Like many, Hozier used his lockdown time to dive into some literature. Little did he know, it could encourage his third album.
In Unreal Unearth, which arrived Aug. 18, Hozier muses about his pandemic expertise by way of the lens of Dante Alighieri’s well-known poem Inferno. Half one of many 14th-century epic Divine Comedy, the poem narrates Dante’s journey by way of Hell and its depicted 9 circles — an eerily sensible framework for an album.
“I did not need to write songs that had been a few lockdown; I did not need to write songs that had been in regards to the pandemic,” Hozier tells GRAMMY.com. “However I did need to discover — or no less than acknowledge, whilst a nod structurally — this sense of going into one thing, these new circumstances and experiences in that point and popping out the opposite facet of it.”
Born Andrew Hozier-Byrne, Hozier has at all times been an artist with an mental method; he referenced Irish poet Seamus Heaney on his second album, 2019’s Wasteland, Child!, and Biblical and Celtic contexts on his 2014 self-titled debut.
However Unreal Unearth felt completely different for him. “[There’s] a extra introduced intention of a thread within the construction,” he says, including that he tapped into two new territories: collaboration and deeper plumbing of his Irish roots.
The trio of sides helped Hozier create an album that matches proper in with the deeply considerate lyricism and fantastically layered soundscapes of his earlier releases, however with a way of reinvigoration. Its journey from the darkness of opening observe “De Selby (Half 1)” to the breakthrough of nearer “First Gentle” creates a fascinating story that solely a voice like Hozier’s may narrate.
Under, hear from Hozier about three of his largest inspirations for Unreal Unearth, and the way it all resulted in a venture that opened a brand new artistic door for the Irish star.
There was some outdated poetry — and I imply, like, outdated, traditional poetry — that, as a lyricist, I at all times wished to discover. Then the pandemic occurred, and supplied a lot free time. I used to be engaged on different songs [at the time], and I put a whole lot of these concepts apart.
In March 2020, it felt just like the world modified, and priorities modified, and my priorities modified with it. And there was some strains in [Inferno] that resonated with me on the time. It simply felt like there was a substantial amount of potential loss hanging within the air.
Early in that poem [is] that kind of well-known quote that Dante imagines is written over the door of hell — you understand, that “Abandon all hope” line. There is a bigger passage that claims “by way of me, you enter into the inhabitants of loss.”
As a construction, I did need to acknowledge one thing in my experiences of [that] two, three yr interval, and what I used to be processing. I [wanted] to discover a approach that nods to that, and the importance of that — albeit, not essentially in a approach that was a lockdown album or a pandemic album, or songs that target the nuances of that have, however no less than acknowledge the journey. And it is taking the construction of that journey as imagined by Dante, these 9 Circles he walks by way of after which he comes out the opposite facet.
I type of seen the final album as all these identical voices kind of singing or screaming into the identical bonfire, all from completely different views. That is one thing that I wished, particularly, to discover on this album — that every Circle is a barely completely different voice. It offers with a barely completely different theme, in a playful approach, generally.
[Dante’s Inferno] is a poem about an individual who’s wandering by way of this kind of underworld area, and in every Circle, they meet with a brand new one that shares their grievance, their ache, their expertise. That was one thing I allowed myself to play with a little bit bit — that every music begins with my voice, but it surely permits into itself and the license to simply let the music develop to the place it must be. Let the voice discover the concept that it must discover.
One thing that I had hoped to realize with these is that the songs come from a private place, and a really actual place, however I additionally wished them to discover, at instances, issues that had been type of mythological in nature, or had been collectively held fictions. Like within the case of “Francesca,” who’s a personality in Dante’s Inferno [Second Circle, Lust], and she or he’s not a really well-known character from literature, but it surely’s undoubtedly a big second in that poem.
It is a music that I wrote for anyone in a troublesome second and was discovering a whole lot of themes with that character. I simply resonated with a whole lot of stuff in her story. This fictional thought that there’s this lady who’s being punished in Hell for falling in love.
The [ending] lyric is “Heaven isn’t match to deal with a love such as you and I, I might not change it every time.” The music is mainly saying this is not a punishment, I might make this resolution time and time once more. I do not remorse or repent something.” [I tried to] discover that and kind of flip that punishment on its head, and write from an empathetic perspective of a few of the characters in that poem.
So it is music by music, and relying on the place the theme is — like, “First Time” performs with Limbo, this concept of this by no means ending factor that cycles. That music explores this type of start and the kind of loss of life and ending on the finish of a relationship the place all the things feels prefer it’s collapsing round you, and it being the beginning of the following factor.
Then “Eat Your Younger,” Circle of Greed, it displays upon how the actual destruction in a world sense, in a bigger sense, isn’t finished. It displays on being younger, that kind of coming-of-age feeling of simply being free and powerless, however having enjoyable and having fun with the little issues you could take pleasure in, and the way each era will at all times blame the youthful era for our coming destruction in a roundabout way — some very imaginative, humorous approach. The Circle of Violence, “Butchered Tongue” seems again at kind of historic violence, colonial violence, and the destruction of language that comes out of it.
It was simply discovering the sympathy between “Okay, here is this theme, and here is these parts of the music. And there may be private expertise, however on the identical time, I am nodding to and taking part in with the pictures present in both myths of characters which are useless — so Icarus, who dies on the finish of his delusion; De Selby is a fictional character in a ebook a few man who does not know that he is useless; Francesca, Dante consists of her into inhabitants of Hell.
“Son of Nyx” is known as after Alex Ryan, who co-wrote that music with me, his father’s title is Nick, so Alex is technically a son of Nick’s. Nyx is a Greek goddess of nighttime — so once more, reflecting on darkness — and a son of Nyx within the Greek secure is the boatman or the ferryman, Charon, who ferries all people over the river. The music has a life above floor and beneath floor, and looking for that sympathy factors between the 2.
It was additionally vital to me you could simply take heed to the songs and know nothing about this and be capable to say “That sounds stunning,” or “There’s something in that that’s common.” These themes are common — the theme of lust is common, the theme of loss, and betrayal, and being damage by anyone is common. We love and take heed to and write these songs each single day. However creating the album on this construction and arranging the themes in sympathy with the circles as Dante imagined it was one thing I actually wished to do.
It is vital to me that these songs simply really feel good. That they exist on their very own phrases in a approach that I felt was worthwhile and exquisite sufficient to exist on their very own too.
I’ll say I struggled with the place the road was with how tightly to carry the poem. There’s an early model of “Francesca” which I attempted to put in writing utilizing the identical rhyming scheme that Dante makes use of within the poem — he invented a rhyming scheme referred to as terza rima. He was type of obsessive about this concept of Trinity, he invents this interlocking triplet factor, which is like, actually, actually laborious to put in writing in English.
Someplace early within the album [process], I noticed the extra I referenced the textual content and the poem immediately, the much less common it’s, the much less open it’s, and it turns into, like, a historical past lesson. And really, it grew to become like musical theater as effectively too, as a result of it was like referencing these moments on this journey, versus simply exploring moments within the journey of life that all of us expertise. So these emotions of betrayal, these emotions of disillusionment, and loneliness or love.
There’s all kinds of causes [I used the Irish language on this album]. I imply, a part of it was being at residence for the yr for these years, and reassessing my place at residence throughout that pandemic interval.
However, finally, the Irish language is a language that a whole lot of us in Eire like examine for 12 years, and I suppose I simply acquired up to now the place it is like I had this whole palette of mouth sounds, this whole palette of phrases, this complete language that was in my vocabulary — it is type of like a bunch of instruments hanging on the wall at residence that I simply by no means used.
An instance of that’s uiscefhuaraithe, which is described in “To Somebody From A Heat Local weather” because the cooling motion of water. It simply appeared proper. It is like why not use these instruments? It is like all these paints that I simply by no means painted with.
“Butchered Tongue” explores the kind of expertise of touring world wide with the Irish view of historical past, or with a view of historical past and world politics that is knowledgeable by the Irish expertise or my Irish expertise, and my understanding of Irish historical past.
I [channeled] the playfulness of the Irish language on a music referred to as “Something However.” On paper, it reads like a kindness. The verses are saying, “If I used to be a riptide, I would not take you out.” The second verse says, “If I used to be a stampede, you would not you would not get a kick.” These are all Irish-isms that I heard as a youngster rising up. They’re good methods of claiming that anyone needs nothing to do with you. In order that’s the place that double which means kind of factor is available in. They’re all they’re all Irish-isms, enjoyable idioms.
I might written many songs — really, the vast majority of the songs from my first two albums — I simply wrote all the things myself. Writing for me was at all times a really solitary factor. After which I kind of discovered the restrictions of what solitude and writing in solitude would give me in direction of the top of lockdown. I might written a bunch of concepts. I’ve gotten a whole lot of concepts out of my pockets and out of my head, after which I type of acquired into LA.
I might by no means labored with Dan Tannenbaum, who’s finished a whole lot of stuff with Kendrick Lamar. [He’s an] unbelievable producer and his group, Pete Gonzales and Daniel Krieger, and this improbable group of men are all unbelievable musicians. Our first day of jamming, I truthfully thought that we had been going to hang around for a chat, and we had been simply going to get to know one another. After which he kind of threw a microphone in my hand and was like, “Let’s make some music.”
So for the primary time I simply jammed. We simply jammed music collectively and would create these soundscapes. I knew that I wished to discover traditional synthesizer sounds and a few extra digital sounds, however marry them to natural acoustic sounds, like within the case of “De Selby (Half 1),” or in “First Gentle” or in “Something However.”
A part of that was additionally simply creating with musicians that I’ve by no means created with earlier than, after which realizing the place the road was of what felt proper to me, and never a diversion, however an exploration and an enlargement. It was simply trusting the abilities of those nice producers and their nice musicianship, and simply creating for the sake of making and seeing what got here out of it. It was actually enriching and tremendous thrilling, as a result of it was a brand new approach of writing for me.
With Jen Decilveo and Jeff Gitty [Gitelman], two different improbable producers throughout the album, I used to be recording just a few songs with Jen individually, I used to be recording just a few songs with Jeff. So I grew to become the kind of central level of constructing positive that these songs would all work collectively as an arc.
I attempted to do one thing which I assumed was going to be a enjoyable and attention-grabbing problem, and I really feel like I did that as greatest I may. I gained all these great abilities of collaborating, and likewise being the central level of like attempting to carry a whole lot of spinning plates with completely different producers and make all the things work in a cohesive approach and simply being that one central level between a whole lot of artistic minds. So I am pleased with it. And I am excited to discover these abilities once more.
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