"It's trying to look at the warm centre of human kindness"
Hozier has discussed how his forthcoming album ‘Wasteland, Baby!‘ saw him working with soul icon Mavis Staples and the pressure involved in following up the success of runaway hit ‘Take Me To Church’.
The Irish singer will release his second album on March 1, almost four and a half years after winning huge plaudits for his self-titled debut record.
After he finished touring in 2016, he soon realised that the record would be influenced by the dark forces that were seemingly encircling the world at that time.
“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.”
The record also sees Hozier delivering one of his most soulful tracks to date on ‘Nina Cried Power’. The song featured on his 2018 EP of the same name and saw him collaborating with the legendary Mavis Staples.
“She was a total hero. We crossed paths a few times on the last tour and there was talk of us working together. But when that song came about, it made sense to have her. It was a thank you note to artists who have imbued their work with that sense of protest,” he told NME.
“It was really important for me to ask Mavis if she’d be part of that song and thankfully she was up for it.”
Describing how he flew to Chicago to work with Staples, he continued: “We spent the day together going over the song, we talked about the lyrics and then we recorded her parts there and then.
“At one point we were JUST ad-libbing to get some flow going together and that for me was just amazing.”
And while ‘Take Me To Church’ may have catapulted Hozier to worldwide fame, he says he felt little pressure to follow it up with another monster hit.
“The pressure was self-contained. My label and management were happy to give me all the time I needed, but the pressure was self-originating. It was more about writing music that still felt honest to me, in the way that I felt worthwhile when I wrote Church. I wanted to keep that going and stand proud of my work. I didn’t want it be a writers’ room, creating pop hits for the sake of pop hits,” he added.
“I wanted songs that were more fun to play live. When you tour your first album you’ve got such a limited amount of songs to choose from, and you’re so used to them and longing for songs that just have a bit more heft. That was something I wanted to achieve with this record.”
Wasteland, Baby! is released on March 1. Hozier will play Cork’s Irish Independent Park on Tuesday June 25 and Belfast Ormeau Park on Thursday June 27, with more UK and European tour dates expected to be announced shortly.