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It’s been a rags to riches glory ride, an emotional rollercoaster, an all action, all-star blockbuster. Three young Dubliners took on the world, with music fashioned from the emotional detritus of their own hard lives raised up by a love of pop, rock, hip hop and soul. In two years they notched up a handful of hit singles, including ‘We Cry’, ‘Breakeven’ and ‘The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’. Their 2008 debut album, ‘The Script’, went to number one in the UK and Ireland, approaching 2 million world wide sales. They played stadium shows with music heroes U2, Take That and Paul McCartney. They played a triumphant homecoming set at Ireland’s Oxegen festival before 78,000 fans and won Best Live Performance at the 2010 Meteor Awards (beating their mentors U2). And to cap it all, ‘Breakeven’ became one of the slowest climbers in US pop history, eventually hitting the top of Billboards Adult Pop Song radio airplay chart after 40 weeks on release. ‘Breakeven’ has sold over 1.7 million downloads in the US alone.
But that was just the first draft. Now it’s time to write a whole new Script.
The scene is a recording studio in London. Two young Irishmen are listening to playback. Handsome, dark haired Danny O’Donoghue is The Script’s charismatic vocalist and keyboard player. Shaven headed Mark Sheehan is their intense, loquacious guitarist. Third member, friendly but taciturn drummer and multi-instrumentalist Glen Power is in an adjoining studio, laying down a beat. Danny and Mark cannot sit still. They are leaping about to the music blasting from huge speakers, an addictive blend of hip hop rhythms, flowing melodies, sparkling hooks and emotive, story-spinning lyrics, with Danny’s mellifluous soulful vocals riding high over huge, anthemic choruses. This is their forthcoming second album, ‘Science And Faith’, and it is fair to say the band are excited.
“We’ve gone from playing little clubs to doing theatres, festivals and stadiums,” says Mark. “It’s a little bit shocking to us as new band, playing to these mass audiences. And we feel we have to touch everybody, hit ever fucker in there.”
“I’m just so excited about this record,” declares Danny. “We are more confident about our sound, so you really want to fine tune your writing skills. Find the essence of what we do, songs that mean something, that people would like to sing out loud at a concert.”
“We’ve had to really think about who we are, what we are, and why it matters,” continues Mark. “Take all that experience and try and do something positive with it. We really just want to nail that last album. Put it to the wall.”
“For me, it’s like working out to the point of exhaustion,” continues Danny. “We come in here and try and give ourselves to the track, emotionally, spiritually, lyrically, musically, whatever we can give, and then walk out here utterly spent. And then, job done.”
The studio door flies open, and in bursts drummer Glen. “I’ve nailed that track lads!” he declares. “Wait til you hear it! I’ve got blisters on my hands!”
The Script are like this all the time, highly passionate, sincere and poetically articulate, with a tendency to talk over each other in their eagerness to express themselves. The journey to their new album has been a strange one, with many twists and turns. Danny and Mark met in their early teens in Dublin, and had a long struggle for musical recognition, albeit picking up early admirers for their prodigious songwriting talent in U2. They somehow wound up in the US, working as songwriters and producers with such R’n’B heroes as Dallas Austin, Teddy Riley and The Neptunes. A chance encounter with Glen focussed their ideas on making their own music, and the trio was formed. But in the midst of recording their debut album in Dublin, both Mark’s mother and Danny’s father passed away, inspiring bittersweet live favourite ‘The End Where I Begin’. A meteoric rise through the world’s charts followed but, even at the moment of their greatest triumph, they found themselves having to keep their pride in check, as their native Ireland sank into a devastating economic crisis, amongst the hardest hit of European nations following the credit crunch.
And this is where the new chapter in The Script’s tale really began.
“We were coming back to Dublin victorious, only to be confronted with stark reality,” recalls Danny. “It’s like you've waited for that great day when you can say, ‘I've finally made it’ and everyone else is saying, ‘My life has turned to shit’.”
“I actually felt really guilty,” admits Mark. “Meeting my mates who used to tell me I might need to get a real job to support my family, and buying me a beer when I was the one who was suffering. The tables have turned quite considerably, and you want to be a little bit excited and go, ‘oh, man, we just played with McCartney, we just got to number one,’ but they're going ‘I just lost my job’, or ‘I split up with my wife.”
“What’s going on in Ireland is a microcosm for the rest of the world,” suggests Danny. “So here we were back in Dublin and there’s a lot of relationships going on and we're seeing people who have met under money, under the Celtic Tiger, and they've never known what to do without money. People are getting stripped of everything, stripped of their jobs and their homes and their furniture, so its going to back to an old thing of drinking cheap bottles of wine, having dinner on the floor, nothing but candlelight, and it’s like they are meeting each other for the first time. But I'm not saying that in a bad sense. Its getting back to reality, you are standing naked in front of this person. That notion really resonated with us, and we wrote a song, ‘For The First Time’. I felt like it was something that could be a real flagship, to set the tone for what we want to talk about, emotionally. And the rest has spun off from there.”
The songs came thick and fast. ‘Exit Wounds’, about the damage relationships can wreak. ‘You Won’t Feel A Thing’, about suffering all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to protect your most loved ones. ‘Nothing’ about a drunken, broken hearted phone call to a lost love (“We’ve all been there,” as Danny says). ‘Don’t Change A Thing’ about always leaving the door open for the possible return of a loved one. And the title track, ‘Science And Faith’, about the primacy of love in the universal equation. “With all of these subjects, we're always trying to attack at a level where it’s optimistic,” insists Danny. “We're dealing with complex emotions in the simplest of ways, that's what we battle with in these songs.”
“On first listen, the subject matter might sound bleak,” says Mark. “But I think being Irish there is this undertone of hope all the time. It’s about having coping skills to get over things. With Irish people, no matter how bad things get, you always pick yourself up and carry on.”
The Script are songwriters of the first order, combining thoughtful, heartfelt lyrics with lush melodies. They have fielded numerous requests to write for other artists (including Beyonce and James Blunt), preferring instead to focus on each other. “I feel, honestly, we are three people who write for us, and we write together, and feel those songs, internally, as mates,” explains Mark.
“If there was somebody I wanted to write with, I’d probably be in a band with them,” points out Danny. “I love writing with these ****ers! It’s a challenge. You walk in here, you better be on the ball, cause these guys are good.”
They still pronounce themselves incredulous that Paul McCartney personally asked The Script to support him at a series of American stadium shows. “That was pretty mad, that he loved our songs, he knew them, came and watched us while we were playing on stage,” says Mark. “He said the reason he picked us was our message is very humble and honest. We're not preaching, we invite people into our world, and our experiences, and to relate to us. He felt like we were dealing with important stuff.”
There can surely be no higher honour for a songwriter than the imprimatur of a Beatle. But that’s where the Script operate, in the highest realms of pop, easily accessible yet artistically, emotionally and spiritually resonant. “I don’t see us as anything other than lads from Dublin,” admits Mark. “I don’t feel like I‘m in some big band. We come in and we make really heartfelt music. I get to really express myself in this band. And that’s as far as it goes for me. I’m not trying to change the world. I’m not trying to heal anybody. I generally find most of these songs are healing myself because getting them out has certainly helped externalise the feelings. ‘The End Where I Begin’ is such a poignant song for us, from losing parents, that when we play it people ask ‘do you feel like your reopening those wounds every night?’ Well, yeah, I honestly do. I set myself up for that song, I remind myself why it was written and what it was all about, and then we play it. Yet it’s not tough for me at all. I feel justified. I feel like I’m actually sharing something that you all relate to. You have all lost somebody too. You can all understand exactly where this is coming from. And it feels good to do that.”
“You know what the Script is?” says Danny. “It’s the journey from a feeling of devastation in the pit of my stomach, for me to be able to think about that, put it into words, to be able to sing it, a band to play it, for you to hear it, to go to your brain, to understand it and for you to replicate that same feeling. It’s such an amazing thing. You couldn’t work it out with a calculator. But that’s what we try and do.”
“And that’s the pay off,” says Mark. “The thought of some person somewhere sitting in their apartment putting our music on because they are hurting and we’re the soundtrack to that emotion, whatever is going on in their life. That to me is the greatest power of music. And I cannot get over that they might choose our record. Cause I do that. I sit in a room and pick out a song to articulate my feelings. It floors me every time.”
Get ready for the return of The Script. There are going to be more twists in this tale before it is done.