Hozier talks about new album ‘Wasteland, Baby!’

“It’s trying to look at the warm centre of human kindness”

“I came off the road in 2016 and I was just trying to reconnect after living on a bus. You’re in a bit of a bubble, so it was just nice for me to see what was going on,” he told NME.

“Although I might have been better finding a hobby, I became a bit of a news junkie and the album was written when the Doomsday Clock moved two minutes to midnight. It’s a general consensus of how much civilisation is at danger. The threat of nuclear war was being bandied about and escalated, so it was a real threat at the time. This album carries a lot of those worries.”

While the album might sound overly gloomy, the title track sees Hozier tackling how love can be found in the darkest of circumstances.

“It’s trying to look at the warm centre of human kindness and you find that in ‘Wasteland, Baby!’,” he explained. “While there’s other songs on there that have doom and gloom and might touch upon it, Wasteland Baby goes straight for it. It lets us imagine how the worlds might end in a very real sense. But as long as there’s people, that ‘You and I’, there’s always potential for kindness and that is something to be hopeful about.”

Were those genres popular where you grew up, or were you doing your own thing?

I wasn’t exactly popular at the time. In the 90s, the cool kids were listening to Nirvana, because it’s not what your parents are comfortable with you listening to. As a teenager, everyone was into pop. [But] I was hooked on blues music and jazz. I thought it was music for grownups. It was quite immediate and visceral, and it was either lusting or raw in some way. Pop music, I just didn’t vibe with.

What was it about jazz and blues that you connected with?

It excited me more than anything else. There was something quite mystifying about this stuff, because it was hard to get my hands on the records, especially when I was a younger kid with a really poor internet connection. I couldn’t get a train into the city and go to a record store. There was a real sense of distance with this music, which only fed into my craving for it.

So fast forward to your first album, which was a whirlwind experience helped along by virality, and now this one. What’s changed?

There was a huge success with [“Take Me to Church”]. That was so unlikely. Things happened in a way that couldn’t be planned for. I was conscious not to veer off track from what my original ethos was when I wrote that song. I found it very helpful to move back to Ireland, spend a bit of quiet time and approach songwriting in a similar way.

“A lot of Irish musicians have always had a fascination and a deep love for the tradition of rock and roll, the tradition of blues music in particular,” says Hozier. “My dad was a musician who played blues near-exclusively, and my first education in music was through his record collection.”

This Sunday in upstate New York, Hozier’s launching a U.S. tour. He’s excited about taking these songs on the road.

“A lot of these songs on Wasteland, Baby! were written with the intention, these are going to be really fun live,” he says. “I’m touring with an eight-piece band. Everyone on stage is a singer, everyone can play an instrument. There’s a little mini-choir up there.”

Questions? Comments? We want to know:@djfollower