play Lorne Michaels’ long-running late night comedy show. “For me, SNL is as big as it gets,” he says. “When I was a kid, I used to watch The Blues Brothers film like a Disney film. In the way that kids do—I would just watch it, rewind it, and then watch it again.” Hozier’s father, a blues musician, showed him the 1980 John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd movie when he was only two or three years old. “Much to my mother’s disapproval,” he notes. “One of the things that’s so amazing about that movie is the musical performances. In one film, you’ve got James Brown, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, Cab Calloway—that spurred a fascination in a big way. In that way, the music that you listen to as a child, you don’t realize it’s making its way into your mind and into your heart. That would have been a big part of my musical education, I suppose.”