Photo: Kevin Westenberg

It’s been more than four years since a rock band by the name of The Script topped charts worldwide with their eponymous debut album. The Irish-born trio, which has produced a number of hits over two albums, returns this month with its third full-length effort, appropriately named #3.

Fans have certainly become familiar with the band’s signature sound over the last few years, but according to frontman Danny O’Donoghue, there are some changes in the new set.

“[It is] a lot more hip-hop orientated,” O’Donoghue revealed in a new interview with Variance. “With the first album, we would write the verses and then we would also add melody to those verses, and that’s how we made our own kind of style [with] ‘We Cry’ and songs like that. I guess on #3, instead of adding melody, we just said, ‘You know what, let's leave melody away from it, let's just actually have a vocal word or rap.’”

Although O’Donoghue is aware of possible fan skepticism, he believes the tweaks are organic. “I know a lot of people think, ‘Oh god, they’re trying to rap now,’ but … we've always had that kind of hip-hop style. It’s how we've always written. We just started to leave the melodies out of some of the verses. We haven't changed the formulas, and I totally get that The Script, we are our own sound … I think on #3, there's three or four songs that if you heard them in a bar or a club, you wouldn't really know who it was. We just changed the perspective a little bit, but it totally flows.”

While noting those obvious changes, from O’Donoghue’s perspective, the new album completes the first two.

“Musically you could listen to these three albums as a trilogy,” he said. “With each one of those albums, we didn't come trying to make a big statement; we just love the sounds, and we wanted to continue it. We really feel like that makes #3 the final part of that whole kind of sound. I think [some artists] have the first album and then they go, ‘Ah s---, now I’m going in a different direction for the second.’ With this being our third, we just decided that, ‘you know what, we know who we are, let's just have fun.’”

The Script has been fortunate to crank out some radio-friendly hits, but in a crowded pop space, the band’s lyrics have definitely stood out. It’s a strength O’Donoghue himself acknowledges.

“Music today is so throwaway,” he explained. “I don't think our music is particularly any better than anyone else’s or that our lyrics are any better, I just think the time we spent on our lyrics, the time we spent on our melodies, it just sticks out a lot more because people aren't giving the attention to their lyrics. ‘Who gives a s---!’ Right? But when you get a song that just grabs you by the balls, it's always about the lyrics. You’re like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe they just said that. It sounds like me.’”

In O’Donoghue’s opinion, one such songwriter stands out among today’s radio landscape: “There are still some great, great lyricists; top lyricists are still being born. Ed Sheeran--it's just incredible for a young guy to be so gifted lyrically. I would have my kids, if I have children, listen to his music. He would be a great role model. I love that he’s into the whole pop scene of what's going on right now, but he's also rapping and challenging himself with these beautiful songs.”

Sheeran’s newfound success is something The Script can relate to, having catapulted into the top 40 themselves without bubblegum lyrics and flimsy melodies. But having cracked mainstream music and now on their third album, has it become more important to write a hit or to write a song for the sake of writing a song?

“[As] a producer and a songwriter, trying to have something played on the radio a bunch of times kind of constitutes in my mind as a hit,” O’Donoghue said. “We know what it takes in order for your song structure to play on the radio--the perfect example would be first verse, chorus, next verse, chorus, middle eight, chorus, chorus, chorus, finish. That would, no matter what tempo, what time, that would kind of run you at around 3-4 minutes. We understand there’s a certain tempo that you need to be at to get on top 40. It’s a system, but we don’t try to make hits; we try and put real emotion in the songs into that same framework, to give them the best chance to be heard by the world.”

The Irish hitmaker recently added another title to his resumé, serving as a coach on the U.K.’s version of The Voice. Fellow show mentor also makes an appearance on the album, joining O’Donoghue for #3’s lead single “Hall of Fame.” And The Script vocalist has nothing but praise for the Black Eyed Peas rapper-producer.

“He’s really top notch,” declared O’Donoghue. “We were always fighting on the f---ing show. All the time I’m ragging on him and he’s ragging on me, but it’s all over music. For us to both kind of come and speak a positive message on the song--he’s such a positive person, but it just meshes together, like the perfect coming-together of both genres.”

O’Donoghue admits that his experience on The Voice has given him a refreshed appreciation for new singers and distinguished musicians, something he further proves with his current playlist: “I’ve gone through a big turnaround point. I have to say I really like Ellie Goulding’s new album. It’s bada--. She forwarded me a copy of it, and it’s really, really good. She’s so talented. I’ve also been listening to Birdy--she’s like sixteen, seventeen years old. I’m blown away. Her song ‘People Help the People’ has been on constant replay. It’s just brilliant--brilliant! Of course, I’ve also been on an older music kick--Babyface and just about every male vocal group or anyone from that era, I’ve been listening the s--- out of.”

The Script’s third album #3 is out Tuesday in the U.S.

(Photo: Kevin Westenberg)

Watch the motivational music video for the band's lead single off #3, "Hall of Fame," feat.