Danny O'Dono …who Few had heard of him when he was named as a judge on The Voice but he has already scaled the U.S. charts …and suffered plenty of rejection



21:46 GMT, 26 April 2012

V for victory The Voice judge Danny ODonoghue

V for victory The Voice judge Danny O’Donoghue

Had you ever heard of Danny O’Donoghue before he started appearing as a judge on BBC1’s The Voice Jessie J Tick. Will.i.am (if only for his silly name) Tick. Sir Tom Jones No need to answer. But Danny O’Dono…who

It turns out he’s the frontman of Irish band The Script (ask your children) who’ve had hit albums and singles around the world — and that includes America — and who’ve appeared as support to Sir Paul McCartney, U2, Take That and Adele.

To his credit, O’Donoghue has quickly established himself as a credible judge, his easy charm winning over contestants and viewers alike. And, as on TV, so in life.

Danny is not a man you could ever describe as tongue-tied. At 31, with his plume of thick dark hair, his skinny frame and his casual appearance — T-shirt, jeans, Converse trainers — he could be any young man sitting opposite you on the bus.

‘People might have heard of The Script,’ he is explaining, in his soft Dublin brogue. ‘But we don’t put our pictures all over our album covers. We didn’t want to become famous for being famous, falling out of nightclubs. We wanted to be known for the music.’

It makes you wonder what his two fellow band members, Mark Sheehan and Glen Power, feel about Danny’s sudden elevation into the nation’s sitting rooms ‘They love it,’ he says firmly.

‘Mark was urging me to go for it in the first place. It pulls The Script up to a level we’ve never known before. All the videos and albums are now back in the charts.’

Danny was alerted to the possibility of being considered as a judge when he took a call from his manager. ‘I thought he was kidding because I knew The Voice from America and, more recently, in Ireland. I knew it was a great format, the talk of the town. And I knew there were other people in the running: John Legend and Mary J Blige, for instance, and Will Young.’

It all got a bit embarrassing. Everyone — and that included Will Young himself — thought he had bagged the fourth judge’s chair, only for it to be whisked away from him at the eleventh hour. One story even had it that the contract sent to Danny by the BBC still had Will’s name on it.

It’s fair to say Young was distinctly underwhelmed by the experience — as he was not slow to share with his many Twitter followers. ‘The Voice came. The Voice went,’ he wrote. ‘They wanted to go more rock … Should have dusted off my leather jacket. Hey ho!’

Dark mutterings from someone close to the production hinted there may have been an additional reason why Will (who has never made a secret of the fact that he’s gay) was felt ultimately not to meet requirements.

Tough crowd: Danny with rival judges from The Voice Jessie J, Will.i.am and Tom Jones

Tough crowd: Danny with rival judges from The Voice Jessie J, Will.i.am and Tom Jones

An insider told It’s Friday! columnist Dan Wootton: ‘There was a view that the panel needed a so-called hunk who would appeal to young female viewers.

‘The American version of the show had Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5 and a real sex symbol. It was decided that Will didn’t really fit into that category and that Danny, as a rock star, was an exciting new talent who most certainly did.’

Danny picks his words carefully when asked to put himself in Will Young’s shoes. ‘I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in his position,’ he says. ‘And I wouldn’t want to say anything that would make him feel uncomfortable.

‘All I can say is that a number of people went after the same job and, for whatever reason, I was the one who got it.’

But why ‘Well, I know my stuff. I’ve been writing and performing and producing for 15 years. The Script have a wealth of experience working with people like Boyz II Men, TLC, Justin Timberlake. We’ve edited vocals for Britney Spears.

‘And I suppose I’m the indie judge in that I represent something different from the others.’
As a teenager, Danny was in a boyband called Mytown. ‘At the time, I thought it was the most R’n’B, hip hop, happening band ever. But we didn’t succeed in the way we’d hoped.

‘It was great experience, though. I’ve tasted failure and come out the other end. I got a second chance. It’s set me up well to help the members of Team Danny on The Voice. I’ve been that person on stage. I’ve known what it’s like to have no chair turn round for me.’

Item: Danny with long-term girlfriend, model Irma Mali

Item: Danny with long-term girlfriend, model Irma Mali

The first time the four judges met was when the BBC took them out for dinner. ‘Jessie’s a real livewire,’ says Danny, ‘very witty, very quick, very intelligent, all way beyond her years. She’s still only 24. Will.i.am is an amazing character. He’s genuinely funny off-screen, too, so I’m glad his real personality is coming across on the show.

‘And what can I say about Sir Tom I get the honour of sitting next to him. Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding — he’s got stories about working with them all. He was 40 when I was born. I have so much respect for that guy.’

So how is he finding this new challenge ‘It’s proved you don’t have to look good to be a great singer. An image is important but it’s secondary to the voice. And, compared to some [unnamed] talent shows, everyone who comes on The Voice is a good singer.

‘There was never a chance that the audience — or the judging panel — would be wincing when someone started singing. The only cringeworthy element was when the hands of the judges were hovering over those red buttons. The singers who didn’t make the cut were just testament to the high standard of the contest.’

He seems genuinely impressed by the contestants. ‘I promise that, on some occasions, someone would open his or her mouth and I’d be thinking: “You’re better than me. How on earth am I going to be able to give you pointers”

‘But the mentoring process isn’t about teaching them to sing. It’s about bringing out the best version of themselves.’

And no, he wouldn’t dream of predicting who’s going to win. ‘But whoever it is will be on Team Danny,’ he adds, cheekily.

Danny comes from a musical household. His late father, Shay, was a songwriter who once played in a band with the bass player from Thin Lizzy. ‘Both my brothers are in bands.

My mother, Ailish, is the only woman in Ireland who can boast that all her sons were on the same edition of The Late, Late Show [Ireland’s most popular entertainment show] in three separate bands.’

Danny’s father died four years ago. In memory of the man he adored, Danny had a rose tattooed on the underside of his left arm from elbow to wrist.

‘He always used to put a white rose in the middle of a bouquet of red roses because, for him, my mum was the one who stood out from everybody else. And she placed a single white rose on his coffin. Later, I wrote a poem saying that she mustn’t fade like the rose and lose all her colour. She had to find a way of overcoming her grief.’

Danny has a steady girlfriend Irma Mali, a 28-year-old Lithuanian model and mother to nine-year-old daughter, Nikoleta. Involvement in The Voice clearly comes at a price. ‘Irma has to be in Dublin full-time because of Nikoleta’s schooling. So we can’t be together as much as we’d like. We have a three-week rule which means we’re never apart for longer than that and we text and phone and Skype all the time. But it’s hard.’

They met when she was cast in the video of one of The Script’s singles. Danny is suddenly struggling to find the right words. And isn’t that a slight blush on his cheek

‘I saw her and thought we’d look right together. The chemistry only works when it’s real.’ /04/26/article-2135787-12AF18EC000005DC-538_634x412.jpg” width=”634″ height=”412″ alt=”My gang: Danny, centre, with his team on The Voice, hopes one of his singers can win the popular show ” class=”blkBorder” />

My gang: Danny, centre, with his team on The Voice, hopes one of his singers can win the popular show

Indeed, after The Script and Cameron Diaz both appeared on an edition of the U.S. talk show, Today, Cameron gave her phone number to Danny’s management. ‘I didn’t call her, though,’ he says. ‘I’m happy with my girlfriend. I wasn’t even tempted.’

For the most part, though, Danny’s a man who keeps his nose to the grindstone. ‘I genuinely believe that, if all this can happen for me, it can happen for anyone. Yes, you have to have talent but hard work is what makes the difference.’

He’s like a sponge when it comes to soaking up the wisdom of those more experienced than him. Paul McCartney chose The Script as his support band after he’d heard their first album and before he played three concerts at the Shea Stadium in New York.

‘He came into our dressing room before the first performance. He stayed for half-an-hour, chatting and giving us advice about how to handle a huge audience. “Just because you’ll be playing to 80,000 people,” he said, “you mustn’t think you have to play 80,000 times better. And always tell a story before you start singing a particular song. Give it a context. Include the audience, involve them.” I can suffer from nerves so I found what he said really useful.’

In 2009, The Script (whose third album will be released in September) supported Adele throughout her American tour.

‘Everywhere she sang, jaws were dropping — including ours. It’s such a huge talent and she’s such a fine role model. We gave her a Zippo cigarette lighter in New York for her 21st birthday. Since then, she’s given up smoking which is probably a good thing, especially if you have a gift like hers.’

Like the man’s fond of saying, in the end it all comes down to The Voice.

The Voice is on BBC1 on Saturday at 7pm.