Hozier has a Secret chance to show his model talent
The singer is now set to join Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran on the catwalk for Victoria's Secret. It's been a great year for him
Thirteen years ago, Victoria's Secret was preparing to stage its sixth runway show - and the lingerie brand badly wanted to put on a spectacle.
The organisers had booked actor Rupert Everett as host, and they raked in a stash of celebrities-of-the-moment to sit on the front row while models Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum, and Tyra Banks sashayed past in tiny attire.
More significantly, classical singer Andrea Bocelli, as well as R'n'B's Mary J Blige entertained guests. It marked a shift. No longer was this glamorous staging merely about fashion: from then, it was also very much about music.
This week, the 2014 musical line-up was announced for the latest VS showcase, which will take place at Earls Court in London on December 2. And with a total budget somewhere in the region of €10m, the organisers have bagged an impressive bunch: Taylor Swift, returning following her debut last year, along with Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande.
Joining the trio is Andrew Hozier Byrne - the young Co Wicklow man whose first album was only released internationally last month. Titled simply, Hozier, it nabbed the number one spot in Ireland, while also reaching number two in the US, and number three in the UK.
This, his latest in a series of increasingly high-profile gigs, is admittedly not the most obvious fit. Hozier is, after all, pared down and rugged: he is raw talent with a guitar.
But while the 24-year-old may already have critical acclaim in bucket-loads, what the Victoria's Secret show offers is mass exposure to brand new audiences. It is unlikely that his management team, led by MCD's Caroline Downey, would have had to consider the deal twice.
As a child, Hozier would eagerly root through his dad's record collection before going to bed, allowing the likes of Nina Simone's 'Mississippi Goddam' and 'Sinnerman' to lull him to sleep. "'Sinnerman' is one of the most vibrant pieces of music - it's just incredible," he says. The influences of Leonard Cohen, Elbow, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Van Morrison and Damien Rice are all also evident in Hozier's music. "Tom Waits was a big part of my teenage years," he says, citing literary greats Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Seamus Heaney as inspiration.
In June, Hozier was at Glastonbury. He had of course played to big crowds before, but this was his first truly vast gig. "It's a dream festival for anyone on this side of the world," he said in the aftermath, adding that it was also "terrifying". "I remember just freaking out," he admitted to Jo Whiley on BBC Radio this week. "I remember my throat closing up and losing my voice on stage." He played an afternoon set of four songs on the acoustic stage and cited the experience as a "learning curve".
The singer and his seven-strong band - five "exceptionally talented" musicians sourced from home plus two backing singers from the southern United States - have just wrapped up his sold-out tour of America. "The response was very warm," he says modestly. December gigs in Dublin, Kerry and Cork have been sold out for months - as have London dates for 2015. He claims to be "writing all the time" now, and reckons he will begin recording his second album in early 2016.
For Tuesday's announcement, the official Victoria's Secret Instagram account posted a pensive picture of Hozier, his signature shoulder-length locks looking suitably tousled. "Just when you thought #VSFashionShow hair couldn't get any sexier," the caption read. "Who else is pumped for @hozier?" The image quickly notched up 70,000 likes of approval.
"I'm getting used to it," Hozier said this week of playing bigger and bigger venues. "The more you do it, the less strange it feels."
It's a sensation that is unlikely to feel quite so out-of-the-ordinary for long: no longer the new kid on the block, Hozier has well and truly arrived.
The path to stardom...
Born on St Patrick's Day in 1990, Hozier's father worked in a bank and played drums for a blues band, before retraining as a sound engineer. His mother is a talented artist who paints his album and single covers, and his brother is a film-maker.
MCD's Caroline Downey stumbled across Hozier performing at a school concert - her daughter was his classmate at St Gerard's in Bray. He sat his Leaving Cert in 2009 and briefly studied at Trinity but dropped out when his record deal was finalised.
Celebrity fans of Hozier include singer Adele, actress Eva Longoria and Bono - "this is a sacred talent" said the U2-frontman - as well as Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.
Last week, Take Me To Church was the most streamed song in the US. Less than a month into its release, it had already been downloaded 16 million times from iTunes. It also has more than 26.5million views on YouTube.
As well as charting in Ireland, the US, and the UK, the album Hozier has charted in the Top 10 in Denmark and Belgium, and in the Top 20 in Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia.
"I don't play as many instruments as I would like," Hozier has said. "I taught myself guitar. Piano I can fumble my way through and, again, I taught myself. Harmonica also."