When Andrew Hozier Byrne walks into the dressing room at N.Y.C.’s Bowery Ballroom, the space suddenly feels one size too small. At 6 foot 5, he nearly grazes the ceiling, but it’s the kind of height you’d expect from someone with such a formidable gospel-folk inflected sound. Hozier’s lyrics have a commanding bite (“I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies”) but his first words are far less intimidating. “I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting,” he says in a gentle whisper. “Will you be staying for the show?”
We’ve caught the 24-year-old in the midst of a whirlwind that started last September when the video for “Take Me to Church,” the lead track on his debut EP, went viral on Reddit. “I remember the views were something like 10 thousand per hour at one point and I’m still not exactly sure who put it out there,” he says. “I owe them a drink—I would have never done something like that myself.”
To date, the song has garnered more than 3 million views on YouTube and Hozier has since released a second EP, From Eden, to feed his growing fan base until a full-length album comes out via Columbia in September. His voice is at times reminiscent of Jeff Buckley and Van Morrison but rooted in the rhythm and strong vocals of Delta Blues—a genre he grew up listening to.
Born on Saint Patrick’s Day in County Wicklow, Hozier attributes his affinity for music at an early age to his father. “He drummed with blues bands a lot and I remember being at a bar and crawling up on stage as a toddler to say ‘Hi’ when he was on break.” He began to sing at age eight, taught himself electric guitar at age 15 and eventually became the lead vocalist at Trinity College’s Orchestra before dropping out to concentrate on writing and recording.
“It can be a long, kind of grafting process,” Hozier says of writing, “But I’ve come to know the core feeling of what the song is and what the song is not.” And the crowd clearly gets it—the block was lined with concert-goers before doors even opened on Tuesday night. Just prior to leaving the the room, we ask the long haired singer what his biggest pinch-me-moment over the last year has been. “Playing on the set of the Dave Letterman show—that was crazy. It’s the reason I was late.”
For more standout up-and-coming artists to play for every summer occasion, flip to “What to Play When” on page 60 in the June issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download May 16.