When I call Hozier he's counting down the hours until his long-awaited new album drops. On my end of the phone, however, Wasteland! Baby has been available all morning.

"I'm less than 12 hours from midnight here but I know it's Friday over there so ... it's release day," he says calculating time differences in his head. "Great, man. Exciting!"

For fans, it is. Wasteland! Baby is Hozier's first full album in five years and is the follow-up to his million-selling, self-titled debut, which rocketed to the top of the charts off the back of his gospel-pop tune Take Me To Church. If he's nervous about following up such a massive worldwide hit, he certainly doesn't sound it.

• WIN WITH TIMEOUT: MEET HOZIER IN AUCKLAND THIS APRIL

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"I didn't feel like it was difficult. I didn't struggle to write this. I had so many ideas that were ready to be written and ready to come out," he says. "I wasn't in a position to write for so long so by the time I got into the flow of it, that wasn't tricky. What was difficult was deciding what songs to go on and what songs to not put on."

He pauses, then says, "And what songs to leave behind, I suppose."

When asked how many didn't make the cut he chuckles and says, "A good few, man," before hinting that they may yet show up on an EP in the near future.

As the album's title suggests Wasteland! Baby catches Hozier in an apocalyptic state of mind. He'd just come off the road from two years of touring and had a lot of time on his hands.

"I plugged back into what was going on in the world," he says. "It would have been beneficial for me to get a hobby at the time, but a lot of my energy went into reading the news and following journalists. At the time nuclear escalation was on the cards, geo-politics was in a really odd place. Both at home and abroad. The Doomsday Clock was moved to two minutes to midnight, the closest I think it's ever been. It was really the feeling of that and the anxieties and the concerns of that found its way into the work naturally. Consciously and subconsciously."

I ask if he wrote his way out of his existential angst.

"There's no cure for planet Earth," he says. "You don't really work through it. You just get through it. But I think yeah, when you're writing songs you plumb the depths of something and try to reconcile it with yourself. Sometimes that's all you can do. Some of the songs recognise the limits of that as well."

Did getting the album out offer a sort of closure on that?

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"In some ways. You could say getting Wasteland! Baby out was the end of a journey. But it's a start too. These songs have been burning holes in my pocket for long enough so I'm thrilled to send them out there and start to tour this music. And as soon as you put something out there the brain opens up to making new material which is something I'm excited about it too. So it's the start of all that."

He says the songs on the new album were written with performing them live in mind, subsequently, he says, they're a lot of fun to play. He can't wait to get onstage and play them, which is fortunate as that's exactly what he'll be doing at Spark Arena in a couple of weeks.

"I can't wait. The last show was my first time in New Zealand. I have some friends there so I can't wait," he says. "It's just an outrageously beautiful country you have. I was blown away too by the weather and the landscape; and the food and the coffee ... You got a lot of good things."

We take our coffee extremely seriously, I say.

Hozier laughs and says, "Absolutely. And that's appreciated when musicians land as well too. Believe me."

LOWDOWN
Who: Hozier
What: New album and Auckland show
When: Sunday 28, April at Spark Arena, Wasteland, Baby! out now.