How Hozier finds musical inspiration on the Emerald Isle

The singer, who just celebrated a US No 1 single, finds beauty and creative inspiration in everything from Wicklow sunsets to dips at Dublin’s Forty Foot.

It’s been a remarkable decade for Irish musician Hozier, the long-haired, intellectual music star from County Wicklow. He’s gone from his breakout 2013 single Take Me to Church to global fame, and on 27 April he reached a “very sweet landmark” in his career, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 chart with his single Too Sweet. The last Irish person to get a US number 1? The late, great Sinéad O’Connor, with Nothing Compares 2 U in 1990. 

Hozier – born Andrew Hozier-Byrne – creates soulful, deeply-felt music inspired by his love of the blues and soul, but he’s also inspired by Ireland’s history and landscape. On his third album, Unreal Unearth, he sings in Irish for the first time. He also taps into Irish literary history, with references to author Flann O’Brien via the songs De Selby (Part 1) and De Selby (Part 2).  

His earthy yet epic sound surely has its roots in his connection to County Wicklow, which boasts some of Ireland’s most awe-inspiring natural features. Hozier spent the Covid period in the county himself, regularly sharing photos online of gorgeous beachside sunsets, and he told the Washington Post that recordings of birds outside his farmhouse made it onto his recent EP, on the track Wildflower and Barley. 

But he clearly takes inspiration from the wider county too. One of Wicklow’s highlights is the stunning Glendalough, where Hozier was pictured after bumping into fans by its Upper Lake, and where he did some filming at the beginning of his career. He’s also written of his wanderings around Powerscourt Estate – including cheekily rolling down its hills (presumably in his younger years). The video for De Selby Part 2, featuring actor Domhnall Gleeson, was filmed in the Wicklow Mountains.  

When he wants to venture further, Hozier is known to take a dip at the Forty Foot in Dublin’s Sandycove. “I’m not a man known for his gym enthusiasm, but I love a good swim… The area provides gorgeous views of the coast, and is an historically and culturally significant part of County Dublin,” he told photographer Barry McCall. Near the Forty Foot is a Martello Tower which also features in Ulysses, written by one of Hozier’s favourite authors, James Joyce.   

Forty Foot and Joyce Tower & Museum, Sandycove, Co. Dublin.

In Dublin city is the 80,000-capacity Croke Park stadium, home of the Gaelic Athletics Association. Performances in an empty Croke Park are rare – but Hozier sang Bridge Over Troubled Water from its pitch in June 2020 for RTÉ Does Comic Relief. 

In 2021, Hozier visited the spectacular Rock of Cashel and 13th-century Hore Abbey in Cashel, County Tipperary, to film the video for Tell It To My Heart with Italian band Meduza. In a behind-the-scenes video, he shared how they took a tour of the “iconic” sites before filming. 

Finally, it’s not just the east of the country where you might spot the musician. Down on Ireland’s south coast is the delightful town of Dingle, County Kerry, home to the micro-festival with a huge impact, Other Voices. Hozier’s first time performing there was in 2013 (a “dream” come true, he’s said), and he returned in December 2020 to play a surprise gig at Dingle’ St James’ Church.   

Hozier’s fans praise the fact there’s a warmth to him that you don’t find with your average pop star. “We take it for granted but Irish people are particularly warm and particularly have, in my experience, a great generosity,” he’s said about the Irish people. “There is an ease of familiarity.” No doubt this combination is what’s helped this hugely talented Wicklow man go global.