Sticking with their Script
For six years, Danny O’Donoghue and his bandmates have relied on an ethos of plain talk, hard work and ambition – 10 million albums later, it’s worked
The Script: Mark Sheehan, Danny O’Donoghue and Glen Power
It is March 2008, and The Script are huddled in a suite at the Herbert Park Hotel in Dublin. They are excited, giddy, unexpectedly chatty. “The last time I was somewhere this swish it was to rob it,” Glen Power, the band’s drummer, jokes. They are on the brink of releasing their debut single, We Cry, a slick, sharp slice of American-style pop-rock. Their debut album is scheduled for release later in the year.
“It’s all been really surreal, the way things have happened for us,” Danny O’Donoghue, the Script’s singer, says at the time. “I keep thinking of that scene in The Commitments where Jimmy Rabbitte’s in the toilet being ‘interviewed’ by Terry Wogan. Well, Terry Wogan played our song the other day. It’s mental.”
Six years later and the three members of one of Ireland’s biggest bands are in the boardroom of another fancy hotel, coffees and green teas in hand, about to answer questions about their fourth album, No Sound Without Silence.
Their pre-Script musical history – O’Donoghue and Mark Sheehan, the band’s guitarist, were once part of the boyband MyTown – is barely mentioned these days. They have been around the world several times. Some of their hair is infinitely more voluminous (O’Donoghue), and one of them has a trendy beard (Sheehan). (Power looks exactly the same.)
Ten million album sales later, you could say that things have probably gone to plan. And Terry Wogan has probably spun their records a few more times, too.
The Script’s last two albums have done particularly well in the UK and the US. For the most part they have kept their noses clean and avoided scandal, something Sheehan attributes to “not feeding the red tops stories”. The closest they have come to controversy were rumours that O’Donoghue’s time as a mentor on the BBC talent show The Voice UK, in 2012-3 caused fissures within the band.
Paddy Power were “offering bets that I was leaving the band and all that stuff. It’s hilarious,” he says, shaking his head. “They don’t know that was completely calculated. We all decided, as a band, that it was a great opportunity for us and our songs, our career, our band. At the end of the two years we all sat around and they said, ‘Do you want to do another season?’ and I went, ‘No. I want to go back to being in a band. And I want to get my Saturday nights back.’ ”
The band made their third album in the midst of O’Donoghue’s time on the show – “I could see how taxing it was becoming,” Sheehan says – but they approached their new record more calmly.
Referring to the album’s title, O’Donoghue says it was important to have some time for contemplation before the inevitable “sound”. His mother’s sudden illness at the beginning of this year also provided ample time for writing and reflection in Dublin, but recording was done mostly in a mobile studio as they toured the US. They wrote upwards of 40 songs this time around, rather than their usual method of writing a set of 12 or 14 tailored specifically for an album.
“We went on the road with Train and then One Republic, so we knew that each end of the year was going to be bookended with two massive tours in the US,” says Sheehan. “So it was, come off buzzing after playing to 25,000 people a night and either drink it away or smoke it away – but we decided to capture that raw energy.
“It’s such a great feeling to come off and get on to a tour bus that’s got a recording studio and continue to do your vocals, and to catch that live feeling. So while it was a weird decision to make, it turned out to be the best thing for us. You’re usually bored [on tour]; you’re picking at everybody who’s causing shit. This time around we were able to absolutely vent while trying to make the best album that we could.”
The album contains the sort of glossily produced anthems that The Script have become known for, such as Superheroes and the emigration anthem Paint the Town Green, but there are also some quieter moments. Unlike their last album, which featured a guest slot from O’Donoghue’s fellow Voice UK mentor will.i.am on their world-beating single Hall of Fame, this album was about three friends making music, with one exception, on the comparatively stripped-back Flares.
“We worked with Ryan Tedder [of One Republic], and it’s the only collaboration that we have on the album, really,” says Sheehan. “We played him the song, and he gave us a few suggestions on lyrics and melody. Obviously he’s a top, top-class songwriter at the moment; he’s writing for everybody – U2, Adele, Beyoncé – so you can’t take a comment like that lightly.”
The Script have made no bones about the type of music that they play; Sheehan aptly describes their songs, which are largely character-based and tell a straightforward story, as “mini movies”. When the topic of critical appraisal is raised, however, hackles rise. Their 2008 debut was nominated for the Choice Music Prize, leading many purists to sneer at their inclusion.
“We’ve never given a shit,” says Sheehan, gritting his jaw. “We didn’t make the album with a f***in’ chainsaw and a spoon. We wanted to be commercially successful – what a concept – after years of not having two shillings to rub together.”
“I think [there’s] also the oddity of people not really realising that there’s a band out there who really don’t give a shit what people think,” O’Donoghue says, shrugging.
“Last year at the Brits, we were nominated again in a category. I can only say that the Brits keep putting us in a category just to get our fan base watching on the night, because they’re never going to give us an award. We’ve publicly said that we don’t want awards, we don’t want to be nominated, because we feel we’re past that already.We’re operating on a higher plane than to derive [our success] from someone else’s opinion on what they think is good.”
It is difficult not to warm to the trio’s ethos of plain talk and hard work. At several points they mention treading the path paved by Irish acts such as U2 and The Cranberries and being conscious of “not messing it up” for whatever acts follow them.
“You don’t have to try to be nice,” Power says of their in-band motto, “Just try not to be an a***hole.” Yet if awards and critical acclaim don’t factor in their personal worth, what drives them along?
“It’s not that hard to think back to the start and to remember what it was like before you knew what you were about to embark upon,” Power says. “Even though the experiences have really changed us, in a way – all the touring, all the gigs – we’ve crammed in quite a lot over the last seven years. But I can still remember starting out and not knowing what the hell was coming next. That keeps you grounded.”
“I felt more energised on this album than I did even writing the first one,” O’Donoghue says with a nod. “The stakes are higher, and everything else is higher, but at the same time the serenity that goes on around us when we’re in a room together, writing, is just amazing. In the face of everything – fame, all that kind of stuff – we still hold music in the highest regard.”
No Sound Without Silence is on Columbia. The Script play a sold-out gig at Dublin Castle tonight