The Script’s Danny O’Donoghue: 'People like the music, they don’t like us'

The Script singer and ex‑The Voice judge got a letter from the Queen. Is he trying to be Bono now?

Hi Danny from the Script! I understand you’ve been doing a photoshoot today. What’s your favourite pose?

My favourite pose is definitely Blue Steel (1). I love it. I’m a dab hand at it. No, but photographers always want to have the tats out. The photographer comes around and says: “Get your tats out for the lads” and we do it. I took up photography two years ago so I quite like dealing with photographers and finding out their tricks.

What do you take pictures of?

Myself. Nah, just kidding. Everything. I get unrivalled access to bands and I’m always at after-parties and things like that so I’ve got loads of photographs that I can use to bribe the rest of the music industry.

Bryan Adams is a photographer now, of course.

He’s actually a brilliant photographer. He was in the running to do the Script’s album sleeve, believe it or not.

But it’s not a picture of the band is it, like the last one?

We learned from that. People like the music, they don’t like us. I was always a massive fan of the old album artwork where there was a lot of thought put into the imagery and stuff. We did that for two albums and then when I did The Voice we thought, “Well this looks like it’s going to be our full-frontal album, our pop album,” so we thought we’d embrace that. Obviously since I quit The Voice it’s back to the music.

Your full-frontal album? It’s not that bad.

Yeah well not full-frontal nude! It’s not balls out!

Is it true you punched a fan in the face after he tugged on your scrotum?

Basically, yeah. It was made out in the press like I was touched up in the shower trying to get clean, but it was actually at a show in Brussels and I was walking through the crowd and this guy, who was obviously really drunk and wanted to show off, went up in between my legs and grabbed me by the balls and pulled them down. I turned around and I could see him mouthing to his mates “I grabbed him by the balls,” so I smacked him in the face. There were no charges pressed. He learned a lesson and I learned a lesson.

Let’s talk briefly about The Voice. Have you apologised to that nice Will Young yet for stealing his job? (2)

Not at all. I don’t even know what the story was with that. I know a bunch of different people had auditioned for the job – Mary J Blige, John Legend and apparently Will Young. I was called on the Monday to ask if I’d audition and I went in and while I was in there I got one of those BBC identity badge things. I took it off because I thought it was a bit stupid looking and I went and sat down on the couch and did the interview. Halfway through the conversation my arse cheeks started to get really warm and I thought “Oh my god, there’s something leaking in my back pocket.” I aced the interview and got everyone laughing and then as I went to leave I realised the pin had been sticking in my arse the whole interview.

Your bum was literally leaking?

In my arse. So as I was walking out I said: “I hope you don’t mind I just need to remove a pin from my fucking arse.” I got the job.

In the audition did they make you spin round on an office chair to practice?

That was their little tactic, yeah. They sang a song and then I spun round. (3)

You’ve said before that it’s all about the music and not the image, but the music industry doesn’t really work like that does it? People want something nice to look at.

These days it is less about the music, which I think is appalling. How dare you judge somebody’s music on how they look? Image doesn’t mean you have to be the most stylish person or you have to be good-looking – an image is just an image. Adele has an image. Sam Smith has an image. Neither would be poster-boys for your X Factors simply because they are the anti-star. They’re not adhering to the mantra of you have to be a fucking size zero to be a star. I really like those types of artists, that show you can get there with ability. Adele’s record sales right now piss all over everybody’s.

The Voice has struggled to find an actual star. Would you say it’s been a success?

There are two things I’ve always said about The Voice and that’s that The X Factor is a TV show run by the music industry whereas The Voice seems to be a music show run by a TV company. It’s hard when you’re up against people that have been in the industry for so long like Simon Cowell but I have to say that yes The Voice has been a success, as a TV show. Of course it has. But as far as finding an artist, I take great pride in knowing that I’m the only coach off the show that’s taken their artist into the top 10.

One of my favourite moments involving the Script is when you performed in front of the Queen at Radio 1 and at the end she just clapped once and that was it! Quite rude.

No it wasn’t rude! We were told she wouldn’t clap at all. Seriously. We were told that when she’s there on her own without an audience, she doesn’t clap. We were told to keep the music really low and there were all these red tapes to jump over and she came in and she was cool. Really nice.

Maybe more than one clap would actually have been a signal to have you or Fearne Cotton killed or something.

In fairness I was happy with one clap. What was beautiful is that a week later a letter arrived to my house from the Queen thanking us for the performance. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. A touch of class that totally made up for any lack of clapping.

Your new album, No Sound Without Silence, was mainly recorded on tour and what usually happens when a band records songs after performing in front of thousands of people is they make pretentious-sounding songs that are emotionally hollow and meaningless. How have you avoided that?

What we tend to do is concentrate on the lyrics and melody first and make sure the song is prepared. We’d be writing during soundcheck so you’re always thinking that there will be people listening to this song. I get to stand out on an empty stage and imagine all the people there.

The album title’s quite philosophical. Here’s what you said about it: “There is no sound without silence. You can’t have anything good to say if you don’t think about it first.” Don’t you think that sometimes just blurting something out is the purest form of expression?

I think so, yeah. I know what you mean and that’s the artistic approach of how you shouldn’t be thinking about what you do as far as art because then you access your inner child and children don’t think and they don’t have any conscious thought, but what we meant was the metaphor that there was silence before and there will be silence afterwards. I really do feel that today people blurt out too fucking much, people are on Twitter straight away saying I think this or that and they’re not really listening.

Say something to me now. The first thing that comes into your head. Go.


What’s the first thing that comes into your head now?

Solfeggio frequencies.

I beg your pardon?

They’re an ancient set of frequencies that were found in the Bible code that apparently are the true representation of music. They have healing qualities in them. Look it up, man!

Your new single Superheroes is about the “unsung heroes in the world” and people who hold their heads high in bad situations, but in the video the guy lies to his son about his job because he’s ashamed. That’s quite sad isn’t it?

You haven’t watched the video because it’s not his son it’s his daughter! (4)

Oh dear. Well, his child.

Did someone else write that question down for you? She’s not being lied to, but I do know what you mean. He’s just trying to shield her from what’s going on in the real world. The overall theme of the video overrides what you’re saying, or rather what someone else is saying and you’re just reading out.

Some YouTube commentators have said the video feels a bit patronising. What do you say to that?

I think it’s amazing because anything that causes debate in that whole situation I totally commend. I know a lot of people have said we should have a link at the end of the video where people can donate but we’re not there to save the world, or show how impoverished it is, it was about telling one story out of a million stories around the world. We could have done it anywhere, but Johannesburg was the choice of the video director. We spent a lot of time with the local community and we went to theatres this guy was running to train young kids how to act and let out their pain, and we’re symbiotic with that theatre now. We’re not trying to cure the problems of the world.

You’re not trying to be Bono are you?

No, not at all.

Are you friends with Bono?

He’s an acquaintance, I’d say.

I asked Ryan Tedder to tell me a secret about Bono and he said something boring. Do you have one?

I’ll tell you about the first time I met Bono. I was 17 years old and U2’s manager was also my manager and I was invited out to this greyhound park that U2 owned. Our guitarist Mark got to sit next to The Edge and I was fucking furious because I wasn’t sitting next to anybody. So I was sat there drinking the wine down, then I went over to talk to The Edge. I went to pour wine into his glass and he grabs my arm because I’ve been pouring wine all over the fucking table, into his full glass. Anyway, Mark spots that I’m drunk and tries to get me to leave. Later on Bono asks if everyone wants to go this nightclub he owns called The Kitchen and I was like “Fuck, yeah” and Mark was like “Dude, you’re not going anywhere” and I was like “Yes I fucking am.” So listen to this – I turn to wave at the lads, U2, and just as I waved I reached the stairs and I went down the whole flight of stairs on my fucking face. In front of U2. It was the funniest shit ever. I was back home in bed by 11.30. Was that better than the Ryan Tedder story? (5)


(1) The favoured pose of top fictional model Derek Zoolander.

(2) Will was booted off the coaching panel at the last minute because producers wanted someone who was “more rock”.

(3) I could sense some sarcasm here.

(4) Believe me, I’ve watched the video.

(5) It was actually.


Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

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