Hozier has just written a new song called "Better Love," and it's for a big budget Hollywood movie: The Legend Of Tarzan.
Frankly, I was apprehensive when I heard that this poetic songwriter, known for brilliant songs like "Take Me To Church" and "Someone New," was going to delve into commercial film territory. It's hard not to imagine that compromises are necessary to make a song fit a film's plot and themes. But when I heard the new song Hozier put together on a three-week deadline, it felt inspired and from the heart, with lyrics that rang true: "I once kneeled in shaking thrill / I chase the memory of it still," and "I have never loved a darker blue / Than the darkness I have known in you."
I wanted to talk to him about the process, so I called him up just before he was about to make his journey from Ireland to Los Angeles for a screening of Tarzan.
On this +1 edition of All Songs Considered, Hozier tells us about the challenges of writing for a film, something he'd never done before, and how he stayed true to his own style and sound.
"Better Love" features Hozier on all the voices, guitar, synthesizer and organ. Longtime Hozier collaborator and bassist Alex Ryan did the string and orchestral arrangements and also plays keyboards and bass. Another Hozier regular, Rory Doyle, is on drums.
You can listen to the entire interview and song, or watch the video, with the links at the top of the page. You can read edited highlights below:
On getting the assignment:
"It was a challenge that I wanted to turn my hand to. It was new and it was different. I'm entirely green to the process of writing for a film project, so I was introduced to these kind of loose themes: I think the first conversation we had was that the film was, at the heart of it, was a love story. So there were a few words back and forth. I think the filmmakers were thinking that it reflected human endurance, love and loyalty, stuff like that. I wanted to make sure that it was something I could put my name to outside of a film project and in that regard I could be proud of."
On writing for film, on a deadline:
"It's a tricky call to make, diving into projects. I'm an awful control freak at times when it comes to production and stuff like that. What was frightening is that it was a three-week deadline to conceive of and write the song. I saw an edit [of the movie] that was close to finished, it still had some work left to do, but definitely enough to go on. From seeing what I saw I had a demo in a week, [and] it felt like it was as honest as possible or that it was coming from myself. I [also] think coming off tour, I was ready to write something as well. It was kind of fortuitous in that regard."
On the how the lyrics of 'Better Love' match Tarzan's themes:
"The lyrics are, at the core of it, a love song. There's a kind of a very hostile environment that the characters exist in politically but also just naturally in the jungle. It also takes place in a very colonial Congo. There's some kind of reference to that in the lyrics. [It] looks at nature as an indifferent entity: Although it's very beautiful, it's also horrendously brutal at the same time. [So] having seen how brutal and hostile the world is, you can come to the rather cold conclusion that there is no better love outside of that of which you find in your lover, and therefore you kind of redress your view of the world in the arms of that person."
On complementing the sound of the film's score:
"It's a rather bombastic score, there's a lot going on, there's a lot of drums, highly energetic. It was important that, coming out of that, whether we move from the song to the score in the film, it's not completely at odds with that, it's appropriate. It's the first time working with orchestral stuff for me, beyond cello and strings. We did a session in Abbey Road for this, which was exciting, it was a dream just to be there and experience that. With the help of Alex Ryan, who is my bass player, he is a fantastic composer and a fantastic arranger so I got together with him and he arranged the orchestral parts which was great."