Six Videos of Hozier Before He Was Famous

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Hozier_2011.jpg
Screengrab via YouTube
Hozier in 2011 -- playing to almost no one.
By Reed Fischer

Love Hozier or hate Hozier, but don't say the 24-year-old didn't work hard to get to where he's at. The Irish singer's got stubble on his face these days because there's been no time to shave over the past three years.

Well before "Take Me to Church" surpassed 100 million YouTube views -- back when he was still known as Andrew Hozier-Byrne -- the man who just did a duet with Annie Lennox on the Grammys diversified his musical gifts for a variety of musical pursuits. Did you know he was even a backup singer for '80s pop star Billy Ocean?

Without spoiling the surprises, some of the blue-eyed soul singer's choices proved more admirable than others. Here are six videos, in chronological order, that tell the story of Hozier's musical life before he was famous.


Andrew Hozier-Byrne - "Blood"
This 2011 fan footage of Hozier's Dublin club gig opening for American pop singer-songwriter Alex Winston -- someone who would gladly warm up for him now -- shows a youthful rawness no longer present in his performance style. More like Jeff Buckley than Bill Withers at this stage, he readily lets his voice break and spends much of the song letting his eyes drift downward. According to the specs of the Sugar Club, this room only holds about 150 seated patrons.


Andrew Hozier-Byrne - "We Are Young" (Fun. cover)
A year later, the pop-star transformation has begun. This June 2012 video of Hozier finger-picking and adding slide-guitar blues flourishes to "We Are Young" shows he knows the song inside and out. He's still more like a guy who could win a TV singing competition than the Saturday Night Live musical guest he'd become, but what a difference a year makes. Wait till you see what he does next.


Trinity Orchestra - "Time" and "Breathe" (Pink Floyd covers)
Later in the summer of 2012, we find Hozier with his old classmates at Trinity College Dublin. (He had already dropped out of school by this point.) First of all, the Trinity Orchestra is the picture of precision in this clip. Sure, the notes in Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon aren't as intricate as Beethoven, but the rock operatics are perfectly balanced. Stick around for Hozier: He'll show up at the 2:15 mark and seize the David Gilmour lead vocals and harmonies. Hearing him sing Roger Waters's lyric "Every year is getting shorter" sounds especially apt now considering this was filmed only a month after the last clip.

Story continues on the next page.


Anúna - "The Raid"
Yes, that's Andrew Hozier-Byrne taking the solo vocal for Irish chamber choir Anúna, a group he was a part of from 2009 until 2012. This was filmed at the National Concert Hall in Dublin just a few weeks after Hozier did the Trinity Orchestra performance. This video shows a far more buttoned-up side of the young star as he tackles a thirteenth-century Irish poem. The refrain they're singing is "Seólaidh bhar mbolcca corra," in case you were wondering.


Zaska - "Oh Yeah"
In mid-August of 2012, Hozier showed yet another side of his seriously split musical personality with the funk combo Zaska at the Kilkenny Arts Festival. Hopefully these gigs paid well. After a few of the earlier videos show a guy so clearly connecting with his art, this one comes off a little strange.


Nova Collective - "Quick Bossa"
Released in early 2013, this video overlaps with Hozier's reported year-long creation of "Take Me to Church." Those among us who've always desired to see him in a Latin jazz combo -- intercut with a janitor dancing with his mop -- get their wish. There are a few decent vocal runs, but mostly this song meanders. Nova Collective had only formed in October of 2012, so perhaps they were still finding their sound. Did the guy sleep?


Bonus: Hozier - "Take Me to Church"
Technically, he wasn't yet famous, but this was what made him so. Impressive career strides for a choir boy with a passion for Pink Floyd and jazz.

Hozier 8 p.m. Tuesday, February 24. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Boulevard. $25. 314-726-6161.

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