The Fray is an American rock band from Denver, Colorado. Formed in 2002 by schoolmates Isaac Slade and Joe King, they achieved success with the release of their debut album, How to Save a Life in 2005, which was certified double platinum by the RIAA and platinum in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The pair began a series of two-man jam sessions and soon expanded their lineup with two of Slade's former bandmates, drummer Ben Wysocki and guitarist David Welsh. Slade's younger brother, Caleb, also joined the band for a stint but was ultimately asked to leave; the resulting rift between the two siblings would later inspire the band's first hit single, "Over My Head (Cable Car)." After issuing the Movement EP in 2002, the quartet gained the support of Denver's KTCL radio station with a follow-up release, 2003's Reason EP. As the Fray's airplay increased alongside their local profile (Westword, a Denver alternative weekly publication, deemed them "Best New Band" in 2004), they began attracting attention from Epic Records. The label ultimately signed the band in December 2004, and the Fray toured alongside Weezer and Ben Folds the following summer. [+]
Formation and early years (2002–2004)
The band members' lives were largely formed in Denver churches where they helped lead worship, and in the Christian school three of them attended. Slade, 24, and guitarist Joe King, 25, were several years ahead of drummer Ben Wysocki, 21, at Faith Christian Academy. Wysocki and guitarist David Welsh, 27, played in the same worship band. In the spring of 2002, former schoolmates Isaac Slade and Joe King reconnected and began regular two-man jam sessions that led to writing songs. Isaac and Joe later added Mike Ayars on guitar, Zach Johnson on drums, and Slade's younger brother Caleb on bass, though Caleb was later asked to leave. Caleb's departure from the band caused a rift in his relationship with Isaac and this rift later became the inspiration for the song "Over My Head (Cable Car)", which is about the brothers' wanting relationship. Following this Johnson left the band as well to attend an art school in New York.
Ben Wysocki, a former bandmate of Isaac Slade, joined as drummer and later, Dave Welsh, who was another former band mate of Slade and Wysocki, was added as lead guitarist to the band. The newly formed band was named the Fray. The band members decided on a name after asking people to put band names on a piece of paper from which they picked randomly. The members of the band first claimed that they found the name suitable because they frequently quarreled about the composition of the lyrics in their songs, but they have since stated they are usually on good terms while composing music and acknowledges contributions from all of its members. The band has had no permanent bassist since Caleb, instead employing touring bassists on a temporary basis. The current bassist is Jeremy McCoy, who has been with the band since 2009.
The band released its first record, Movement EP in 2002. The next year, the band released Reason EP produced by How To Save A Life co-producer Aaron Johnson, which garnered the band local fame and acclaim.Westword, an alternative newsweekly, gave Reason EP a positive review, stating "The music is epic, no doubt, but it's played on a wholly human scale". Despite these reviews, the band struggled to launch a single; Denver radio station KTCL rejected eight of their songs before the band decided to submit a demo of "Cable Car". The song found airplay on a KTCL radio show highlighting local bands, and the radio station received a large number of requests for it soon thereafter. The band changed the name of the song to "Over My Head (Cable Car)", and as the song's airplay increased alongside their local following, the band was voted "Best New Band" by Westword in 2004.Epic RecordsA&R man Daniel Davis discovered the band through the article in Westword and soon after, Epic Records officially signed the band on December 17, 2004.
How to Save a Life (2005–07)
The band's debut album How to Save a Life was released on September 13, 2005; its style is between traditional rock and alternative rock. "Over My Head (Cable Car)" was released as the first single from the album, and it soon became a top 40 hit on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in late 2005, peaking at No. 37. The single gained airplay nationally, entering the Billboard Hot 100 chart on the issue marked February 25, 2006. Fourteen weeks later, it reached its peak position at No. 8 on the Hot 100 chart. On the BillboardAdult Top 40 chart, the single reached the No. 2 position. Internationally, the song was a Top 25 hit in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK. The song was the fifth-most downloaded single of 2006.
While "Over My Head (Cable Car)" was rising on the charts, the song "How to Save a Life" was first featured during a second season episode ("Superstition", aired March 19, 2006) of Grey's Anatomy, and then on a fifth season episode ("My Lunch", aired April 25, 2006) of Scrubs. Despite not having been originally released as a single, "How to Save a Life" entered the Hot 100 chart on the issue marked April 15, 2006. The song was released as the band's second single. On August 18, 2006, ABC announced that the song would be used for the main advertising promotion for the season premiere of Grey's Anatomy.
Only weeks after this promotion started, the song became the Fray's second Top 40 hit in the United States. The song peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100 chart, surpassing the peak position of "Over My Head (Cable Car)". It tied for the seventh longest charting single of all time on the Hot 100 chart, with Santana's "Smooth", at 58 consecutive weeks. The song also topped the Adult Top 40 chart for 15 consecutive weeks. "How to Save a Life" was a major hit internationally, topping the singles chart in Ireland, Spain and Canada. The song also charted in the top five in Australia, Italy and Sweden and was the band's first hit in the United Kingdom, peaking at No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.
"Look After You" was released as the third single from the album. It peaked at No. 59 on the Hot 100 chart and was the band's first single to miss the Top 40. The song was written by the lead singer of the Fray Isaac Slade. It is about his then girlfriend and future wife. How to Save a Life peaked at No. 15 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, and charted in the top ten in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK and was certified the best-selling digital album of all time, breaking the record held previously by Coldplay's X&Y.
While the album met with commercial success, critical reception from mainstream critics was mixed; Allmusic gave the album a modest review, but stated that the Fray "lacked originality" and the album itself lacked any "inspiration and excitement". Stylus Magazine gave the album a negative review, stating, "The Fray, as a rule, are moribund, emotionally strained, and uninvolving."Rolling Stone and Blender echoed many of these statements while giving the album three stars out of five. However, the album garnered acclaim from Christian music magazines; Jesus Freak Hideout gave the album a glowing review, stating "How to Save Life is nearly perfect" and gave the album a 4.5/5 star rating.HM Magazine, another American magazine devoted to Christian music also gave the album a positive review, rating it 4/5 stars.
To promote the album, the Fray began a worldwide tour and released a live album, Live at the Electric Factory: Bootleg No. 1, on July 18, 2006. The concert was recorded on May 21, 2006, at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On September 19, they re-released How to Save a Life as a CD/DVD set including a documentary on the making of the album. On September 4, 2007, the band released another live album, Acoustic in Nashville: Bootleg No. 2, which was recorded in late 2006. The album could only be purchased with the original CD from Target but was made available on the iTunes Music Store on November 13, 2007. On October 16, 2007, the band re-released their 2003 EP, Reason. The band also released a live cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" as a 2006 Christmas single (it debuted and peaked on the Hot 100 chart at No. 50 on the strength of a large number of digital downloads) and worked with Reverb, a non-profit environmental organization, for their 2007 summer tour.
The Fray and Christmas EP (2008–2010)
The band finished recording their self-titled second album at the end of July 2008 for a February 3, 2009, release. The album was produced by Aaron Johnson and Mike Flynn, the same production duo from the band's debut album, and recorded by Warren Huart. A documentary, Fair Fight, directed by Rod Blackhurst was included with the first 300,000 copies of the second album. The lead single from the album, "You Found Me" debuted online on December 9, 2009, on VH1.com, and debuted at No. 28 on the Hot 100 chart, the band's highest debut on the chart to date. The song peaked at No. 7 on the chart, (making it the band's second highest charting single) and topped the BillboardHot Adult Top 40 Tracks chart as well as the Australian Singles Chart, becoming the band's first song to reach number-one in Australia. It is also the band's third song to sell 2 million digital downloads in the United States, after "Over My Head (Cable Car)" and "How to Save a Life". Following the success of "You Found Me", the album, released on February 3, 2009, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 179,000 copies in its first week of release. The music video was directed by fellow Denverite Josh Forbes. It was filmed in Chicago and was an homage to the Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire
On February 3, 2009, the Fray released their self-titled second effort to the Christian market. The band opted to release their second album in both markets. In a video for the song "You Found Me" that includes some behind-the-scenes footage, lead vocalist Isaac Slade says that this album is what they would have done the first time if they had the time, and where they want to go for the rest of their career. On February 13, 2009, the Fray wrote a song called "Be the One". The song was written in the space of 24 hours when Q asked the band to write a love song for the occasion of Valentine's Day. The demo version of the song was released on the band's official website on November 11, 2009. The band also covered Kanye West's song "Heartless" which charted at No. 79 on the Billboard Hot 100, while a video for the cover was released worldwide on iTunes on August 11, 2009. Both songs were included in the deluxe edition of the band's second album. "Heartless" was also included on the band's third live album, The Fray: Live from SoHo, which was released on April 7, 2009. On November 10, 2009, the band released the deluxe edition of The Fray which contained a second disc of never-before-released songs, including "Heartless".
"Never Say Never" was released as the second single from the album. The song was a modest hit in the US; it peaked at No. 32 on the Hot 100 chart and at No. 10 on the Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks chart while internationally it failed to match the success of "You Found Me". The third single from the album, "Syndicate", released on January 12, 2010, peaked at No. 16 on the Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks and at No. 40 on the Pop Songs chart, becoming the band's second single to miss the Hot 100 chart and the lowest charting single from the album.
Again, critical reception to the album was mixed. Rolling Stone termed the album as "nothing new" while Entertainment Weekly stated, "The Fray is all blah, all the time: more minor-key melodies and more dreary tempos."Allmusic, whilst giving the album a modestly positive review, echoed many of these statements, commenting that "the songcraft remains virtually unchanged" and termed the album as "How to Save a Life – Part 2." However, AbsolutePunk criticized the negative reviews, stating, "For what it's worth, the Denver quintet has released a charming, appealing record that would be far more praiseworthy if it didn't sound so much like its predecessor... it may be an album a lot like its predecessor, but that isn't exactly a bad thing." At Metacritic, a review aggregate website, the album holds a rating of 56/100 based on 9 professional reviews, meaning "mixed or average reviews".
The Fray collaborated with Timbaland on his album, Shock Value II, which was released on December 8, 2009. The band was featured on the song "Undertow", which, despite not being released as a single, entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 100, the week ending November 28, 2009. On December 22, 2009, the band released an EP, Christmas as a free download from the band's official website. The EP contained five acoustic covers of popular Christmas carols and was recorded by Warren Huart in Nashville at Blackbird Studios.
In an interview with Westword in June 2010, guitarist Dave Welsh announced that the band was working on an EP containing covers of songs by artists such as Annie Lennox, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Marley but did not give a specific release date.
Scars and Stories (2011–12)
The Fray's third album Scars and Stories, was produced by Brendan O'Brien (best known for his work with Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine) and was recorded in Blackbird studio, located in Nashville, Tennessee. During an interview with Colorado Daily, Slade explained why the band had recruited O'Brien as their producer; "Sonically, we wanted to make this record sound as close as possible to the live shows", citing Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen as influences for the sound of the record that they were trying to capture.
Mixing for the third record began on June 21, 2011. On July 14, 2011, Slade confirmed that the mixing and recording for the third album had been completed via Twitter "Finished our third record about half an hour ago.". When asked about possible release dates for the album, Slade mentioned his hope that the album will be out by October 2011, or at least in time for Thanksgiving. However the date was pushed backed to early 2012.
On September 13, during a live performance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, the band announced that the new album is titled Scars and Stories, and performed the first single from the new album titled "Heartbeat". They also performed a song called "Run For Your Life" which is going to appear on the third record.
The band also contributed a cover of "Take Your Time" to the tribute album Listen to Me: Buddy Holly, released September 6, 2011, as well as a cover of "Mahna Mahna" for the album Muppets: The Green Album.
The band announced in an interview on the VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown that the second single from the album would be the fourth track, "Run for Your Life." The video for the song was released on March 13, 2012.
The third single from the album is the closing track, "Be Still." This song featured in Criminal Minds, Season 7, Episode 20, The Company, as the song when Cindy, Derek Morgan's cousin, was finally reunited with her family at the end of the episode.
After Scars and Stories, Slade promised a fourth album by the end of 2013.
On June 4, 2013, the Fray announced that they had begun recording their fourth album. The first single from the album, "Love Don't Die", was released to radio on October 15, 2013, and to iTunes on October 21, 2013. It was accompanied by a lyrics video, also released on October 21, 2013, and an official music video, filmed on November 13, 2013, at Cowboy Palace Saloon in Chatsworth, California, and released on December 6, 2013. The album, titled Helios, had been scheduled to be released on January 14, 2014, but has been pushed back to February 25, 2014. Instead, another song, titled "Hurricane", was made available on January 14, 2014.
Musical style and songwriting
How to Save a Life consisted of a mix of mid-tempo piano-driven pop rock tracks and power ballads. The band's second album spread the spectrum of the music: the pop rock songs were faster and more energetic, while the ballads were softer than the ballads on the first album.
The lyrics on both albums revolve around life's problems and issues. Common themes include happiness, sadness, death, the problem of evil, relationships, and war. The honest and emotional nature of the lyrics has also had critics labeling the Fray as emo, comparing them to mainstream emo acts like Jimmy Eat World. The Fray's initial songs contained lyrics with strong religious messages. However, by the time they began work on their debut album, the band decided against being an entirely religious outfit because they believe that God has called them away from the "Christian music genre and into a secular market."
The discography of The Fray consists of four studio albums, three live albums, one compilation album, five extended plays, twelve singles, one promotional single and ten music videos. The members of the group met in a music store in Denver – independently, positive coverage from many local media outlets brought them to the attention of Epic Records, who signed them in 2004. The Fray's debut studio album, How to Save a Life, was released in 2005. Five singles were released from the album in total: the first two, "Over My Head (Cable Car)" and the album's title track, both reached the top ten of the US Billboard Hot 100 and were certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA): the latter also topped the Irish singles chart and reached number 4 in the United Kingdom.
The Fray's second album, The Fray, was inspired by a series of trips they took to Rwanda, and featured production from Brendan O'Brien. After its release in February 2009, The Fray became their first album to top the US Billboard 200, and also reached the top ten of the Canadian and United Kingdom albums charts. Its release was preceded by the release of the single "You Found Me", which reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was also certified triple platinum by the RIAA. It also achieved success in Australia, where it topped the singles chart and was certified double platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Three further singles – "Never Say Never", a cover of the Kanye West song "Heartless" and "Syndicate" – were also released from the album.
In 2012, The Fray released their third album, named Scars & Stories: the title comes from an unreleased B-side previously recorded by the group. It charted at number 4 on the Billboard 200 and at number 6 in Canada, and spawned two singles: "Heartbeat", which reached number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100, and "Run for Your Life".
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Sales||Certifications|
|How to Save a Life||14||4||1||9||56||4||50||2||57||4|
|Scars & Stories||4||2||18||6||45||41||68||39||32||44|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
|Live at the Electric Factory: Bootleg No. 1|
|Acoustic in Nashville: Bootleg No. 2|
|Live from the 9:30 Club: Bootleg No. 3|
|The Fray – The Collection|
|iTunes Live from Soho|
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Certifications||Album|
|"Over My Head (Cable Car)"||2005||8||2||5||22||11||83||25||25||96||19||How to Save a Life|
|"How to Save a Life"||2006||3||1||3||2||17||45||1||7||28||4|
|"Look After You"||2007||59||12||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"All at Once"||—||20||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||175|
|"You Found Me"||2008||7||1||6||1||12||73||4||18||63||35||The Fray|
|"Never Say Never"||2009||32||7||12||38||51||—||—||—||—||87|
|"Heartbeat"||2011||42||10||22||66||63||—||—||—||—||—||Scars & Stories|
|"Run for Your Life"||2012||—||31||—||39||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Love Don't Die"||2013||60||7||—||44||65||—||—||—||—||—||Helios|
|"Break Your Plans"||2014||—||21||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Album|
|"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"||2006||50||41||Non-album single|
Other charted songs
Peak chart positions
Scars & Stories
|"Undertow"||2009||Timbaland, Esthero||Shock Value II|
|"Mahna Mahna"||2011||none||Muppets: The Green Album|
|"Take Your Time"||Listen to Me: Buddy Holly|
|"Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World"||AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered|
|"Forever More"||2012||DJ Fresh, Professor Green||Nextlevelism|
|"Over My Head (Cable Car)"||2005||Elliott Lester|
|"How to Save a Life" (version 1)||2006||Sam Brown|
|"How to Save a Life" (version 2)||Mark Pellington|
|"All at Once"||2007||Rod Blackhurst|
|"You Found Me"||2008||Josh Forbes|
|"Never Say Never"||2009||Ace Norton|
|"Run for Your Life"||2012||Declan Whitebloom|
|"Love Don't Die"||2013||Nathan Cox|
|"Break Your Plans"||2014||Issac Slade|
Awards and nominations
|2007||"Over My Head (Cable Car)"||Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||Nominated|
|"How to Save a Life"||Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||Nominated|
|2010||"The Fray"||Best Pop Vocal Album||Nominated|
|"Never Say Never"||Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||Nominated|
Billboard Music Awards
|2006||"How to Save a Life"||Digital Album of the Year||Won|
|"The Fray"||Digital Album Artist of the Year||Won|
|Digital Songs Artist of the Year||Won|
|New Artist of the Year||Nominated|
The Planeta Awards is an annual Peruvian awards ceremony established by Radio Planeta. The Fray has received one award from two nominations.
|2007||The Fray||New Rock Artist of the Year||Won|
|"How to Save a Life"||Ballad of the Year||Nominated|
Teen Choice Awards
|2007||"The Fray"||Choice Music: Breakout Group||Nominated|
|2009||"You Found Me"||Choice Music: Rock Track||Nominated|
Premios 40 Principales
|2007||"How to Save a Life"||Best International Song||Nominated|
|2010||"You Found Me"||International Work of the Year||Won|