The Script: armed with a noble cause and a large platform
Adapt or die. Darwin said it, Brad Pitt in Moneyball said it, and now The Script are saying it, ready with an album intended for the streaming generation. More specifically, it’s Mark Sheehan bearing the words, supported by an “abso-f**ckin-lutely” from Danny O’Donoghue, as we meet in a private room at a London restaurant.
It’s the first time I’ve met the trio, including drummer Glen Power, since their 2014 album No Sound Without Silence, and the shift isn’t only in the songs. They still race their words and talk over each other, enthused to tell you, and thus me, about album number five. But they’re noticeably calmer while at it. They’re not a band who have much more to prove, with an unbroken record of Irish number one albums, 29 million records and 1.4 million ticket sales under their leather belts. And there is, of course, O’Donoghue’s prolific spell as judge on The Voice to assure them of their place on Spotify playlists.
So older, wiser and more famous, they’re using their position to change. Previously the beholders of glossy rock and oversized choruses delivered with textbook production, judging by the six of the 14 songs from Freedom Childwe’ve heard, their sound now takes in acoustic sounds, dancehall groove and a tinge of EDM.
“We have to adapt because the landscape of music is changing so much, particularly for bands,” says Mark Sheehan. “Streaming has changed how we’re experiencing music. A lot of people are listening through their phones and using earphones, and a hit song is just a song that becomes popular, and you don’t really hear its genre. So it’s a new generation for music.”
Lyrically too, they’ve moved from singing about personal experiences, as with If You Could See Me Now and Hall of Fame. The album often focuses on the world we live in today: the message is to stay united, and live our best lives in the face of terrorism
O’Donoghue, now based between London and LA, picks up the point, citing new song Divided States of America as the example. “We were in America when Trump’s inauguration was happening, and you couldn’t walk down the street without seeing how divided America was. The guy selling cigarettes could be a Democrat and the guy he’s selling them to could be a Trump supporter. We wrote with three or four different producers and writers, and some of them would leave the session to go to a march. It was all around us.
“We wanted to write a song that said we’re not on the red or the blue side, but f**k me, we all have to show a massive amount of tolerance here. Instead of sitting in your echo chamber, you need to hear someone else’s side of the story.”
To help them in their aim of making an album for the times, a number of collaborators were brought in including Nasri, Toby Gad (who wrote Beyoncé’s If I Were a Boy and John Legend’s All of Me), and members of Max Martin’s hit factory.