“Despite all our achievements and success around the globe, like our band or hate us, the business for every band is one in the same: make album, tour and promote album,” he told Gibson.com. “It’s the same storm for all of us.
“Still after all these years, I haven't figured out the formula for success, but I have figured out the formula for failure. That’s trying to make everyone happy.”
Sheehan and the Script are currently out on a North American tour, taking them through amphitheaters across the country. If you catch them on tour, you’ll surely spot Sheehan switching between a collection of Gibson guitars.
Sheehan, who is also a sought-after session guitarist, checked in with Gibson.com to talk about why he plays “ Les Paul all the way” and to give a rundown of his Top 5 albums of all time.
For more on the Script, head to the band’s official website.
Congratulations on the success for your latest album, #3. The tracks have a really great, dance-y feel. How do you feel the sound on this album differs from your previous releases?
Thanks so much. Well, we intended to change things but not try and reinvent the wheel. We really love the style of music we make, so it was time for more songs and not a huge departure from the sound. We wanted to beef things up a lot, though. We have huge strength in our rhythm section (Glen Power on drums and Ben Sargeant on bass) and really wanted to show that off without losing the integrity of our lyrics and melodies. Because we produced album one and two out of necessity, we wanted to … take all the lessons we learned about our previous records to a whole new level. “Hall of Fame” is a great example of that sonic template. I feel it. Alternative and live bands out there can't ignore Top 40 radio, and this was our way to include them and not shy away this time. It’s our biggest single to date, so something went right!
What was it like working with will.i.am on “Hall of Fame?”
He is a really great guy, actually. So talented in his field. We didn't work together in the traditional sense of the word, like I think the public imagine. We actually had written “Hall of Fame” about six months before Will jumped on it. When he heard it, he really loved it and wanted to jump on it, but time was not our friend here. More months went by, and we couldn't manage to get together until one evening, I was actually just home after a long recording session when Danny called me. He told me he literally grabbed Will and said, “We’re coming to your hotel room and whatever happens, we’re getting your vocals there...” Will loved this idea, because to our surprise, he already had a studio set up in the penthouse of his hotel. I think we just stayed there for about two hours, and Will recorded his vocals by himself, then called us in for a listen. Not the way I'm used to doing things, but it worked. The vocals where amazing and we knew it. Will was a dream to work with under these conditions especially.
You’ve done a good amount of session work. What artists have you worked with in the studio, and what did that experience bring to the table when forming your own band?
Yes, I've had the pleasure of working with a lot of different artists over the years, which I believed shaped not only my playing, but my songwriting has been informed so drastically from working with each different producer or artist. From producer Dallas Austin to vocal soul group Boys 2 Men to Teddy Riley and Montell Jordan, I realized they loved a real authentic, smooth R & B style of playing, and tonally, it wasn't about screaming guitars and distortion. They loved circular riffs that almost looped through a song in a sort of hip-hop way to leave the singer free to let the rhythm and melody feature. Whether working with Billy Steinberg, David Foster or Steve Kipner, you find they love a classic song form, and everything is about the lyrics. Guitars could be used in the traditional sense here, but always backed up the song and never took the lead. Taking all that experience and adding it to the Script’s music was amazing for me, because we have an anything goes motto. While everything backs the song and lyric up, we have so much more freedom to jump styles. We get bored with one style of music; it’s just not how we experience music. We love diversity, so while I enjoy a screaming guitar track like what’s on our song “Rusty Halo” or “You Won’t Feel a Thing” or the smooth R & B feel of “Breakeven” or "Man Who Can't Be Moved.” Guitars and the tones I love are just colors that I like to (use to) paint a musical spectrum that’s constantly congruent with the song. The song is king!
Let’s switch gears to guitars. What are your go-to Gibson guitars for both recording and playing live?
Well, I'm Les Paul all the way, and I have so, so many of them, I feel it's like a giant palette of colors I have to play with. I'm very song specific with tones and colors. And then, for recording and live, I have different ideas. In the studio, I can use many different Gibsons to build and stack a part or section. My Lucille, for example, is so rugged and heavy sounding that I really only get away with using her on big, powerful style choruses. That’s her home. But if I'm playing the likes of “Breakeven” with a kind of smooth part but it had to have a very rich feel to the tone, I use my 2008 Standard Gold Top for that job. Our music jumps in styles so much because of our personal musical interests that I have to always stay true to that specific song and find the guitar that works just perfect for that song. If I start playing with different tunings, which I do a lot, then I prefer not to tune an existing guitar but just use a new guitar totally dedicated for that tuning. So, you see things in my world can get very, very expensive. I have about 25 guitars on the road with me at all times, and I keep about 15 at the studio so not to have them road ridden so to speak!
What make Gibson guitars the right fit for the music you make with the Script?
First off, when I started to use a Gibson, it was because I was an acoustic guitar player. I'm a heavy-handed lad at the best of times (keep the wine glasses away from me), so the transition to Gibson allowed me to play hard and not feel like I'm using an alien. The tone was something secondary, if I'm honest, but I'm now so married to it. I literally don't use any other brand of electric guitar. To have a guitar that can scream and also just sing is not to be snuffed at-- particularly, when you’re in this band. We jump sounds and styles like we’re changing our socks, which is so exhilarating musically that I would be just bored with anything else. No other guitar sounds can stretch along with me, and at the drop of a hat. I've total versatility in my Gibson's. Amazing stuff.
Did your guitar style change at all when you joined the Script?
It has completely changed, yes. I feel like I'm developing all the time. Every song I write, I like to wipe the slate clean for the next one. I feel like I completely forget how to write songs again and have to re-learn my craft all over again. I get terribly nervous before I write what I feel is an important song. So, I feel I'm changing and learning new stuff all the time. Most riffs I write come from simple exercises that I set to challenge myself, so I become a better player. But just like buying a new guitar pedal, it just finds its way into a song, and suddenly, the exercise I've been trying to learn is challenging me on our records and on stage every night. I am getting better though thankfully.
What are the five albums that influenced you most, and why?
1. David Bowie’s Young Americans album, but then again, his greatest hits just gets played a lot. I was a late David Bowie bloomer, and the discovery of how he plays with so many different styles just attracted me big time. Great songs, too of course.
2. John Mayer, Continuum. It’s back to that bluesy, R & B style I grew up with. I'm a sucker for his playing.
3. Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction. It was, for me, the first time I got really excited by the raw and huge guitar sounds of “Paradise City” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” But then again, who didn't?
4. The Police, self-titled. “Don't Stand So Close to Me” really upped the ante for me. I love modern dance and reggae music, so this combined everything I like to play in one place. Again, how the guitars are so rhythmic took me by complete surprise. Really loads of fun to play.
5. Red Hot Chili Peppers, self-titled. When this album hit me, it was the first time I could really see the clearing from the trees. I can now combine what I love about heavy rock and R & B and funk. It was a revelation.
You’ve likely seen a lot of great performers over the years. Is there any musician or act that really stood out?
Foo Fighters never cease to amazing me. They have never lost that raw guitar style that has been a dying breed in most guitar music, yet still manage to write a great pop song. To see them live is just another thing altogether. I watched them supporting the Police on their reunion tour, and the Police being one of my favorite bands, I was left thinking, “Foos just blew the Police off the stage!!!”
What’s ahead for the Script?
We're just about over with the crazy whirlwind tour for album #3. Only six festivals and 30-date tour of the U.S. left. Not bad, considering the amount of shows we have just finished. We've decided to challenge ourselves again on this next album and take a tour bus on the road around America and try and write and record while moving about. It doesn't sound weird to the normal man, but to us, we've never tried this sort of approach before and have no idea what will happen. Hopefully great music will happen and not a musical car crash! I have no clue, but stay tuned.
See what Mark thinks about the Gibson Min-ETune™ here.