through the eye of the storm
HE'S BEEN THROUGH THE MILL WITH HIS MOTHER'S ILLNESS, THE SCRIPT'S DANNY TELLS CHRIS WASSER - BUT HE haS COME OUT THE OTHER SIDE cOUNTING HIS BLESSINGS
Danny O'Donoghue is staring intently at my head. "Whatya done, did you get your hair cut?" he asks. Well, if that isn't a sign that The Script's front man remembers our previous encounter, I don't know what is.
Last time we met, I had, er, more on top. "I'm going for the Mark look," I respond, referring to his shiny-headed band mate, guitarist Mark Sheehan.
"Ha, you just need the beard and the accent now," he jests.
Later, I watch as Danny poses for the photographer, cracking a joke about Photoshop.
The punchline: the bequiffed Dubliner doesn't need it. I wholeheartedly agree. He asks for me to step in to the shot. Naturally, I make the same quip, and Danny chuckles (thanks for that). To top it all off, he then decides to add a little shock to proceedings.
"This is our last album," he announces. Sorry, what? Did the chap really just declare that No Sound Without Silence - the Script's fourth long-player in six years - is to be the final addition to the band's repertoire?
"Yeah… under Sony". Another laugh. "You thought you just got an exclusive there! You can probably put that as the headline…"
Tonight, Danny and his boys perform at Dublin Castle. Call it an album launch, call it a homecoming. Either way, it's a big weekend for Ireland's favourite, million-selling pop-rock trio. Naturally, they're nervous.
"It's always the same," admits Danny (33). "I think if you don't get nervous about that stuff, then you're living on the moon, because the industry is so fickle that you can go away, do an album, come back and then people don't like you anymore. Dublin Castle, it's an appetiser. It's also like a homecoming, I mean, nobody has played there for about 10 years now, so it's a really great venture to be the first band to sort of kick off - fingers crossed - more gigs there. Who knows, maybe Garth Brooks can do 50 nights in Dublin Castle..."
For album number four, Danny didn't expect to spend so much time back home. He'd called time on his TV career as a coach alongside Tom Jones and Jessie J on The Voice UK.
The tour was over. This was to be the first Script record in years without any outside distractions. But then, one day, the phone rang at his house in Ealing, London. His mother, Ailish, had been rushed St James's Hospital. She had suffered a brain aneurysm. Danny headed straight for the airport.
"That was it," he nods, "I didn't see my own house then for another nine months."
To hell with the day job - everyone would understand. Mark, alongside drummer Glen Power, gave their friend some space.
"It wasn't 'sorry lads', it was just everybody assumes position. The lads are incredibly protective, as you would be. So they just fended everything off, and it wasn't even a question, nobody was like, 'what are we gonna do'? It was just, like it's all done - just do your thing."
As it turns out, Danny would actually find solace in work.
If he wasn't spending time at his mother's bedside, he was to be found writing lyrics at Temple Lane Studios.
"It was great to have the studio there, to go down and just be a punching bag. I didn't know what I was doing, just letting out emotions, you know? I mean, even the first week my ma was in hospital, I was down in the studio, because that's my therapy. A lot of things come up to the top when you're faced with something like that."
All of a sudden, Danny from The Script went back to being Danny from Ballinteer.
"There were moments where it was like The Script never happened," he explains, "you know, two months, going to James' every day, back and forth, living in my ma's house, and then coming into town, which I hadn't done in a while, I used to wear a hat, glasses, hoodie up - try and make myself look like a skanger, walking round so nobody would come near me. It was great, there was nobody coming up to me on the street or anything because I was in disguise. The minute the f***in' quiff comes out, everyone's like…"
He elicits a yelp. Because that's what Danny O'Donoghue does to the ladies. I ask how his mam is doing.
"Yeah, she's doing great. Obviously, with a head injury, it's a long road to recovery, but she's right where she should be."
Did he write about what had happened? After all, if there's one thing Danny and chums are famous for, it's wearing their collective hearts on their sleeves, and the glistening No Sound Without Silence - a big-old, hook-heavy, stadium-prepared pop record - is no different.
"I think (lead single) Superheroes, in a way, would have been my side of what I was going through. My mum is definitely my superhero, she's made of another type of metal, to be able to go through what she did and then come out the other side, against all odds."
Let's talk about The Voice UK. Danny walked away from a career on Saturday night television with the BBC after just two seasons.
Presumably, so he could focus his attention on the band. "It wasn't that I wasn't giving it 100pc," he answers, "I was giving everything 200pc and I think that was the problem."
He's well aware of what the show did for the group's career - new fans, bigger record sales, a smash-hit single in the form of Hall of Fame, featuring fellow Voice coach will.i.am, and so on.
But Danny is a full-time musician, producer and songwriter. Something had to give.
"I did feel that, as far as a career goes, I was like, 'what if'? What if we went back to basics? What if we just retracted from everything? What if it was the three of us again in a room?"
And, of course, what if The Script parted ways with the BBC? "You start to become part of the establishment," he continues, "and it was only after I left The Voice that we were invited on to do Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. We were talking to some people [on the show] and they were like, 'the only reason why we asked you to do it was because you're no longer seen as BBC property'."
"We weren't thinking about that at the time, but I thought, in retrospect, [leaving The Voice] was a great thing to do. I could be on my fourth season now, and not getting played anywhere, or not being allowed on the likes of X Factor." Incidentally, Danny is still in favour of reality singing competitions.
"As a musician, there's only two music shows that are on right now that get up to 12 million [viewers], so it would be absolutely stupid to turn around and not go on the X Factor if we were offered a chance to perform on the [live] show, because our fans watch X Factor, our fans watch The Voice. As highbrow as anybody wants to be about these shows, we still need them."
Danny is a chatterbox. He talks about the time their tour bus crashed in America - an incident that bruised both limbs and egos. Basically, the band was jamming down the back when the brakes locked on the freeway, causing an almighty swerve ("If I hadn't been drunk, I might have been hurt!").
And then, of course, there's the Danny and Mark bromance.
"We fight like cats and dogs - find me two friends that don't. But we fight over the things that are incredibly important to each other - the music, our vision, where we're going. There's a massive amount of love there… we are friends more than we are band mates. If anything from the band came in between that, we would stop the band and keep the friendship."
He professes his admiration for Brendan O'Carroll (The Script wrote a song for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie). Oh, and make no mistake, The Script loves Sony.
That aforementioned 'shock' comment refers only to the fact that the band's current contract expires after the release of their fourth album.
Which means a bidding war will soon commence. Danny also teases out details of a bigger Irish concert in 2015.
"We've done the Aviva, and it was an amazing night, we have a DVD - I'm not saying we can better it…but there's so many other different places we aspire to play. Off the top of my head, obviously, Croke Park is a huge one, Slane is another huge one, Phoenix Park - these have all been suggested."
It's simply a case of waiting to see how the album performs. But Danny from The Script is where he wants to be, surrounded by what he calls "two of the most level-headed Dubs in the industry. I'm way further than where I wanted to be," he finishes. "Past the first album, everything is a f***ing dream. Everything is a blessing."
No Sound Without Silence is out now