In early 2020, The Script were flying high. The band’s sixth album Sunsets and Full Moons, released the previous November, had been their fifth album to hit Number One in the UK. Frontman Danny O’Donoghue called it straight, describing it as "the most poignant album we’ve ever made”, written and recorded in the aftermath of the singer losing his mother.
That loss rocket-powered songs like Run Through Walls, and also gave other tracks like The Last Time (“we said that it would last, but how come it’s the last time?”) added emotional heft. And the fans responded in kind, sending the album to the top of the charts. It added to the remarkable tally of the Irish trio’s achievements of the preceding 11 years: five previous platinum-selling albums, 6 billion streams, 30 million single sales, 11 million album sales, 13 million monthly Spotify listeners and 2 million tickets sold across headline shows globally.
So, come the beginning of last year, there was more where that came from in the shape of a sold-out UK arena tour. But then, of course, history came knocking.
“We were just coming towards the end of a tour,” begins Glen Power (drums, vocals). First, he remembers things being scaled back. “Part of our thing is to get up close and personal with our fans – in fact, part of our show then was to go into the audience for a b-stage moment. We’re a really tactile band – we like to meet people, and suddenly our meet & greets starting getting cancelled. Then, we were in Aberdeen and we were due to go to Newcastle – and we had some big shows in Dublin, arena shows at Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. And then everything got cancelled. It was terrible all round, of course. But for us as a band it was devastating.”
Remembering the dark days of last March, O’Donoghue still sounds shocked, “I walked offstage at what turned out to be the last show – we decided to end about a week before the government made it mandatory – with 16,000 people’s voices ringing in my ears, singing For The First Time. And I jumped in my car, went to my house in London – and there I was for 18 months. It was such a shock to the system! Then there were just the four of us in the house – me, my missus, and then our reflections staring at us in the mirror!” he laughs.
Like all of us, the singer/songwriter turned inwards. “And then I got to meet a lot of versions of myself: Confused Me, Optimistic Me, Working Out Me and Fat Me! Like there was four of us, there were all these different scenarios, hanging out together.”
As guitarist Mark Sheehan notes, “it’s been a redefining time for us, like it has for everyone. If we can’t play live, who are we?"
It was time for the group to regroup – but if they couldn’t physically do that, how best to do that, for their own sake as musicians but also for the fans’ sake?
Cue a greatest hits. Cue Tales From The Script, the first ever best of from a band with enough hits and fan-favourites to make that a blockbuster 18-track double album.
“We realised, if we were ever going to do something like this, now is the time,” says Power. “We’ve been together so long, and after all these years of writing and releasing and playing, let’s celebrate that fact.”
And if ever people needed a celebratory set of songs, it’s now.
“Exactly!” exclaims O’Donoghue. “That’s the way I’m really perceiving it. We sat around and talked about what we did next, what our next chapter is. And if we do a seventh album, do people, when they get to come out and see us, do they want to see six, seven new songs? And will we have the opportunity to road-test these songs?
"Then, as we thought we were approaching our anniversary, that felt like another opportunity. And for music fans, what do we want to do in all this? We want to go into a field, or a big hall or arena, with our friends, sing the songs we know and love, sing them with the friends I’ve not been able to see, and have a big party. I think that’s live music in a microcosm right now – the joy of being under a roof together, arm in arm, enjoying things we love.
"So, a greatest hits felt the best way to go, a festival of great moments.”
Then came the hard bit: whittling down their back catalogue. After much discussion, they hit on a solid 17 bangers, with space for one new track.
As Sheehan puts it succinctly, I Want It All (And Then Some), “it’s traditional Script. It just delivers all the ingredients everyone knows and loves”.
Breaking it down, O’Donoghue cites his favourite lyrics: “I don’t want someone I can live with / I want someone I can’t live without / I don’t want someone I can just be with / I want someone I can’t be without / ’Cause I won’t stop looking till I find the one / I want it all – and then some.”
“Lyrically I feel like it’s almost the best of The Script in one song,” he says. “It’s got heart, emotion, melancholy, heartbreak, triumph, a twist in the lyric.”
It’s also a timely lyric. After everything we’ve been through, why not want it all (and then some)? Why settle for anything less than everything? Why settle for anything less than The Script?
As for the other tracks, the band members each have their favourites.
Firstly, Sheehan shouts out 2008’s debut single We Cry. “That stands out for me because it was our first actual music video we did as a band. And going to New York to shoot that – just to go there anyway as an Irish person is always a buzz, but to shoot a video there with your band was just incredible. That was a real moment for me as a musician. There were so many things that were unknown to us – and so many fears. And that was the song that really helped us develop our sound, and the first moment that we realised, hang on, we might have something here.”
Power nominates another early track, Before The Worst. “That was also in the first three songs we wrote, and on this one I got to write the guitar part, which I’m really proud of. Mark invited me over to his apartment in Los Angeles to do some work. And at the time I had no money – I slept on Mark’s couch – so I had to get a Credit Union loan to pay for the flight. But I remember being about to leave for the trip thinking to myself, jeepers, I’m going all the way to America, I can’t afford it, and I don’t know what’s gonna happen…
“Me and Danny would still be in our bedrooms if it wasn’t for our Mark,” he continues. “He has a great head for organisation and gathering the flock and steering the ship. Me and Danny are very good on the oars, but you need somebody at the front of the ship who can avoid the icebergs! That’s Mark, and that’s why I have really fond memories of writing that song in LA with Mark, making up that acoustic guitar part on his couch while he was producing. It was another foundation song for the band.”
Breakeven, another track from the band’s self-titled debut, also gets Power’s vote, “because of the drumbeat – it’s a hard groove to play live. For me, that’s the most important one from the first album because it’s the genesis of what we became. I knew we were headed for good things.”
For his first pick, O’Donoghue digs in the crates, too, noting the personal resonance of second single The Man Who Can’t Be Moved. “It was the last song my dad heard before he passed away. One of my greater moments as a songwriter was to write a song that stood the test of time. I love singing it every night. I love the message. And if there’s a song that encapsulates the emotion of who I am, that’s it. So, I’m so pleased that my dad got hear that.”
Then he pivots to Hall of Fame, the 2012 tune that was the lead track from the album #3 and which featured will.i.am. “Just when you were frightened you might be a one-hit wonder, or that you were lucky with the second album, that song came along,” he says of the track that’s their most streamed track on Spotify, only a million or shy of one billion plays. “It was written quite fast, and the reach that’s had around the world is incredible. It’s a universal message, one that resonated with the public. It got played at the London 2012 Paralympics, and it was used again in Tokyo this summer. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime song, and coming from our third album, it really solidified us as a career band.”
Finally, O’Donoghue has to foreground Run Through Walls, the song written after his mum passed away. “I look at that song and I feel like, here we are, 12, 13 years later, and we’re still doing what we always wanted to do with music: putting an immense amount of pain, feeling and emotion into our songs. And we’re using music as therapy, and as a vehicle to express those sentiments. As someone said, art is the only justification for pain. I live by that. Here we are, all these years later, still passionately believing in that.
“And also here we are, three friends, still standing on stage together, still singing that we’d run through walls for each other. That encapsulates the spirit of The Script.”
That spirit will once again be flowing strong in 2022, when the band take the Tales from The Script show on the road. As Power says, “taking all the best songs and playing them all together in one place – that’ll turn it into a celebration that we’ve survived and we’ve all got through to this moment together”.
For sure. This isn’t a full-stop on the band’s career – more, it’s a celebratory exclamation mark after everything we’ve all been through.
vThat's a feeling and sensation Danny O’Donoghue can’t wait for. As a frontman, he loves getting in amongst it. Or, as he puts it, “a Script show is me going through the audience, touching hands, shaking hands, being with the audience. That’s the kind of band we are, and that’s what our fans expect. And we need that as much as the fans – maybe more so! So I can’t wait for us to provide that Script energy. It’s a springboard to our next chapter, but it’s also our story so far. That’s why it’s called Tales from the Script.”
He’s right. He does need it more than the fans.
“I’m super-charged!” the frontman grins. “I know I’m gonna lose it on stage, night after night. I don’t think you’ve ever met a band more excited about doing a best of and then taking it on the road.”