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2018 Austin City Limits Music Festival - Weekend 2 - Day 1

Hozier performs on day one of the Austin City Limits Music Festival's second weekend on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

Irish-born singer-songwriter Hozier toured relentlessly off his self-titled 2014 debut album, including a stop at LouFest in 2015.

After a sizable gap between full-length albums, he recently released his sophomore album, “Wasteland, Baby!”

Fans clearly were ready for more Hozier.

The new album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, features “Movement,” “Almost (Sweet Music),” and “Dinner & Diatribes.”

“People had been looking forward to the album,” he says. “I hadn’t released music in a bit, and people were excited.”

Hozier says he didn’t expect to top the charts with the release, especially with competition from new albums by hot acts Solange and 2 Chainz.

“I was in New York at the time with the label, and we had a busy week where we were working hard,” he says. “But it was a surprise to me when I found out it was official. It was outrageous, and it was super sweet.

“You don’t take that stuff for granted. I’m not an American act, so it really felt good.”

When Hozier (aka Andrew Hozier-Byrne) began writing for “Wasteland, Baby!” he was on the road supporting his debut album. He found the process to be a struggle.

“It was hard to find time alone — space to yourself to just play around with ideas. Only when I got off the road could I make sense of the ideas I had and work on it.”

It also was helpful that his record label wasn’t on his back about new music.

“They gave me lots of time and space for me — allowed me to take my time with it,” he says.

He returned to his native Ireland and kept writing. What poured out of him was work that was reflective of hopeless times.

“The 14 songs are 14 different points of view or reactions to feeling hopeless and what you do with that and how to deal with that,” he says. “Some of the songs are cheery. Some are bad-news stories. Some are good-news stories. Like any of us day-to-day, we’re optimistic about where we are in life, but some days we’re less than optimistic.”

There was much deliberation on his part about which songs to use and which songs to leave behind.

“I kept writing until it made sense,” he says. “You may be in love with (a song) as soon as (you) finish it, but then after giving it some time, does it still hold something for you? Do you still want to hold onto it. Do you still love it?”

Hozier collaborated with soul legend Mavis Staples on “Nina Cried Power,” easily a highlight of the album. They met in Chicago, and he says there’s no one like her.

“She’s one of the best people I ever met in my life — just one of the most amazing,” Hozier says. “It’s her spirit and energy. She has more energy than I do, and she’s turning 80. She’s one of the most important artists and voices of the 20th century. I was dealing with somebody who really lived through it, who’d been there, and somebody who always puts their heart where their mouth is and sings about what we hope for each other in the better world we imagine.”

When Hozier brings his “Wasteland, Baby! Tour” to Stifel Theatre on Thursday, he’ll be touring with an eight-piece band that includes himself.

“Everybody in the band is singing, and there are lots of harmonies,” he says. “Everybody’s playing an instrument too. It’s a lot of fun up there.”

What Hozier, Bailen • When 8 p.m. Thursday • Where Stifel Theatre, 1400 Market Street • How much $36.50-$56.50 • More info ticketmaster.com

Kevin C. Johnson is the pop music critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.