x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The Script and Pete Murray at Sandance

We talk to the two headline acts at this week's Sandance at Nasimi Beach.

UAE - Dubai - Nov 01 - 2011:  The SCRIPT , from L to R, Danny O'Donoghue, Mark Sheehan and Glen Power pose for a portrait at Nassimi Beach, Atlantis Hotel.  ( Jaime Puebla - The National Newspaper )
UAE - Dubai - Nov 01 - 2011: The SCRIPT , from L to R, Danny O'Donoghue, Mark Sheehan and Glen Power pose for a portrait at Nassimi Beach, Atlantis Hotel. ( Jaime Puebla - The National Newspaper )

The Script

While life on the road has it share of pleasures, for the Irish pop-rockers The Script the constant grind also delivered a hefty dose of home truths.

Speaking at the picturesque Nasimi Beach before headlining Friday's Sandance Festival, the guitarist Mark Sheehan describes the heady experience of visiting nature contrasted against stark economic climates.

"It does play in your mind. You can see the extremes in rich to poor, it's so diverse," he says.

"We've just been to India and Johannesburg, both beautiful cities, but then you come here and it's like "there is so much money here it is absolutely crazy".

It was the gloomy economic backdrop of Ireland that informed the Dublin group's second album Science and Faith.

Powered by uplifting singles For the First Time and Nothing, the singer and keyboardist Danny O'Donoghue says the group wanted to create a passionate pop album speaking of current issues.

"We want to reflect the times, to reflect what is going on," he says.

"We are not singing about walking down red carpets or 'look at my Rolex'. Music is escapism - well that is what art is in that you can escape through art - but we like to be more of a mirror to a society and say that you can be born with nothing and feel extremely happy in the inside. Our music is about letting that pain, anger and anguish out."

While The Script may have officially formed in 2001, the genesis for the group lies in the already successful songwriting partnership between O'Donoghue and Sheehan.

The duo were already principle songwriters for the successful mid-1990s Irish boy band Mytown, a talent admired by leading American pop producers who invited them to collaborate on songs for artists such as Montell Jordan and TLC.

Sheehan says the experience working with their production heroes was integral to The Script's pop-savvy sound.

"Teddy Riley, for example, likes the kick and snare in your face, where someone like Dallas Austin, when he starts a song, he wants to sit down and listen to a bunch of diverse music before he wants to make a song ... while someone like Billy Steinberg is all about the lyrics," he says.

"You basically have to take the best qualities from each person and leave the rest behind." Sheehan credits the experience for defining the "hip-hop" attitude The Script bring to their songwriting. He says: "We don't have boundaries. The song is king for us."

While flattered with comparisons to U2, O'Donoghue says many other Irish bands struggled to emerge due to the Irish giants' global profile.

"For every U2, there were a thousand other bands that couldn't make it that were just as good," he says.

"If U2 came out from America, they would be up there with a whole host of different bands that made it to the same level. But because they came from such a small place like Ireland and they were such an important band, then it was different."

But O'Donoghue says the optimistic spirit embedded in The Script's songs is simply the Irish way.

"I am going to be biased," he says. "But there is something when you put an Irish man in the room and people gravitate towards them. We are such open-hearted honest people, we just say what we think and we don't care if it's cool or not. We will say it because it's the truth and that's how we feel."

Pete Murray

Sometimes when you are at the top of your game, you need new challenges. This was the position the Aussie troubadour Pete Murray found himself in before releasing Blue Sky Blue, his fourth and most diverse offering yet.

After making a household name of himself Down Under for his sensitive singer-songwriter stylings, the Brisbane-born Murray was determined to go down a more rocking route.

Murray says the new move was also was inspired by deeper emotional changes. During the three years between albums, Murray went through a divorce, but with Blue Sky Blue's upbeat tracks such as Let You Go and Free, the singer is determined to look on the bright side.

"I let myself be open to whatever came as a writer, and there is certainly personal experience in there," he says. "I wanted it to be emotional but not heavy, to let those emotions float rather than sink."

The risk seems to have paid off with Blue Sky Blue scoring a top 10 debut in the Australian charts and the groovy first single Always a Winner becoming a radio staple.

While the album is filled with Murray's signature empathetic croon, Blue Sky Blue is more jam-orientated and filled with thick grooves: there is also not an acoustic guitar in sight.

For an artist normally holding court at number one in Australia, the slower local reception to Blue Sky Blue suits Murray fine.

He says the album finally allowed him to display his rockier side; something consigned solely to his live shows in the past.

"It's always more dynamic live," he says. "It also has to do with the band; when you are with a good band they should always sound better than your album. If not, well, it's embarrassing."

The fresh sound has also caught the attention of a new legion of fans in South America, Europe and the Middle East. After years of selling out venues, Murray is relishing the challenge of winning over new audiences, including the one at Sandance tomorrow.

"This will be my first time and I am looking forward to it," he says. "Music is funny sometimes. I've just been to Brazil and I went really well down there. The music always travels but you just don't know where will it find a home."

The Script will be performing at 8.30pm as part of the Sandance Festival alongside Groove Armada and Sneaky Sound System and Pete Murray is performing at 6pm. Sandance will take place tomorrow from 2pm to 2am at Nasimi Beach at Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai. Tickets from Dh200 at www.timeouttickets.com. The Script's Science and Faith and Pete Murray's Blue Sky Blue are available in record stores