Nothing will ease the pain of a year in which two of The Script lost parents, but the band are still glad to have music as a constant in their lives, writes Ed Power
Around the corner from Google’s Dublin headquarters and in the skeletal shadow of the $300 million Boland’s Mill redevelopment, U2’s old stomping ground of Windmill Lane studios has thrown open its doors to a more modern flag-bearer for anthemic rock. The Script’s Danny Donoghue sits at a huge mixing desk in the complex’s sarcophagus-like upstairs space.
“We’ve had a hell of a year with personal stuff,” he says, apologising for the absence of bandmates Mark Sheehan and Glen Power. The former has just welcomed a new baby, the latter is taking time out following the death of his father.
O’Donoghue is in town to introduce the band’s sixth album, Sunsets and Full Moons. It’s classic Script: earnest, fist-punching, sure to delight fans who have propelled the trio to record sales of 20 million and sell-outs in Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium. Their bucket-list of Irish stadium gigs receives a further tick next summer with a date at Cork’s Musgrave Park.
“Our ethos as The Script is that we take in the stuff that’s really hard to deal with and send it out into the world,” says O’Dononghue.
In February, O’Donoghue’s mother, Ailish, suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage. She passed away 11 years to the day after her husband Shay. Six months previously O’Donoghue split from his girlfriend of four-years Anne De Paula. He is visibly still reeling from both blows.
“I went away on holidays to South Africa,” says the 39 year-old, very much the off-duty pop star in trench coat-length designer cardigan. “I wanted to put my phone down and get to grips with who I was. My head had been blown off for the past 12 years and this whirlwind of being in The Script.”
Sunsets and Full Moons is pitched by the Script as their “back to basics” record.
When the Irish Examiner catches up with guitarist and songwriter Mark Sheehan soon after meeting O’Donoghue he draws parallels with their 2008 debut. The Script was recorded as O’Donoghue grieved for his father. And on both occasions the band felt they had to face down the doubters.
“We dropped cool a long time ago,” says Sheehan.
The Script are not universally adored and make for useful punching bags. As with U2 before them, they are earnest and deal in outsized emotions. But they aren’t cynical or calculating and they don’t throw poses: what you see is what you get.
As absurd as it may sound their story is also one of triumph in the face of challenging odds. They are occasionally compared to Coldplay. The difference is that for about 10 minutes Coldplay had the music press in their pockets and were seriously spoken of as the next Radiohead.
The Script, because they wear their heart on their sleeves, were unfashionable from the outset.
“Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’ kept [early single] ‘The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’ off number one,” says Sheehan. “That song [Perry’s] reflects what was going on socially at the time. People wanted a mindless song — ‘I kissed a girl and I liked it’. And here we were being super emotional talking about a man who will do anything for love. We were taking a risk. We wanted to try something that wasn’t in the market place. When everyone else is painting blue, we paint red.”
He feels that the band are trailblazers in a way. The era of the posturing rock stars is over. Audiences are seeking a genuine connection with their music icons. The Script were among the first to twig this.
“That’s why Ed Sheeran and Adele are so popular. People can relate to them. When you’re on your own in your house you need to be able to relate. The untouchable rock star has gone out of fashion. The way Madonna used to work — it was great at the time. There used to be a lot of mystery. Now people want to connect to normal, humble people. And the one thing about being Irish is that it keeps you grounded. You’re not allowed get a big head.”
A busy 2020 will include a return to Cork and Musgrave Park. “I’m a fan of music and I”m always going to gigs,” says Sheehan. “When we play places such as Croke Park we are mindful of how far a lot of fans have come to travel. So it’s always an honour to bring the music to them.”
Early on The Script were tagged as studio specialists (Sheehan and O’Donoghue had knocked around in the US with Neptunes’ leader Pharrell Williams). Yet it’s arguably on stage where they have built their following. A chat with Paul McCartney led Sheehan to re-assess his take on live performance, the guitarist recalls.
“We were opening for him at Shea Stadium . Which was obviously significant as it was the scene of that final Beatles concert. We were only starting to play big arenas. Before that it was places like Brixton Academy — 5,000 capacity. I remember talking to him, saying, ‘It’s 45,000 people — I’m worried’. He said to me that what you say before the song can be as big as the song. Then he added, ‘I’ll show you tonight’.
“Later, he stepped up to the mic and said, ‘I often imagine what it would be like if I walked though Central Park and bumped into John Lennon. I wonder what our conversation would be like. I wrote a song about it — here it is.’ When he said that you could see the audience leaning in — he altered the entire meaning of the song. That changed my life. I learned that with certain songs we have to take a breather and take a risk and talk about what it means to us.”
Six albums in a little over a decade underlines the group’s determination. Sheehan feels The Script still have something to prove, that they owe it to themselves to continue to work towards their potential
Sunsets and Full Moons is released on Friday. The Script play Musgrave Park in Cork on June 23, 2020; as well as 3Arena, Dublin, on March 5-7