Artist to Watch: Hozier

Erin Batchelder '17 Assistant Arts Editor

Over the past couple of years, “Saturday Night Live” has become a huge resource for promoting new artists. Only a niche audience had heard of Lana Del Rey before her performance on the late night sketch show. Within 24 hours, she was all that music and television critics could talk about, which led to her Kristen Wiig parodying her on the following show. But now Lana Del Rey is less of a laugh and more of a serious musician.

For Hozier, an Irish singer-songwriter, “SNL” seems to have been his big break overseas. After a couple of successful years in the European indie music market, Hozier released his first North American self-titled album on Oct. 7. While he may not be what everyone is talking about just yet, he is one of the few cases of British artists who will make it in America.

24-year-old Andrew Hozier-Byrne hails from Bray, Ireland — one of Ireland’s smaller cities. His backstory is pretty standard at this point: He went to a big university then dropped out to work on his music career. Within a couple of years, he had inked a deal with major record labels Columbia and Island Records.

“Hozier” (2014) blends several genres: indie, blues, soul, pop, and (even) gospel. “Take Me to Church,” his most well-known song, opens with sparse low piano chords and the singer’s signature deep voice. Upon a first listen, the young singer’s voice is over-powering, but quickly  the haunting chorus becomes an earworm. The other songs on the album shift in various directions. In “Someone New,” he moves in and out between sparse guitar to string arrangements to catchy melodies. On the other hand, “From Eden” — originally released on a short EP of the same name — harkens back to the haunting guitar and melodies of alternative artist Jeff Buckley.

If anything, Hozier isn’t afraid to push the boundaries. The music video for “Take Me to Church” is a black and white narrative about two young gay men who are attacked in a blatant hate crime. For a song that incorporates such overt religious intonations, the video is abrasive and has been a hot topic of discussion on the internet.

Will Hozier be the next big thing? A preliminary listen to Hozier would reckon no; however, he’s only been releasing studio albums in the last two years. His soulful and passionate songwriting, while a standard in pop music at this point after the likes of John Mayer, makes him marketable. Not to mention he is just what indie music might be looking for right now — he’s a perfect mixture of soul, momentum, and The National.

Hozier will be something to watch. While he may not become an overnight sensation like Mumford and Sons, he has already made a massive break in the American music scene. He will be embarking on a North American tour in early 2015 in promotion of his album. Hozier is available in all music formats now.