- 17 Apr 23
As tributes continue to pour in for Mark Sheehan, we're revisiting an excerpt from one of our in-depth interviews with The Script's beloved guitarist...
Originally published in Hot Press in June 2009...
It's dark outside and you can hear the wind buffeting the signs. Mark Sheehan talks in a streetwise vernacular, looking back over the wrong turns he took – aware always of the even worse ones he avoided. It goes way, way back with him too, but in a different way. Music saved his life, gave it meaning. Of that he's sure. He's survived some hairy scrapes and lived to tell the tale. That's what he's here to do.
"I was a little bollix when I was a kid," Mark admits, leaning forward in the seat. "At one point, when I was sixteen, when I came home from school – and I was after doing the fucking worst thing: stealing money from the family – there were two detectives sitting in the house with my ma. They told me they were taking me away to a home! I think they were trying to scare me, to be honest. I was getting to that stage, in fairness, that they wanted to put me away. From that point I felt, 'I've got to clean the act up here. I can't be a victim of this environment for any longer'."
For a pop star in a band with a clean-cut image, Mark is refreshingly candid about the unsavoury stuff he got up to when growing up in Dublin's inner city.
"I got involved in everything, in all the stupid shit. We got involved in robbing cars; we got involved in fucking setting stuff on fire; we got involved in breaking into places. But thank God I was under 16 and I wasn't able to be put away for too long. I was literally doing stupid stuff like that, shoplifting and all."
Mark's father died when he was a young child. His mother raised him on her own. Does he think the absence of his father contributed to his rebellious streak?
"It may have been a bit of that, yeah, but I think to some extent everyone's a victim of their environment," he proffers. "It was the climate. Me and my mates were doing boys stuff. Stupid stuff. Down in the local junkyard fucking wrecking stuff. Getting focused on stupid stuff that didn't mean anything. One year we got so focused on having the biggest Halloween bonfire – if that meant robbing a car and putting it in the middle of the fucking bonfire, that's what it meant."
"I think whatever industry you put me into I'd be seriously good at," he says, running his hand over his shaved head. "But this is the point: put me in this industry and this is why I'm really good at it – because kids from those areas are sharp as fucking nails. They've got a great business sense. It's unfortunate that they direct that into the wrong thing sometimes.
"Thank God, in the end, mine was directed into the right thing and I had a good family behind me to kick my arse into place. This is going to sound like a fucking cliché, but music has saved my life, because every time I felt like I'd nothing – at my darkest moments – I was writing songs about that. I like to say my interest in music was an accident! The condom broke in the music industry when I was growing up (laughs). I had no interest in music, I was more into arts and crafts. So I was about 15 when I got involved in music – in the fun side of it: dancing and singing."
Soon after he'd been bitten by the music bug, Mark built a recording studio in his back garden. He and Danny O'Donoghue spent most of their time there, writing songs and dreaming about hitting the big time. With some tracks in the can, they approached U2 manager Paul McGuinness, who they'd met during their time in Digges Lane Studio, where Mark worked as a dance instructor.
"Dan and I fancied ourselves as a kind of two-piece acoustic thing," Mark explains. "I took it into McGuinness and sat down in his office and he let us play it for him. I think he thought he was just giving two kids a shot, but I don't think he was that interested. I was probably going on 17 at the time. But I do think McGuinness saw something in us – that these kids were actually producing and writing their own shit. He used to say, 'I can't believe you're doing everything on these recordings'. We were mixing and writing and doing all that stuff."
McGuinness signed the duo, who decided to call themselves MyTown, and scored a record deal. Their debut album was released on Universal in 2000, and Danny and Mark found themselves in the States, touring with Christina Aguilera, among others. It was a learning experience. But they never achieved lift-off and after about four years, decided to call it a day.
"The first single did quite well but not well enough to continue with the project," says Danny. "I think that we were too R'n'B for the English market at the time and not R'n'B enough for the American market. We were kind of walking this tightrope: the sound wasn't defined enough. We were just coming into our own – experimenting. It was like what The Script is but at a very embryonic stage. People ask, 'Do you regret it?' What the fuck is there to regret? We were asked by Paul McGuinness, could he manage the project? And then we got signed to Universal for a lot of money. I think we were probably given a little too much control of our first album. We were kids."
Given that background, it was a thrill when The Script were asked to support U2 at Croke Park in July.
"U2 and Principle are so good to us," Mark enthuses. "Even last week they sent us a lovely letter in New York to say, 'Good luck', and a nice basket of Guinness and champagne. They always support us in that way. There were so many bands U2 could've chosen and they chose us for Ireland. It's huge for us. In the States they had a press conference about a month ago and Edge and Bono were asked who their favourite band was – and they mentioned us as one of them. They know the power of that coming from their mouth means a lot for a new band."