I’m a sucker for a beautiful voice.
Musically speaking, I don’t care about light shows and theatrics and complicated chord progressions. What I crave are lyrics that sound like poetry and voices that make my soul light up.
A handful of male vocalists have impacted me in this way over the last 20-odd years: Eddie Vedder, Bob Marley, Otis Redding, Ben Harper, Neil Young, Ray Lamontagne and, most recently, the Irish singer Andrew Hozier-Byrne.
Recommended to me a year or so ago by my friend Gaeli (who, now that I think of it, also introduced me to Ray Lamontagne—thanks, Gaeli!), Hozier instantly became a new favourite. His voice has so much power and sensitivity. He’s just 25 years old but his lyrics sound like the reflections of someone very wise.
So when I heard he would be performing in Portland in October, I really wanted to go. But Joe and I treated ourselves to a few live shows this summer (Alabama Shakes, Beirut, Ben Harper etc.), and in an effort to be responsible adults/save for the future, we had to draw the line somewhere.
The blessing and curse of living in a great city like Portland is all the cool shows/events/restaurants it offers…but knowing that if you consume everything, you will spend everything. It’s always a balance of “Is this where we should be putting our dollars?” and “Life is for living”. That said, never have I seen the live show of an artist I love and afterwards said, “I really shouldn’t have done that.” Never. (Experiences are what we’ll remember on our death beds, right?)
In any case, we didn’t get tickets to Hozier.
Until TickPick reached out to me. TickPick is a resale ticket marketplace similar to StubHub, but without the crazy high fees. Joe and I have bought tickets through other companies before, and I’m always irritated when we go to pay and there’s a big fee tacked on to the total. Of course by then we’ve already carefully considered if we should go, and decided it’s worth the ticket price, so our minds are made up…but it ends up being more than we thought and it’s annoying.
So when TickPick offered me two tickets to a show in exchange for spreading the word about them, I looked into the company, confirmed that they sell their tickets without fees (making them almost always the cheapest option for shows, sporting events, etc.) and knew this was an option I felt good about sharing with you guys, my readers. And they let me choose tickets to Hozier!
The show was on a Tuesday night two weeks ago, and I can still hear Hozier’s voice in my head. Not just his singing voice (which sounded amazing) but his speaking voice, saying “Thank you very much” after nearly every song, in a way that sounded almost taken aback by the outpouring of cheers and applause from the audience. This is a humble guy. The show was at the Moda Center’s ‘Theater of the Clouds’, which transforms the giant arena into a more intimate setting for smaller crowds. We sat high up but right in the center, and the sound was awesome.
One of my favourite parts was the performance of “In a Week”, which he did with Irish singer and cellist Alana Henderson, whose voice is also stunning. It’s a ballad inspired, as Hozier explained, by a place in Ireland called the Wicklow Hills, where sometimes bodies are found…but also where “lovers go to do what lovers do best.’ (There were definitely some girlish cheers from the crowd when he said that last bit.) The lyrics are haunting and beautiful, such as in this first verse:
I have never known peace like the damp grass that yields to me
I have never known hunger like these insects that feast on me
A thousand teeth and yours among them, I know
Our hungers appeased, our heart beats becoming slow
It’s an arresting song. You can watch Hozier and Alana Henderson’s Detroit performance of it here, in which Hozier gives the same preamble about Wicklow Hills and the song’s inspiration. Other than saying thank you repeatedly and reiterating how good it felt for him to be back in Portland, Hozier didn’t talk much between songs, so this part stood out.
As you guys know from interviews I’ve done for the blog, I’m fascinated by the background and process of creative people. While I couldn’t get Hozier to commit to a Q + A yet, I did learn a bit from an interview he did last January with a little publication called Rolling Stone…:)
On his childhood:
“We lived far out in the Irish countryside,” he says. “We had a very, very bad Internet connection.” His main source of music was his father, who played drums in blues-rock bands and owned a vast collection of vinyl and cassettes. “I developed a fascination with the roots of African-American music,” Hozier says. “I love Muddy Waters and Nina Simone.”
On writing his massive hit “Take Me to Church” 2.5 years ago:
[He] sat down at the piano in his parents’ home near Dublin to work on a song called “Take Me to Church.” Hozier-Byrne was a struggling musician, often seen at open mics around town. In front of him was a notebook full of lyrics, some of which expressed his frustration with organized religion — and particularly the Catholic Church’s history of mistreating gays and covering up child sexual abuse. “I was just fumbling around and I came upon the idea for a chorus,” says the singer-songwriter, 24, who performs as Hozier. “Then I went up into the attic and made a little demo.”
On performing in the US:
“The diversity there is just incredible,” he says. “It’s almost like the European Union. The states are enormous, almost the size of countries.”
On being called an atheist:
Hozier has been labelled an atheist by the press, but he says that’s not the case. “That term is associated with a belief that maybe there is nothing,” he says. “I’m very comfortable not knowing. I think searching for it is quite absurd. I think discussions about it are equally absurd. It’s a tough one, but I’m very, very comfortable just not knowing.”
If you haven’t yet heard Hozier’s entire self-titled album, I highly, highly recommend listening to it. Joe’s favourite song is “Work Song”. I honestly can’t pick a favourite…they’re all great. This is a voice and talent that I hope will be around for a very long time.
I know I’m not the only one who has to choose carefully which experiences to put my money toward. But I can guarantee that live shows will always be on the list. Thanks to TickPick for giving music lovers like me an excellent option for concert tickets. (Fyi, TickPick has both an Android and iOS app which is super easy to use…you can set price alerts, buy last minute tickets, etc. Now that I’m getting the hang of what apps are, I’ll definitely be adding it :))
What about you guys? Are you a Hozier fan? Seen any awesome shows lately? Any musicians I might not know about that you recommend? Do tell…
p.s. Q + A with Hozier on Gay Rights, Sexuality, and Good Hair…with NY Mag.