How does music travel through time? How does a kid growing up in Ireland latch on to music made 50 years earlier and find something that resonates, an ocean away? Those questions are why I wanted to sit down and talk with Hozier. The songwriter has a new EP called Nina Cried Power — his first major release since his 2014 debut album — that pays tribute to the musicians whose music ignited Civil Rights movements around the world.
When I spoke to him in New York last week, he said this:
"The intention for me was to credit how important those acts of protest are in a time when there was much vilifying of 'politicizing' things.
"For me, politics is a part of everything whether we like it or not. We vilify things for being political often when it concerns the marginalized. Because it's something we don't want to talk or hear about."
Andrew Hozier-Byrne grew up in County Wicklow, Ireland. His dad played the blues, and that music imprinted on him. When he was picking songs he loved to play for us in this Guest DJ session for All Songs Considered, much of what he picked — including songs by Nina Simone, Tom Waits and John Lee Hooker — is music steeped in an American tradition.
You can hear it in the song "Nina Cried Power," which features gospel singer and activist Mavis Staples and names over a dozen American singers whose music helped to usher in change. You can hear him talk about the making of that song, plus others on the Nina Cried Power EP – which is a bit of a preview for a full-length album slated for 2019 – on this week's All Songs Considered.