Wild Youth’s Conor O’Donoghue says ‘Mark Sheehan believed in us when no-one did’
Singer Conor O’Donoghue chats about representing his country and the incredible impact The Script had on the four-piece
When singer Conor O’Donoghue of Wild Youth takes to the stage at the Eurovision Song Contest in next Tuesday’s semi-final, he’ll be remembering two special people he loved and lost.
Firstly, there’s his mother, Jackie, who died from a brain tumour in 2011 at the age of 56. O’Donoghue was just 17 years old, and the youngest in the family.
He also lost an idol, mentor and friend with the shock passing of The Script’s Mark Sheehan.
It was The Script who took fledgling pop stars O’Donoghue and his Wild Youth cohorts Dave Whelan, Ed Porter and Callum McAdam under their wing, when they first emerged on the scene.
As Wild Youth, who are also from Dublin city, said of Sheehan following his death: “We loved writing with you, touring with you and laughing with you. Every performance we ever do will be dedicated to you. You believed in us when nobody else did.”
In life, Sheehan achieved success beyond his dreams as a musician and songwriter, but he never forgot where he came from and was determined to give the next generation of kids a leg up the ladder.
“The Script had a huge impact on our early life,” O’Donoghue tells Magazine+. “Being young, being from where I’m from, sometimes there’s a tendency for people to shoot down certain things, and they gave us the opportunity to go to London to write with them.
“As a writer, for me it was like going to college to get to go into the studio every single day with them for three or four years. I got to learn so much because they were just incredible pros, and their way of writing was phenomenal.
“I think being surrounded by that every day and being like a sponge and absorbing everything was a huge learning experience for us. We also picked up on their work ethic because sometimes we’d start at 11 in the morning in the studio and finish at three the next morning.
“Mark will always be in our hearts. We will never forget what he did for us, along with Danny and Glen.”
O’Donoghue’s mother was a huge fan of Eurovision, and would have loved her son’s moment in the spotlight on that stage when he sings the Irish entry, We Are One.
“Through good times and bad times it’s what stays with me — that hopefully she’ll be looking at what I do as a performance,” he says.
“This is an incredibly special event because it was our thing to watch the Eurovision together, and to go full circle now and be performing on that stage, that alone for me is everything and more.”
The O’Donoghue’s are a united family. “I have an amazing family, the best dad and three amazing brothers,” O’Donoghue acknowledges.
“To do something like this is also for the joy you give your parents, to make them proud — and it’s payback. For me personally, it’s why I do almost everything. Dad loves this, and when I go back to where my musical roots came from, it was my mam and my dad who were incredibly encouraging.”
While flying the flag for Ireland is an honour he’s relishing, O’Donoghue reveals that he’s not the first member of his family to do it.
“My brother, Paul, used to play rugby,” Conor reveals. “He represented Ireland in rugby Under 20s and actually won a Grand Slam. So, I’m the second brother to represent Ireland and I’m reminded of that all the time.
“He’s put his jersey hanging up over my bed to remind me… ‘Don’t you f**kin’ forget!’” he laughs.
Like our rugby team preparing for the Six Nations, Wild Youth are leaving nothing to chance. They have spent weeks performing on the Eurovision circuit, honing their performance for the main event.
“I think I’ve spent more time in an airplane than I have in my apartment, and that’s not even a joke,” Conor says, as he talks about performing everywhere from London to Tel Aviv, and Stockholm to Barcelona.
“We feel so incredibly lucky visiting these countries and doing what we’ve done. And you get a feel for the format and how the Eurovision all works.
“We’re used to going on stage for an hour and 20 minutes, but Eurovision will be two minutes and 50 seconds. You’re on, you’re off, there’s no warming into it — it’s all go from the second you’re on. So the tour we’ve been doing gets you into the routine of doing a two minutes and 50 seconds performance.
“We are a different group now than when we went into it a couple of weeks ago. We have become closer than ever and it really feels like now, as a band, we are tighter because you don’t get a second song, there is no room for errors.
“You have to be super focused on the night, so we got the magnifying glass out and you’re looking through every single harmony, every note, making sure everything is perfect.
“We Are One has been revamped a little bit and the performance will be on a much grander scale than what we did in Eurosong. It’s very ambitious. A lot of thought, effort and hours have gone into it.
“The Eurovision stage in Liverpool is phenomenal and the opportunities we have on that stage to do things that we want to do is so exciting. It’s what I would imagine the stage to look like if we were to get an opportunity to play Croke Park. They have runways and there’s moving screens and everything, it’s insane.
“What an opportunity to get to perform with a production like that! We are working as hard as we possibly can to give the best performance that we can be proud of. After that, it’s out of our hands.”
Wild Youth represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest, with the semi-final on May 9
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