Danny O'Donoghue: "If I didn’t have this time to develop myself, I don’t think I’d be the person that I am"
Alice Gee | 17/01/2022
Catching up with The Script’s Danny O’Donoghue was somewhat of a special moment for me. I’ve been a dedicated fan of The Script for years. As a kid, you could find me at a gig of theirs, whether I was 5 or in my late teens. My dad and I would religiously find time to go to gigs together. It was 2009 and we were in attendance of their self-titled debut album’s tour at O2’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire, still one of my favourite venues. It’s a poignant memory, the room alight with voices accompanying each and every harmony from them performing their notable track “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” which shot them to fame amongst others like “If You See Kay”. It’s a memory I’m thrown back to often, something that still comes up in conversation ten years on. As we jump on a Zoom call the conversation flowed, with us finding ourselves catching up about the time we had over COVID-19. Having jumped in his car post-gig Danny found himself grounded for the next 18 months, something he hasn’t done since his career began.
“I went through a whole rainbow of emotions, the whole spectrum. We were onstage, singing “Hall of Fame”, one of the most triumphant Script songs out there, with 16,000 people in Scotland going crazy. We’d kind of heard all week about this thing called COVID and that it might put a stop to live shows. I was thinking at the time “how serious could it be?” As you know, we’ve never seen anything like that before. I remember I got into a car and drove to my house. And then I was stuck there for 18 months.”
“I feel like the first lockdown was a bit of a novelty in a way. We were going through this together, all of us trying to figure it out. I think it started hitting me around Christmas time when the second lockdown came in that everybody’s mental health had spiralled. Being the head of the household was difficult as I didn’t have answers. I mean, our government didn’t have the answers, let alone us trying to say that we had answers to what was going to get us out of this situation. So, I felt like that it was an incredibly weird situation to be in. Normally I would have had my dad or my mum to say things are going to be okay, but my mum and dad passed away several years ago so I couldn’t lean into that. I think I found all these memories of the past come back to play.”
As I listen intently I find myself checking into the privilege I have in being able to turn to my parents for comfort, something I’m terrified of losing. Without his parents to turn to in those moments for reassurance I wonder how Danny felt having to look these problems in the eye with no distractions for the first time in what I imagine has been years.
“My life for the past 12 years has been almost in fast forward so I haven’t been necessarily present in the moment. I think what happened was, over those 12 years, in terms of the band we’ve had the birth of children, the deaths of parents, but we always kept going, we always had the music to keep us going, giving us a must go on kind of mentality. There’s a lot of truth to that. I’ve been using this analogy of how the problems I’ve experienced have just been put to the back of the bus that we’ve been driving 70 miles an hour down the road. And what happened with COVID was that the brakes got put on and every one of those problems slammed against the window, and all of a sudden, I had to face them, and there’s no getting away from it. You know all of a sudden you have to look yourself in the mirror every day because you can’t go out and distract yourself with the things that you normally would. What I mean by that is everybody lost somebody close to them during COVID, or lost a job, or had some part of their lives turned upside down. Although I can’t directly ever take away anybody’s pain from what they’ve gone through from this devastating disease. I keep trying to think if there’s any positive that we can take from this, and if there is, it’s the changes in what we need for our mental health.”
Having spent lockdown with his partner I wondered how spending the intense time together came in the form of support for one another with most of the country finding it ‘relationship suicide’ just like the lyrics in “Talk You Down”.
“I feel the positive side of it is, if you were with somebody that you weren’t meant to be with, you had to stare them down and realise that you’re not right for each other. And if you were with the right person it solidified that relationship. On a field like this, there’s a tandem of the haves and have nots. The thing I hope people take from the breakdown of relationships is that they are now on the first step forward towards the right person. I almost feel being positive in both directions, the people who stayed together have the chance to be together forever, and then the people who broke up, which inevitably, they almost had to, have hopefully set them on that path to freedom.”
In a time which for most was intense, many found themselves having to stare their fears down. I asked Danny if finding himself challenging his fears head-on helped him find peace of mind after finding such huge success for over ten years.
“One of my fears was what happens if this all stops, what happens if The Script stops, and I can’t be with the boys. I’ve realised routine is important in my life. For me, one of the worst parts was that the gyms were closed. I started kickboxing a while ago and that, to me was massive, because no matter what was going on in my life, I could always go and I mean, literally, take it out on a punching bag. I needed that in my life. Otherwise, I find I hide from myself on the inside and I get into my own mind.”
As someone with Bipolar, I found lockdowns difficult at times when it came to my mental health but I focused on trying to find silver linings. I was intrigued to see if he had found the positives out of the moment of peace.
“Being someone who really likes to look at the positive side of life, I’m glad to say it, selfishly, I had good moments in terms of self-development I really didn’t know I needed it until I was given it. If I didn’t have this time to develop myself, I don’t think I’d be the person that I am. I feel like someone pressed pause on my life. Everything just stopped and I found myself thinking why am I constantly thinking about things like trying to have a song in Billboard’s top 100. I told myself it’s time to sit down to listen to an album or watch this beautiful sunset going on with my girlfriend. I felt that I have been on this imaginary rat wheel for a while so during lockdown I got to address that which brought the magic back to certain things in my life.”
The word magic feels really suitable when speaking of the music industry right now. Having returned from The Isle of Wight Festival with the HATC team in September, I feel like we’ve just had an amazing magical experience. Having been inside my flat for over a year, standing in the pit watching The Script with a smile our faces was so freeing and something that Danny clearly shared with his audience.
“It’s been great being back on stage at festivals. We did a warm-up show in Romania before IOW. It was the first one in so long that wasn’t closed off because of the government’s restrictions. I just remember there being a palpable sense of relief, watching the crowd feeling so happy to be around others. I literally said to them “Please do me a favour, and just look around at each other. Look at what we’ve all accomplished here today”. Honestly, the power of people at that moment. I then told everybody to take out their phones and turn the light on to try and create a whole constellation of stars. It was breath taking, you could see 40,000 to 60,000 people light up the sky, a constellation of stars the whole way through. I told them each one of those lights represents a story. Each one of those lights represents two years of pain, torture, and craziness. At that moment I felt we’re lucky to be here, so while we’re allowed to take a deep breath, be with our family and be with our friends, you really have got to go for it. I can’t stress that enough, life is too short. Think about the people that we lost, all those people that if this never happened would still be here. It’s been so tough on everyone and although it sounds so ridiculous a big part of coming out of COVID is the mental health side of things, there is no doubt that the next wave of this pandemic will be centred around mental health.”
He’s not wrong, we are already in an epidemic as a country when it comes to the mental health crisis and the number of those suffering. With many endeavouring to make little decisions and changes even if they can’t change the world, I delved into what makes Danny happy and how he’s hoping to infuse even a little bit of what happens with their next project, their greatest hits album.
“It’s exactly the reason why we’re doing it. I had this question mentally in my mind of what do we want to do when this is all over? Although we’ve been in contact with our fans online the whole time, so many have felt cut off from the world and they just want to go to a place they used to go and sing songs that they love to sing with people that they know and love, alongside getting back to something normal. For many, it’s dipping your foot back in the pool. So, I feel like coming out with a seventh album and playing track number nine of a seventh album isn’t the right thing right now. You’re not going to find a band happier about making a greatest hits album. I guess in a way it’s very selfish that I’m not giving you new music but I feel like it’s the smartest idea that we could have come up with as everyone knows every song. There’s no guessing, the tour does exactly what it says on the tin.”
Although Danny calls it selfish, I think it might actually become its opposite. After 6 hugely successful albums, who can blame them? A night where each and every fan can dance, sing and purely enjoy the music they know and love for a worry-free moment, is something wholeheartedly needed after the past two years. It all comes down to a group of people enjoying one of the purest joys in life, good music. Something The Script are determined to give.