Irish chart-topping band The Script is enjoying success on both sides of the Atlantic, fueled by its mainstream hit “Breakeven” and a concert tour that lands on the East Coast this week. MIKE FARRAGHER chats to lead singer Danny O’Donoghue about the band’s success, and plans for the future.
You'd have to be living under a rock not to heard of The Script. Fronted by charismatic singer Danny O’Donoghue, the band has struck chart gold with hits like “Breakeven” and “We Cry.”
The band, which includes fellow Dubliners Mark Sheehan and Glen Power, has shared the stage with U2 and Paul McCartney, had their songs featured on shows and VH1 playlists, and sold two million units worldwide.
Yet this is not the story of an overnight sensation. These are Irish music veterans working for years in boy bands (Mytown) and behind the scenes as songwriters and producers before forming The Script.
I have interviewed O’Donoghue over the years in each of those incarnations, and it is truly heartwarming to see the success that this tireless work is now bestowing on him.
Now, he is mopping up as much juice as possible with the late-breaking success of their monster hit “Breakeven” by headlining a U.S. tour this month (they stop in New York at Terminal 5 on Thursday and Friday, November 4 and 5).
After that, they will be unleashing their second album. Science & Faith hits U.S. shores in January.
In the event you are worried about the stereotypical sophomore slump, fear not! The new album is currently enjoying the top slot on the U.K. charts.
I spoke with O’Donoghue last week about fame, Twitter, and the making of the new Script album. Here’s how it went:
When we last spoke in February, the album was just gaining steam on VH1. Now look at you! Number one hits! What were the highlights for you?
We are doing in the past two years what some other bands spent a lifetime to do. The first album went to number one in the U.K. and the U.S., and now the second one hit number one in the U.K. Having number one albums is certainly a highlight.
Supporting Paul McCartney in New York and U2 in our home turf was a highlight as well. Those gigs were unreal.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to have Paul McCartney give you a nod like that.
To get a seal of approval from a guy like him was amazing. We were told we were his favorite band and we didn’t believe it. We just assumed he heard one of the hits or something.
But he really did like the whole album and was very generous with his audience. He encouraged us to go for it!
I spoke with Glen Hansard about supporting groups…
(Interrupts) I am very familiar with Glen! He inducted me into rock and roll. My brother’s band toured with them years ago and at the tender age of 14, he fed me booze and cigarettes in the back of the tour bus and taught me cards.
I remember a game called s***thead that he would play. It was an Irish rock and roll hall of fame moment.
Good story. Glen’s philosophy is that he would love to be the support band so that he could steal the audience. Did you feel that way?
I’d say that. A lot of bands would shy away from having a band that gave them a run for their money, but the ones that know they deliver the goods aren’t too worried about the support band.
You don’t want to go see two crap bands, and the headliner knows that. There is a lot of ego there as well, but we have been lucky in that the people we have worked with have encouraged us to do our best.
You must have been gratified as a songwriter for Kris Allen to have a hit with “Live Like We’re Dying.” (O’Donoghue and Sheehan were co-writers of the song.)
When we did that song we did it loads of different ways. We believed in it and loved it, but it didn’t look like a hit. We released it as a B-side for Germany.
His A&R man heard something in it that he liked for Kris. We had a battle in some stations where they would add his song and drop ours from rotation and vice-versa.
We were delighted to have that kind of problem! It was a good battle to be in because you win either way.
Did you like what they did with it, and how did it feel to hear the song re-worked?
It was cool. One thing as a songwriter you are trying to do is that you hope the song stands up, regardless of who sings it. Can you strip it down to piano, guitar, and kazoo -- will it still be a good song?
I loved your album when it first came out and I played it for my teenage daughter. She hated it, until she heard it on the radio more and she is now a fan. Kids today!
It’s great to hear you say that, and not the first time I have heard it go down that way. True music lovers caught onto the album first, and then the industry turned their ear to it. From there, it becomes popular culture.
It’s great to have the popular success, but it is equally great to have music aficionados love what you do as well.
What was the behind the decision to wait for three months before you release the new album here in the U.S.? U.K. fans are already buying it.
For us right now, “Breakeven” is still doing massively well on radio. We don’t want to compete with our own stuff. We are an Irish band and are mindful of those acts that abandon the U.K. fans to make it in America.
We are trying to serve fans on both sides of the Atlantic. The album got done just in time for our U.K. tour and that worked out well.
For us, having a U.K. fan base and nurturing is important, and we had to release something there now because they got into the first album before America caught on. And it’s still catching on over here.
We’re a slow burner. This has been a slow and steady build. We are so excited to have an extensive tour -- not just New York and the East Coast. This is what it takes to break a band in America.
We are right on the cusp of breaking the album. There is still a groundswell of music. None of us came from a reality show. We earned fans one person at a time and continue to do it.
Being a songwriter and producer, I knew when “Man” and “Breakeven” seemed pretty good inroads. We never thought of “Rusty Halo” as a single because it wouldn’t be a good intro.
As you recorded the second album, were you mindful of the pressure to put something out that would avoid that dreaded sophomore slump?
We didn’t think of anything about that. We put the kettle on and started to think about what we wanted to do next. The difficult album was really the first one -- what sound do you want? What do we want the band to be?
On the second one, you can build based on what you know what works and what doesn’t. It took us four months to write the second album, which is a testament to our confidence as a band.
Wow. Four months to write an album! Did you have any leftovers from the last one to help you out?
We are trying to top every song we write with the next one that comes after it, so we didn’t use anything from the first album for that reason.
Has fame changed you or the dynamic of the band? I remember McCartney saying he and John Lennon were the only ones that really knew what it was like to have this measure of songwriting success, and that forged a bond between them.
It’s funny, we all feel the same. It is extraordinary. We think it’s business as usual. We don’t hold it as sacred as John and Paul.
There are plenty of people that know what it is like to be in the band. The songwriting dynamic in this band, what it takes to make a Script song, is unique.
Are you personally involved in your web marketing and social networking on sites like Facebook?
Totally. Show business is a business! Every band has to be involved on the web side of the marketing of your band. If you’re not on board, you will be left behind.
Look at what happened to the music business -- companies were not willing to change with the times and now look at them. We will not make that mistake.
How do you feel about illegal downloading?
The analysis of a downloader and its place in the music business should prove that those people have their place and play an important role. People who share mixed tapes is not a new phenomenon, and file sharers are similar.
You need these people to spread the word: you want those people showing 10 of their friends because they like to be first. They then create awareness to 12 people that wouldn’t have known about it.
We started become less precious about it. We do live feeds on Twitter, show live shows, show backstage banter. When you are on tour, why not?
People love to see real people. The paparazzo doesn’t have much power anymore if you put it all out there. You took power away from the people who never should have had it in the first place!
(The Script will play Terminal 5 in New York this Thursday and Friday, Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Saturday, and Boston’s House of Blues on Sunday. Check them out on thescriptmusic.com.)