‘People wouldn’t know,” says Gary Clark, Scotland’s lesser-spotted hitmaker, “but I’ve actually done a few rap records.” Perhaps it’s no surprise one of Scotland’s most prolific songwriters for hire has credits well beyond the genres he made his name in as frontman of 80 and 90s pop outfit Danny Wilson.

The Dundee musician is revealing the latest turn his career has taken on the week his latest unlikely team-up is released. Following the split of his band, best known for evergreen feel-good hit Mary’s Prayer, he has gone on to forge a career penning tunes for everyone from Natalie Imbruglia and Demi Lovato to Mel C and The Wanted. Now Clark can add Bono’s daughter to his long list of collaborators, in a project that saw him write rap songs for a teenager and pen ballads with a Hollywood movie star.
His songs are lyrical characters in Dublin-set indie flick Flora and Son, featuring Batman star Joseph Gordon Levitt and Eve Hewson, daughter of the U2 frontman.

“In my capacity as a writer and producer I’ve worked with an Australian rapper called 360, I wrote some of the music for his raps,” says the 61-year-old. “I love rap, believe it or not. I love listening to it. To me it’s the highest version of the art form, really great modern rap. So it was fun to play in that sandpit for this project, because people wouldn’t normally say: ‘Gary, would you give us some rap.’”
Clark’s in the sandpit as composer on Flora and Son, the latest development in the partnership he struck with Irish filmmaker John Carney, which has blossomed from the pair’s first joint work, the charming 2016 movie Sing Street. They have joined forces on two seasons of acclaimed Amazon Prime series Modern Love, while Sing Street has been exalted all the way from a Dublin playground to Broadway as a stage show, elevating the songwriter to a rare position. Almost.

Gary says: “After a run at New York Theatre workshop Sing Street was offered a place on Broadway at the Lyceum and I was asked to run the music department for the production, which was to open on March 26, 2020. We all know now what happened in March 2020, but at the time, when we were all having the time of our lives sound-checking on the Broadway stage. We had no clue what was around the corner. Patrick Daly, our executive producer, and himself a Scotsman, had told me only days before I was to be Scotland’s very first Broadway composer, when on the 12th of March they turned the lights off in the name of the pandemic. It became one of the highest and lowest points of my career.”

The show eventually made a return to the stage, running for three months at Boston’s Huntington Theatre in autumn 2022 but, as of October 2023, has not returned to Broadway. It seems only a matter of time. Flora and Son is hewn from the same rain-slicked streets of working class Dublin, a world illuminated, in this case, by the glow of Los Angeles sunshine, via a Zoom screen.
Flora, played by Hewson, is a down-on-her luck single mum, whose errant teenage son is heading down life’s wrong roads. 

Finding an acoustic guitar in a skip, she brings it home in the hope of musical salvation. There is salvation but it’s not reserved for ‘and Son’.
“It’s a classic John Carney story, if you know his stuff,” says Clark. “Once, Sing Street – he always has these stories about how music can change people’s lives, how it’s always at the core of it.”

So what of Bono’s progeny?
“John knows Bono and has known Eve since she was a kid. But I hadn’t come across her. I honestly think she steals the film.
“Considering who her dad is, she wasn’t super confident on the music front but that worked for the character, who doesn’t come out of the box sounding like a superstar. She relaxed into it and in the end she ended up contributing lyrics to some of Flora’s songs, because she really understood the part.”

The Herald:

The Californian sunshine comes via Joseph Gordon Levitt, the star of 500 Days of Sunshine, who plays the Los Angeles guitar tutor connecting with Flora in another world. It gave Clark a chance to write from experience. He says: “When I first went to LA with Danny Wilson in 1986, we got invited to this record company party on Malibu Beach. It went on all night. Me and Kit Clark went out onto the beach and sat on the shore as the sun came up. We saw a big pod of dolphins. It was a magical moment, first time in LA, and a pod of dolphins comes up.
“So there’s a song when Joe’s character’s talking about living in LA and I’d written in a line about a pod of dolphins. Joe’s lived in LA for years and said to me, ‘I’ve never seen one dolphin.’ The line had to go.”

The pandemic laid waste not only to Clark’s claim on becoming the first Scottish composer on Broadway, but also stymied the progress of the Nanny Macphee stage musical he was working on with Emma Thompson. “The brakes were put on by the pandemic, but we’re up and running with it again, and we’re hoping we get it on the stage next year,” he says.

Earlier this year, Clark appeared on stage in Dundee at a gala charity night for his pal, musician Keith Matheson who severed an arm in an industrial accident.  The warm reaction to his Danny Wilson songs was no surprise, but his live appearances are as common as LA guitar tutors in Dublin housing schemes. “I love it when I do it, but it’s about time,” he says. “I don’t have time to take a big chunk out of my diary because of the other things I do.

“I always thought that being a frontman was never going to last forever, unless you’re Bono. I always intended to write songs for other people and movies were my other obsession.
“My dad had a particular love of music, and he used to talk about the backroom boys and girls who were the songwriters and producers on records by folk like Sinatra, so I grew up with him talking about Sammy Cahn and all these great songwriters. I was obsessed about movies from a really young age, I just didn’t have a clue how you go about getting into it. It’s mind blowing that I managed to pull this off.”

Flora and Son is available to stream on Apple TV+. The soundtrack of the same name is out now.