Hozier on Finally Making It to No. 1 With ‘Too Sweet’: ‘It’s a Very Sweet Landmark After 10 Years’ (EXCLUSIVE) (2024)

The smell of success is… well, you know what it is: too sweet. Hozier has never been about chasing the hit, but he’s got one regardless, as the Irish singer-songwriter’s “Unheard” EP quickly generated the first No. 1 Hot 100 single of his career, in the form of “Too Sweet,” a wry ballad about mismatched lovers. And no, difficult as it may be to believe, “Take Me to Church” did not hit the very top of the pops 10 years ago, having plateaued at No. 2. So the artist’s easy ascent to Billboard’s pinnacle after a decade of not having a song chart at that ranking at all is still puzzling those who didn’t see this coming… less so those who have been to one of Hozier’s plainly magnificent concerts any time in the last couple of years and experienced the undying devotion. Whether it’s officially a “Hozier renaissance” or just a natural cresting of steady growth that happened a bit under the media radar, it’s very much a phenomenon.

The “Unheard” EP includes four songs that were recorded for, and cut from the track list of, 2023’s “Unreal Unearth” full-length album. That was a concept album focused on representing Dante’s nine circles of hellishness, and if you’re curious which circle “Too Sweet” would have represented, read on. In another artist’s hands, the song’s somewhat cynical, anti-romantic lyrics might be easily taken at face value, but in Hozier’s, they are definitely meant to be coming from an untrustworthy narrator, or at least one who could stand to clean up his act rather than reject sweetness. He certainly doesn’t miss the irony in the fact that it’s a tune that doesn’t really represent his own point of view that’s broken so big.

Popular on Variety

The singer got on the phone with Variety to talk about the current wave of Hozier-mania just as he was kicking off a second year of shows in the U.S., by popular demand. (In Los Angeles, where his Hollywood Bowl show proved to be a tough ticket last summer, he’ll be doing three nights at the Kia Forum starting on Sept. 17.) Most of the shows are sold out, and scalper sales are discouraged through the exclusive use of the fan-to-fan Fair Market Exchange system, so if you have trouble easily landing a pair of seats, try not to be… too bitter.

People probably think of you as someone who’s not overly craven about material success, necessarily, or statistics. But does it mean something to you to have a No. 1 single?

It’s a really good feeling. I feel blessed to have the career that I do. It’s a very sweet landmark after 10 years of a career, and I feel very fortunate glad that I’m still able to do this and still finding new audiences. It’s encouraging, and a nice way to celebrate a 10th anniversary.

“Take Me to Church” came so close to being a No. 1, but people have by and large have not thought of you as a singles kind of guy, so much as they’re there for the album, or for the performance, not the one-off. So does it seem mysterious to you that the world suddenly gravitates to a single song?

I didn’t see it coming to this extent, for sure. I knew I wanted to release the song. I knew it was fun. It’s a song that did not (come out originally) because there was a choice between two songs for the album, and “Too Sweet” was kind of placed to the side. So I didn’t necessarily expect this kind of reaction. I think I kind of found a new fan base in the last couple of years, and maybe after the tour and after “Unreal Unearth,” maybe there’s more people who are just listening to the work. But this does feel maybe a little bit mysterious.

What’s a a really sweet thing for me is that it was the very same week that the last Irish artist got a No. 1. Sinead O’Connor was the last Irish artist with the No. 1 in the U.S., and that was 34 years ago. It was the year that I was born, and it was the very same charting week in April, 34 years ago. So, you used the word “mysterious” there. … I don’t know, there’s something very wonderful about that.

“Too Sweet” is a playful song. A lot of your material, people might associate a certain nobility with it. But this is not the most high-minded song you’ve ever done.

Oh, no, certainly not. I mean, it’s a song about somebody who wants to self-destruct and get trashed! You know, I’ve had a quiet laugh to myself about that. I’ve written songs that definitely deal with more complicated, more difficult themes, for sure. But I guess it’s something that’s fun and immediate and doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s part of its appeal. And it’s also why maybe initially, when the choice came of putting it on the album, I thought that maybe it wouldn’t have worked. But there you go.

The bass tones are amazing. Is there a secret sauce that made the song work, sonically?

Thank you. We took a really natural approach to that at a place in east L.A. called Sargent Recorders. We kind of took some early Peter Gabriel references on some of the tones, on the drums, some of those delays, et cetera.

Can you say what the choice was when you were picking what would make the “Unreal Unearth” album sequence — what the song was that you picked over this?

“Eat Your Young.” The album was kind of playing with nine themes, and for the theme of gluttony, there were two choices, and one was “Too Sweet” and one was “Eat Your Young.” And with “Eat Your Young,” it’s a more macabre voice that deals with the slightly more serious, real-world issue of selling out the future of the youth through arms sales and conflict profiteering. So that’s probably why it was chosen for the album — and also probably why “Too Sweet” is an easier song for people to enjoy.

It’s a good thing that you made those picks at those respective times, because “Eat Your Young” felt important to that album.

Oh, thank you. Yeah, it’s worked out.

Did you always plan to do a kind of extras EP?

It sort of came about as the album was shaping up. There were a few songs in particular that my labels — both at home, my label Ruby Works in Ireland, and Sony Columbia —had as favorite songs from the sessions, which I wasn’t necessarily head over heels over, or just ones that I felt (could be let go) when it came to the push and pull of what was gonna make it. We knew we had some really good songs on our hands that people weren’t gonna hear if it wasn’t on the album. So I did want to release “Too Sweet,” and there was stuff there, especially my song with Alison Russell… I just did so much recording in that period that it wouldn’t have made for a terribly cohesive album, along with being overlong. So the idea developed as we were getting closer to the release that, OK, you know what, there’s stuff here that I would like people to hear and the label certainly would like people to hear. And so we’ll just come back around and we’ll do a couple of EP releases, and make sense of it that way.

You said EPs, plural, and fans have been speculating if there is another EP coming. So is there still another EP on the way?

I hope so. I’m hesitant to promise anything. But I’m planning to do so, I will say that. So hopefully; fingers crossed. We’re looking at that now, finishing up some mixes.

“Wildflower and Barley,” the song with Allison Russell — was she originally on it even when you first tracked it, or did you add her later?

Yeah, I wrote it in Wicklow initially, and Jeff Gitty (Gitelman) traveled over at some point during the pandemic, once orders were kind of slightly more open, and we sort of worked out the arrangement a bit more. And then between Wicklow and London, I had sort of recorded it as a duet, even in the demo form, but I didn’t have somebody to sing it with. But Allison is somebody who I’ve known for years and I’ve sang with many times on stage. She’s a dear friend and an artist who I have huge admiration and respect and love for. So, I asked if she would be up for it, and we cut it in L.A. at some point in late 2022. I always had it in mind as a duet and always really wanted to sing with Allison. So I’m delighted that we’re on the road together now, too. It’s all kind of just worked out in a really lovely way that we’re getting to sing it every night. Around the same time I had hopped on a song of Allison’s on her beautiful “Returner” album, and then I asked if she would join me on the duet for “Wildflower.”

It’s nice to see Allison get some additional recognition through this tour — her name is very large, just for starters, in the tour adverts we see on walls in Hollywood and places like that.

Yeah, for sure. I’m delighted, and she so deserves this. She’s just a great person to tour with, too, to be around a few months. And many members of her band are from Ireland, would you believe? They’re people I’ve known since I was a teenager, which is crazy. So it’s nice to have people that are great to share this year with.

Speaking of Ireland, and returning to the EP, “Empire Now” is a much, much more serious track than “Too Sweet.” It seems to be referring to a hundred years of independence for Ireland. Is it right that, when you were choosing songs for “Unreal Unearth,” “Empire Now” was in the running to reflect the circle of violence?

Yeah, unfortunately there were just a lot of songs that could have made the circle of violence. And then I also considered “Empire Now” for the circle of greed; of course, it could possibly make sense in there. But either way, yeah, it was sort of pushed out towards the EP.

We’ve had a hundred years of independence, so the song is just really asking the question, of all of the problems from before the revolution, how those still linger. So it’s just sort of to reckon with the promise of Ireland’s 1916 revolutionary dream. Again, it’s really macabre, and it imagines this world where the dead are rising, and we’re having to contend with people spinning in their graves at such a rate that it’s destabilizing the ground. And the jokey solution is to just hook them up to generators and continue on and co-opt them in a new way to power the world we’re moving towards.

There’s so much turmoil in the world right now that, seeing you on tour last year, it felt like people were looking to you for the sense of a balm. Some people are just coming to shows for escapism, of course, but at the same time, you probably have a pretty soulful audience that is empathetic to troubled times. In some shows, you will say something that tries to speak to the times or the mood.

Music is something that unifies people in their experience. People share songs with their loved ones. Whether it’s road trips or it’s memories or it’s moments, songs become these things which are lthis glue that sort of stick us together in different experiences, and we carry that with us. That’s certainly a big part of music for me: I’m reminded of a time and place and people based on different types of music. And yeah, it’s a really difficult, difficult time. I think people are being confronted in the news and on social media with a huge amount of very distressing things and very challenging questions. To me, it’s just reminding people in any way, shape or form that there’s still that sense of human connection, and that that sense of recognition of somebody else’s human experience is still within our grasp, even when we’re feeling turmoil. That you can bear an honest witness to your neighbor or your friend or your loved one, or somebody whose life you have no experience with. You can kind of just bear honest witness to that. And I think people have such capability of such goodness. And we name and credit people’s capability for fear and blame and hatred and anger, but with all things being equal, you’ve then got to credit and name people’s ability for kindness and generosity and solidarity. And so it’s always just trying to speak to that, you know what I mean?

And then just to mention the fourth song on the EP, on the lighter side… “Fare Well” catalogs a list of things that you would not “fare well” in facing if it were your lot in life. In one of the verses, it’s “I wouldn’t fare well / A whale-swimmin’-up-Sumida-Gawa wouldn’t fare well / Critic-hopin’-to-be-remembered wouldn’t fare well…” I’m can’t speak to the Sumida Gawa reference, but I had to laugh at the reference to critics.

Sumita Gawa is a river in Tokyo. I guess the joke of that song is all the things that we do to try and feel good, or all the things that we attempt to do that are impossible, where ultimately they are futile attempts. And forgive me, I do play with voices that are cynical, in different ways — some more hopeful, some more cynical. “I’d are as well as a hedgehog would fare under a van wheel” is how I would fare in trying to feel good, and trying to come out of something feeling better. A whale swimming up Sumida Gawa wouldn’t fare well, and… forgive me for the line “a critic hoping to be remembered” wouldn’t fare well.

I think the critics of the world speak can take it, so it’s OK. Not to speak for all of them. But It’s an amusing line.

Thank you. A bit of fun.

Going back on tour this year, you could have stopped after one year, but you’re coming back to satisfy demand. Yet most of the shows quickly sold out, so you could probably come back around with the same tour in 2025 and still not really satisfy the demand.

Yeah, I just feel blessed. I am a little bit taken by surprise that, yeah, there’s this groundswell of people either switching onto the music or just enjoying it. I feel really, really lucky that we get to do these extra shows, and also that there’s new music that people are enjoying so much to bring into these shows. I’m looking forward to this year — I’m just delighted.

Hozier on Finally Making It to No. 1 With ‘Too Sweet’: ‘It’s a Very Sweet Landmark After 10 Years’ (EXCLUSIVE) (2024)


When did Hozier release his first song? ›

His debut single, "Take Me to Church" (2013), became a rock radio hit in the U.S., peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and has been certified multi-platinum in several countries. His eponymous debut studio album (2014) has been certified 6× platinum in Ireland and multi-platinum in several other countries.

How many songs does Hozier have in total? ›

Irish singer-songwriter and musician Hozier has released three studio albums, eight EPs, and 22 singles (including one as a featured artist).

What does take me to church mean LGBT? ›

The video and the lyrics of “Take me to church” reflects the instances of everyday hom*ophobia by showing the violence and discrimination gay people suffer at the same time realizes the wrongs of discriminating against freedom of sexuality.

What accent does Hozier have? ›

In a good amount of his songs, his accent seems to just melt away, so getting a song that you can really hear the irish accent come out feels so special.

Did Hozier go to college? ›

His mother is the visual artist Raine Hozier-Byrne (who also designed his latest album cover). He began a degree in music at Trinity College, Dublin, but dropped out midway through his first year in order to record demos for Universal Music. While at Trinity, he became involved with the Trinity Orchestra.

What music genre is Hozier? ›

Hozier has been described as a blues, soul and indie rock album with elements of gospel, R&B and folk music. Hozier received positive reviews from music critics, many of whom praised Hozier's songwriting and vocal performance.

What song did Hozier cover? ›

Songs covered by Hozier
SongPlay Count
Stop Dragging My Heart (Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)1
Stretched on Your Grave ([traditional] cover)1
The Bones (Maren Morris cover)1
The Humours of Whiskey ([traditional] cover)1
92 more rows

Was Take Me to Church Hozier's first song? ›

"Take Me to Church" is a song by Irish singer-songwriter Hozier. It was released as his debut single on 13 September 2013, originally featuring on his extended play of the same name, before being featured as the opening track of his 2014 debut album Hozier.

Who was the first singer to sing release me? ›

A: The song “Release Me” is one of the most successful songs of the last 50 years. Written by Eddie Miller, Dub Williams and Robert Yount in 1946, the song was first recorded by Miller without much success.

What does EP mean in music? ›

An extended play (EP) is a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single but fewer than an album or LP record. Contemporary EPs generally contain up to eight tracks and have a playing time of 15 to 30 minutes. An "EP" is usually less cohesive than an album and more "non-committal".

When did Hozier Unreal Unearth release? ›

Unreal Unearth is the third studio album by Irish musician Hozier, released on 18 August 2023. It contains the singles "Eat Your Young" and "Francesca", along with the song "All Things End".

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Last Updated:

Views: 6169

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Birthday: 2000-07-07

Address: 5050 Breitenberg Knoll, New Robert, MI 45409

Phone: +2556892639372

Job: Investor Mining Engineer

Hobby: Sketching, Cosplaying, Glassblowing, Genealogy, Crocheting, Archery, Skateboarding

Introduction: My name is The Hon. Margery Christiansen, I am a bright, adorable, precious, inexpensive, gorgeous, comfortable, happy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.