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The man who can’t be moved: The Script’s Danny O’Donoghue on 10 years at the top, triumphs and troubles

Danny O'Donoghue on stage (Raphael Dias/Getty Images)
Danny O'Donoghue on stage (Raphael Dias/Getty Images)

HE’S the lead singer of a group that has shifted more than 30 million records, who sell out massive arenas and top the charts all over the world.

But The Script frontman Danny O’Donoghue has told iN10 why he’s happy to be the rock star who shuns the usual trappings of excess.

And the singer, who became a firm favourite of even more millions as a coach on BBC1’s The Voice, hopes he’s not even halfway through his musical odyssey.

“I just have a normal life,” said Danny, 38. “I don’t live in a mansion and I don’t have a car.

“I live in a two-bedroom, semi-detached house without giant walls around me. I’ve got neighbours either side of me and if I do something wrong, like play the music too loud, they’ll tell me off.

“I drink in my local pub and do the things normal people do. I watch football at the weekend and I’ll do my shopping down at Tesco.

“People I know think I’m normal to a fault and they’ll say, ‘Go on, live a little. Splash out on something’. I’ve got a little recording studio in the house and the only thing I’ll spend on is gear for that.”

The affable Dubliner – instantly recognisable and a strapping 6ft 2in – is great company and he admits with a throaty laugh that stunned double takes are a regular occurrence in both Tesco and his local gym.

His throat, in fact, is a major talking point.

T in the Park, 2013 (Andrew Cawley / DC Thomson)

The Script are back on the road – including two Scots dates this month – after taking a lengthy absence before the release of current smash hit album Freedom Child.

During the time off, Danny needed major surgery on his vocal chords after realising he was struggling to hit his distinctive high notes after four straight years of touring and “going hell for leather”.

Nodes were discovered and two treatment options were offered, either trying steroids or the surgical approach.

Surgery wasn’t a decision taken lightly and Danny was all too aware that it could have been career-ending.

And the salutary tale of one star catastrophe in particular sent shivers down his spine.

“I knew that in Julie Andrews’ case her surgery left her pretty much unable to sing any more,” said Danny.

“So I’m not going to think about the million people that are fine, I’m thinking about her.

“My disposition is to go to the worst case scenario every time. Just before I went into surgery I lay there and signed the consent form for, basically, this guy to cut my throat.” The recovery process involved months of silence, initially totally and then incrementally speaking for a few minutes more each hour.

Danny with fellow coaches on The Voice (PA)

For the rest of the time Danny couldn’t even say a word, relying on an app into which he’d type sentences to be spoken by a robotic English voice.

“Not being able to speak was like a religious experience,” he confides. “Even just talking is a gift. So to have lost the ability to communicate, get what’s up there in your head out there was a big deal.”

Danny had assumed the surgery would have been the end of his woes but was devastated to be told it hadn’t been successful and another procedure would have to be attempted. “You’d be mad if you weren’t worried,” admits Danny. “In fact, everybody was worried that second time.

“Consultants were coming in and I was sent off to another doctor to make sure we were doing the right thing.

“My voice is my instrument and if something happened to it I was going to have to find a way of making money for the rest of my life.”

Happily, after another lengthy period of mute recuperation, doctors were satisfied that all had gone well.

The proof of the success, though, wasn’t evident until after the first full-on gig of the band’s return when Danny’s voice was really tested and pushed to the limit. “You can rehearse and sing in a room, but you don’t really know until that first show, which was in Dublin.

“I came off stage, spent the night talking to everyone and when I woke up in the morning I could still sing, still hit the high notes.

“That was such a relief, and so weird because previously I really couldn’t speak after a show until I was back on stage the next night.

“Now I’m warming up, cooling down, all the things I should have been doing beforehand.

“You live and learn.”

The Script sell out shows and festivals across the world (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

Being away for a couple of years was a huge risk for Danny and Script bandmates Mark Sheehan and Glen Power.

But Freedom Child shot straight to the top of the charts, with singles Rain and Arms Open also big hits. And being welcomed back so warmly, with tickets for this big arena tour selling out fast, was a big relief.

“There are new bands coming out all the time so it is tough,” says Danny, who is incredibly close to his mum Ailish and has a tattoo in memory of his beloved dad Shay who died suddenly on Valentine’s Day 2008 of a stomach aneurysm aged just 63.

“And then you have this huge pool of existing acts. Our single was out at the same time as U2 and never in my life did I ever think I’d be fighting with them for a chart position as I grew up wanting to be them.

“Being in this band and getting this reaction is a blessing every day. I was broke until The Script came along.

“I didn’t think I could get any happier than the day we got our first number one.”

But the big moments kept on coming, one even more special than the last.

Two in particular stick in Danny’s mind.

One was sitting on a tour bus in America when the band’s manager handed them an email from Irish President Michael D. Higgins saying they’d been outstanding ambassadors and inviting them to his house for dinner.

The other astonishing honour was performing for the Queen, who was opening the BBC’s new Broadcasting House in 2013.

“We’d played at Radio 1’s Live Lounge just before and it was unprecedented to be asked back so soon,” says Danny. “They said it was a big deal as it was royalty and I was thinking it might be Prince Harry or Prince William but then we got word it was the Queen.

“We had to learn a cover (David Bowie’s Heroes) and there was just basically us and her in there. It was such an amazing experience.

“But then a few days later I found out she’d followed me on Twitter! I couldn’t believe it but I checked and it was her official account.”

Danny with bandmates Glen Power (left) and Mark Sheehan (right) (Ian West/PA Wire)

With Royal and Presidential approval and millions of fans all over the world, there may be a temptation to rest on their laurels.

But Danny insists that’s far from the case.

“The thing that puts a fire in my belly is just to continue doing this.

“We’ve done five albums, now I want to do another five, then another five after that. I’d just like at the end of it all somebody to say ‘he dedicated it all to music.’

“Even just a couple of weeks before his death David Bowie was working on videos for his music. I think that’s a pretty admirable way to go.”

The Script SSE Hydro Glasgow February 16, AECC Aberdeen 17th, Metro Radio Arena Newcastle 19th.