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Chris Wasser: World set to watch as Irish music takes centre stage this year





Did you see Hozier on The Graham Norton Show over the weekend? One question, folks - how the heck did that happen?

We're not talking logistics here. The dude's got a cracking team behind him and a very successful debut album under his belt too, so getting in the front door at the BBC was, no doubt, a piece of cake. What we mean is, how exactly did Hozier become a superstar?

The great Irish music success story of 2014, we've a lot of love for Andrew Hozier-Byrne for sure, but the chap came out of nowhere (or so it seems).

Alas, there is no magical answer. Right place, right tune, right time.

The gentle giant from Bray is no one-hit wonder, but man, he certainly did rip things up with the magnificent Take Me to Church. The record cracked the US top-three and now Hozier has been nominated for the Meteor Choice Music Prize for Irish Album of the Year too. Bravo.

Take a look at the shortlist for this year's prize and you'll see just how good a year 2014 was for Irish music. There are three Grammy Award-nominated acts in there (Hozier, U2 and Aphex Twin, though we're still pretty gobsmacked about that last inclusion given the fact that, well, Aphex Twin is technically a British act).

Indeed, it seems Irish music is once again starting to transcend the dark environs of Whelan's, making its way into the outside world where international audiences are only too happy to listen.

It's about time, what with so many great domestic acts having found themselves stuck on the same old merry-go-round for yonks (release album, tour the country twice, write another album).

In a week when Whelan's showcased 60 emerging Irish bands as part of its annual Ones to Watch festival, it's not too far-fetched to believe that even a handful of these might make some waves in 2015. And why not? Dream big or go home. Things really are getting bigger.


Again, look at the Choice shortlist. Sinead O'Connor is in there, as is Damien Rice (still a huge draw Stateside) and the sublime James Vincent McMorrow, who has also been making noise abroad these last few years. Let's not forget about the ones who weren't nominated: Imelda May, The Script and Kodaline. International mainstream success came calling for all three, and you know what? It suits them.

Musically, we're in good health. We still love it when the likes of Lady Gaga and Beyonce grace us with their presence, and we're only too happy to continue championing our new favourite adopted musical son, Ed Sheeran. When it really comes down to it, however, we're all about our own.

Silver-voiced local lad Gavin James signed a US record deal last week. Big deal? Well, yeah - very big deal. Glen Hansard's face plastered across a huge billboard over Madison Square Garden? Crikey, that's progress. Hozier getting booked to play the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show alongside Taylor Swift last November? Whatever you make of that one, it's still a pretty sweet gig.

Not since U2 conquered America in the 80s, proving once and for all that we could do more than jigs and reels, has there been such an exciting time for Irish bands to get themselves noticed. So they should - for a small country, we are a hugely talented nation of wonderfully diverse, genre-spanning music-makers.

Again, there is no scientific answer as to how one breaks through to the other side, but hey, it must have something to do with the actual music. Clearly, Irish musicians are kicking ass, and now the world is watching.