Irish singer-songwriter Hozier made a huge, unexpected splash when his September 2013 single, "Take Me To Church," hit the charts. Hozier, born Andrew Hozier-Byrne, was more surprised than anyone else by his surge to fame.
"I didn't expect this, and I haven't really processed it yet," Hozier told Vanity Fair in March. "It's a success I only could have dreamt of — and if I ever imagined it would happen, I thought it would be many, many years down the line — when I was more established."
He wrote the Grammy-nominated song in his parents' attic about a year prior to its release. But since Hozier released "Take Me To Church" and his subsequent debut album, the self-titled Hozier, he's been a vocal proponent of LGBT rights.
The 25-year-old has become an important figure in the fight for equality, and is an inspiration for all people looking to facilitate meaningful change. Here are 11 examples of Hozier's iconoclastic, brilliant insights.
1. Homophobia is not about civil rights, it's about human rights.
With Ireland voting May 22 on the legality of same-sex marriage, native Hozier took his star power and put it to good use. As a proponent of the measure to legalize same-sex marriage, the singer is the celebrity face of Straight Up for Equality, and he uses his Facebook page to remind Irish fans to vote.
Hozier wrote on Facebook, "It is an issue that reflects upon all of us, and one that deserves everyone's involvement. It is imperative that the straight community shows support for the LGBT community in the upcoming referendum, and makes a clear statement that we value the equal treatment of all people on our shores."
As he told New York Magazine: "To me, it's not even a gay issue or a civil rights issue, it's a human rights issue, and it should offend us all. It's just simple. Either somebody has equal rights, or they don't."
2. Trust others to believe in you.
Hozier maintains a close relationship with his fans, and once actually tweeted his phone number to thousands of people and chatted with those who called. He also hosted a Q&A on Twitter where his fans asked questions and he answered with the hashtag #AskHozier.
In one of the more touching interactions, a fan asked Hozier, "It seems you found your 'fire' early on. What advice would you give to people still trying to figure out what theirs is?" Hozier replied, "I'd say don't be afraid to spend some time alone. People come and go but you and yourself are in it for the long run."
"I'm thankful for the fans who keep me in the job and making me feel so welcome overseas," he told Time. "Their encouragement and support can really make the difference on the tougher days. Sometimes the idea that somebody else might believe in you can be enough to tie you over until the day you yourself do."
3. Take an unwavering stand about the issues you believe in.
The video for Hozier's hit single, "Take Me To Church," was inspired by recent attacks on homosexuals in Russia, and follows a gay couple as they're exposed to the brutality of homophobia. The singer felt that the themes in his song were a natural reflection of the oppressive Russian regime.
"The song was always about humanity at its most natural," Hozier told State, "and how that is undermined ceaselessly by religious organizations and those who would have us believe they act in its interests. What has been seen growing in Russia is no less than nightmarish."
As he told New York Magazine, "[Russia's] long campaign to make homosexuality equivalent with things like pedophilia and bestiality ... is absolutely appalling. So that's what we wanted to show. The video wasn't over-exaggerating anything. We just wanted to tell it how it is."
4. When a religious institution is wrong, call it out.
Hozier is a vocal opponent of the Catholic Church. "The damage done by the Church to the people of Ireland is completely irreparable, and the reparations are all too few," he told the London Evening Standard. "There's still a lack of will to turn around and say, 'This is not OK.' There are still things like regular news segments where they ask the local priest what he thinks. Why is it an organization that is considered to have any moral standing at all? The track record is just appalling."
He told Vanity Fair, "I would love to get in trouble with the Catholic Church. I'm not religious myself, but my issue is with the organization. It's an organization of men — it's not about faith."
5. Even if a crucial issue doesn't affect you personally, fight for it.
Although Hozier identifies as heterosexual, he has taken it upon himself to stand up for the homosexual minority. He's working with Straight Up for Equality, an organization that encourages heterosexuals to support the LGBT community.
"The majority of the electorate is straight, and this is an issue for our society, so that means all of us," Straight Up for Equality's website reads. "If one person is unequal in our society, then we all are, so it is up to the majority to stand with the minority."
In an interview with Esquire, Hozier said, "Too often, people aren't too concerned to issues that don't affect them or their family, but I just felt strongly about it. To me, it's not a controversial subject."
6. Social media is bringing out the worst in us.
Famously shy, Hozier calls himself "an awkward person" and "a gangly introvert," but that doesn't stop him from being a major spokesperson on social media for human rights. Still, the singer says the media goes overboard in its search for the "real" Andrew Hozier-Byrne.
As he told the Telegraph, "We are in a self-obsessed moment of mankind. Everything is marketed towards the idea of the self, but not the real self, rather what you want people to think you are. Social media is an advertisement for the superficial extroverted self. ... I'm uncomfortable with selfies and status updates documenting mundane pieces of my life which I don't think should be of interest to anyone else."
7. Remain grateful to those who inspire you.
Hozier has been very forthcoming in interviews about his love for African-American blues and female vocalists. According to Rolling Stone, since the singer grew up in the Irish countryside and had a terrible Internet connection, Hozier listened to his family's collection of vinyl and cassettes at length.
"I'm influenced a lot by Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, even Paul Weller — Billie Holiday as well. People who wrote and sang songs that were reflective of their times," Hozier told MTV. "I quite like that. I quite admire that. I think it's important not to be afraid of saying things like that."
He reminisced to the Guardian, "I think it all started with Nina Simone. When I was maybe seven or eight I used to listen to one of her albums every night before I went to sleep. For me, her voice was everything. The best vocalists I can think of are female. There is no singer I can think of who can touch Ella Fitzgerald. And when Billie Holiday sings she's merciless about it. Her voice has just this immaculate sadness — even in happy songs there was something that was so broken about it."
8. Everyone experiences the world differently. Songs reflect that.
As a songwriter, Hozier has said that it his duty to write lyrics in a way that's reflective of the world we live in. "All songs, all pieces of art, reflect the world that they were made in and the values of those artists and the hopes and aspirations of the people who listen to that music and who made that music," Hozier told MTV.
For listeners, it's crucial to recognize that a song is no less valuable if it captures someone else's experience of the world. "Everyone takes their own meanings from things, based on their life experiences and based on their human experiences. ... Is it of any more value to you if I tell you what I felt about it when I wrote it? It really doesn't matter, I suppose," he told Radio.com.
9. Love — the good and the bad — makes you see the world differently.
Hozier wrote the song "Take Me To Church" in the wake of a messy breakup with his now ex-girlfriend. Before that relationship, Hozier said the lyrics he wrote were mostly "juvenilia, angsty, lonely songwriting that teenagers do." But the singer says that after his relationship ended, his songwriting changed dramatically.
He told the Chicago Tribune, "I look at all good things with a bit of a dark lens, I suppose, especially with something like love. Love isn't any one good thing; it's a very, very strange mishmash of emotions. Your love for somebody is, oftentimes, informed by the terrible things you might believe about yourself, and comparatively the person you see them as is everything that you're not."
10. Do what you love, even if it involves making sacrifices.
Hozier taught himself out to play the guitar and sing, and he was admitted to the prestigious Trinity College in Dublin to study music. He decided to drop out of school, however, so he could focus on writing songs, and before long, he moved in with his parents. Hozier said dropping out is one of the best decisions he ever made.
The absolute best choice he ever made? "Choosing to do what I love. Trusting my gut and trusting myself to do this. To not be satisfied with what I felt wasn't good enough and waiting to do this how I wanted to, learning the skills I needed to learn," he told Radio.com.
He told the Observer, "I knew it was going to be painful and it was a tough couple years, but I said to my parents that I didn't care how long it took me. Everyone has to pursue the life they feel they need to live and I was lucky to be in a position to have the space and time to figure that out for myself."
11. Having sex is human, natural, and no one should undermine it.
Hozier told New York Magazine that "Take Me To Church" is "essentially about sex," but also about the Church's control over sex. "The song, to me, is about what it is to be a human, what it is to love someone as a human being, and organizations that would undermine that, and undermine the more natural parts of being a person," he told Fuse.
There's nothing sinful or offensive about any kind of sex. "Sexuality, and sexual orientation, regardless of orientation, is just natural. An act of sex is one of the most human things," he told New York Magazine.