“It feels good, I don’t know how to sum it up. It just feels really good,” Hozier tells Billboard about how he feels about scoring his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart with his new release, Wasteland, Baby!
The set is the singer-songwriter’s second full-length studio effort and was released on March 1 via Rubyworks/Columbia Records. The album opened atop the Billboard 200 chart dated March 16, earning 89,000 equivalent album units in its first week in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music. Hozier had previously gone as high as No. 2 on the tally with his self-titled debut album back in 2014.
“I was proud of the [new] album. I was thrilled to get it out there,” Hozier tells the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast. (Listen to his full interview, below.) “I was glad that people saw where it was coming from and are enjoying this. For me it’s really encouraging and really exciting. I’ve got loads of people to thank, but I’m thrilled.”
Turns out, Hozier was rather surprised by his No. 1 achievement. “It was a funny week. I was sort of resigned to… I genuinely didn’t think that this was going to happen.” (He was likely surprised by the win as industry forecasters had thought Wasteland might open at No. 2, behind Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next.)
While Hozier was very busy during the album’s release week doing lots of promotion in support of the set — including performances on CBS’ The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and ABC’s Good Morning America — he also got some promo love from his fellow Irish countrymen: U2. The band tweeted on March 7, the final day of the tracking week: “How do you follow a debut album like #Hozier like @Hozier just did? Check out Wasteland, Baby! Like this,” accompanied by a link to stream or purchase the album.
U2 has been supportive of Hozier for a while now. So what’s it been like having the band in his corner?
“It’s such a good feeling; it’s surreal to me as well as in a lot of ways. The band U2, again, this is so weird saying stuff like this, but U2 and Bono have been incredibly encouraging and incredibly supportive since my first release. And seeing that tweet was incredibly kind of them. They champion a lot of Irish talent, and I have to say they’ve been incredibly supportive. It’s an amazing feeling… there’s no higher praise. They’re such a hardworking incredible group of musicians.”
As for the album itself, Hozier says he “wanted to make music that felt right for me, that felt honest, that felt that it was coming from a personal place. I wanted to make sure that I was writing it and producing it myself as best I could.”
“I think it’s an eclectic kind of group of songs. I’ve always said that they’re all little 14 different viewpoints all sitting in the same wasteland, or sitting around the same awful bonfire.
“I’m just enjoying people finding their own favorites, which is something that’s a really good feeling for me.”
Speaking of those favorites, are there some non-singles from the album that fans have been especially loving? “I think there’s been a lot of love for ‘No Plan’ on that record, which we might look at that as a single later on. I think we have a few to choose from. There’s been a lot love for ‘To Noise Making [Sing]’ and a song called ‘Talk,’ as well too. My favorite is the title track. I mean I can’t say my favorite, I can’t say my favorite child. ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ — I just love seeing people showing love for that tune, I gotta say.”
News of Hozier’s No. 1 came on March 10, the same day his tour launched in Buffalo, N.Y. How’d opening night go for him? “We had such an amazing audience, such an incredible crowd. There was so much love and so much goodwill, and I think I have to thank them as well too. I hit the stage a couple hours after the official announcement of it going No. 1. And the crowd were so, so kind. I just said my thank yous as well to the audience and let them in. There was just such goodwill. I was actually quite softened by it I have to say.
“I’m touring with Jade Bird at the moment and she’s an incredible talent and has such an amazing voice. And again, just very vital. Very vital honest songwriting I gotta say. I’m really enjoying her being part of the tour.
Hozier’s tour continues on through the end of November, so he’s going to be very busy on the road this year. Will he be writing new music on the road and working on that next No. 1 album?
“[Laughs] I can do my best! I think I certainly didn’t on the last time around, I struggled. I managed to cultivate ideas, I managed to gather a huge amount of ideas. Which was good for when the album [cycle] ended but very hard to get actual proper work when you’re just surrounded by people. You’re living in the pockets of 15-20 other people [on tour], and for me I write best in a solitary space. But I think I will try and I certainly don’t plan to be away as long as I was between the releases this time around.”
In addition to the interview with Hozier, Pop Shop Podcast hosts Keith and Katie discuss the big chart news of the Jonas Brothers scoring their first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with their new single “Sucker.” The brother trio’s track debuted straight in at the top, marking just the second time a group has debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100. Plus, the team has a throwback Chart Stat of the Week about another all-brother act, The Osmonds, topping the Hot 100 in 1971 with “One Bad Apple.”
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard‘s weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard‘s senior director of charts Keith Caulfield and deputy editor, digital Katie Atkinson every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)