Irish band The Script are in Leeds next week. Mark Sheehan spoke to Duncan Seaman about touring, albums – and Mrs Brown’s Boys.
Irish pop rock group The Script are a band who have always liked to stay on top of their game.
There was no endless partying for Danny O’Donoghue, Mark Sheehan and Glen Power on their last world tour. Instead the Hall of Fame and Superheroes hit makers decided to spend their downtime between gigs trying to channel the vitality of their live shows into writing a successor to their third million-selling album in a row. “We wanted to do something that was a bit more creative,” says 38-year-old guitarist Sheehan. “We took a tour bus on the road that had a recording studio. We decided to bottle up that energy that we get when we get off stage.”
The very nature of the concerts they were playing, particularly on their US dates with OneRepublic and Train, meant the Dublin trio often found themselves at large out- of-town venues that were “far away from anywhere, with nowhere to go and nothing to do”. Such experiences can turn you “into a bit of a recluse”, Sheehan concedes. “Rather than drink away or smoke away our time afterwards we decided to do something a bit more creative with it.”
Performing to audiences of 20,000 to 30,000 people a night informed the songs they were writing for what was to become their fourth album, No Sound Without Silence.
“When you’re playing to larger-than-life crowds every night, your songs reflect that. To be as organic and natural as possible you have to go with the flow. We were going all round the States and having a studio there all the time was a great thing. It added to the epic nature, the larger-than-life feel to the songs.”
The bolder sound of album, with its fattened up bass and drums, owes much to the band’s increasing confidence as producers. “We’re feeling our way through the industry a little bit by copying our heroes,” considers Sheehan. “When we mess things up it’s more original. If someone said, ‘That’s a G minor over 5th’ I wouldn’t know what you were talking about. Everything is by ear for us.”
From producing their own records to managing themselves and signing their own deals, The Script have long maintained a close control over their careers. Sheehan says their sense of autonomy has actually “got better” as they’ve become more and more popular.
“What has become difficult is making decisions,” he says. “I give myself enough rope to hang myself with.
“The label leave us to our own devices. They check on us but they’ve always facilitated us as much as possible. We’re an even bigger band than The Script in our heads but we’ve tried to retain control of that. Identity is very important. Nowadays people are putting so many dates and times in front of us, it’s difficult to make decisions, but it’s fun at the same time.”
The band’s willingness to do a lot of leg work throughout their career, gigging their way up from pubs and clubs to arenas, has stood them in good stead. Sheehan admits it felt rewarding when No Sound Without Silence broke the top 10 in the US and top five in Australia, as well as reaching Number One in the UK and Ireland.
“What I’m most happy about is that we’ve navigated ourselves through the shark pit of the music industry,” he says. “Now we’re booked right up until Christmas time. It’s quite daunting but I can see the need to do this. We’re at this point where we have to step it up, to make something of this year.
“We’re still selling out shows. The tour is 50 per cent up this year, people are still coming to see us all over the world – that’s the meter.”
The only major markets left to fall under The Script’s spell are Germany and Japan. Even there Sheehan detects signs of a breakthrough. “Danny went over there and appeared on the German [edition of] The Voice. We’re building a name for ourselves [in Germany], we’re playing venues with 4,000 to 5,000.
“We’ve just got back from Japan. We don’t sell a single unit there but it’s fun to go there and feel like a new band again. We played to 1,200 people the other night. It’s fun that challenge. We wanted to shed some light on it this year. Hopefully we’ll go back and do some festivals.”
Just as Ricky Wilson’s appearances as a mentor on the BBC One talent show The Voice subsequently succeeded in giving the Kaiser Chiefs a fillip, Sheehan appreciates the boost that The Script gained from singer Danny O’Donoghue’s two-season stint in one of those famous swivelling chairs.
“It did amazing things for the band’s profile,” he says. “We did not sell more or less records but we were a faceless band up to that point, we’d lose out on news stories or promotion. We chose to be faceless but we were not getting in the papers or talked about on the radio. We were cursed by our own wish. Danny doing The Voice was a great thing.”
When it seemed like the singer had become “BBC property” and “ the likes of ITV stopped booking us”, it was time for O’Donoghue to move on. “Now we’re busier than ever,” says Sheehan. “We’re free agents again. It was quite a political move.”
This month The Script make a welcome return to Leeds, a city where they’ve played several times including at Party in the Park. This time they’ll headline the 13,000 capacity First Direct Arena.
“We love coming to Leeds,” smiles Sheehan. “People in general all over the UK are brilliant, they love us. It feels like home. People want to be hospitable and show us a good time. We are completely spoilt.”
n The Script play at the First Direct Arena on February 24, 7.30pm. For tickets visit http://www.firstdirectarena.com/events/