Hozier chats with Brendan about beekeeping, his relationship with his fans and how Dante's Inferno inspired his latest album, Unreal Unearth. Listen back above.

From bee-keeping to sea-swimming and the simple pleasures of morning coffee with friends; to the poetic travels to the underworld that inspired his latest album; Hozier and Brendan O'Connor covered a lot of ground in their chat about the making of his latest album Unreal Unearth, which is released on the 18th of August.

Hozier began writing his third studio album Unreal Unearth at home in Ireland over 2020 and 2021. Recording sessions started from his Wicklow base with producer Jeff Gitty; then in early 2022, once U.S. travel reopened, Hozier headed Los Angeles for further studio sessions. Once the instrumental tracks were recorded, he used the recordings, one instrument at a time, to re-work and refine the lyrics. Hozier says his travelling recording kit allowed him to capture vocals whenever and wherever he wanted - in his holiday rental if necessary:

"I would take them away, back to an Airbnb in some cases, and then work on the sort of heart of the song, on the lyrics of the song and shape the track. Sometimes put down a vocal recording. I had a little set-up wherever I travelled at the time. There’s a song called All things End – those vocals were recorded in an Airbnb somewhere."

The album is heavily influenced by Hozier’s pandemic reading material; from The Third Policeman by Irish satirist Flann O’Brien to translations of classical latin and Italian poetry. The stillness of the pandemic gave Hozier the time to dive into to works like Dante’s Inferno and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which he says he has always wanted to read. Shades of the afterlife permeate the album; but in spite of the darkness, Hozier says there's a lot of playfulness in the composition, and he enjoys pulling the rug on expectations of how things should sound. Making it was also a lot of fun:

"I was definitely having fun on a lot of these songs. There’s a song called First Time, DeSelby (Part 2), there’s a song called Anything But, which is fun too. I definitely allowed myself that levity."

The album is not just a product of the pandemic; some of the ideas had been swirling around from well before that. That being said, the forced inactivity, the fears and the losses of the pandemic have left their mark. Hozier says he found it very tough at times:

"I experienced love and loss and I definitely was challenged, I don’t mind saying that. I think it’s that thing of when you’re on your hamster wheel and you’re running, keeping yourself busy; when you step off the hamster wheel and you’re forced to sit in the little cage of your life that you’ve built for yourself and you’re forced to take in your surroundings and that’s a challenging moment."

Being busy keeps certain questions at bay, but the stillness demands answers, Hozier says:

"I did contend with just a lot of my own stuff. There were times, genuinely, in that, there were times when I thought I’d never write another song."

The fans will be relieved to know that was a passing feeling, and Hozier says his relationship with his work has changed for the better. He’s now happy to say he's really proud of the songs on this current album, and he’s not all that anxious about how they will be received, as he gained so much from making them in the first place:

"I’m not as afraid of how they’re gonna be received. I know what they did for me in making them. And yeah, I’m happy to share the work with the world and excited that I get to do that. There is the nerves, of course but I’m more excited than anything else, I’m very happy to say, and that’s new for me."

Hozier spoke about what else brings him joy, aside from his work; joking about his "Happy Pear-adjacent" sea swimming during lockdown, learning bee-keeping from an old family friend and living close to his family and people he grew up with. A lot of friends have moved home from abroad and are now having their own families. Having spent long periods away, Hozier says he values what home has to offer:

"I’d missed that, and that’s something about Ireland that’s really special, is like, you know, you can have so many of your friends and your family in quite close proximity; to be able to hop in a car and in 10 minutes you’re having a coffee with your mates."

The album is released on the 18th of August and Hozier is on tour, starting with an eight-week run in the U.S., followed by dates in the UK and Europe. Hozier talks about his relationship with his fans, his love of beekeeping and the moral vision of Sinéad O’Connor and more in the full interview. Listen back above.

You can get more great interviews on the Brendan O’Connor show page here.