The Fray

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 Fray achieved national success with their first single, "Over My Head (Cable Car)", which became a top ten hit in the United States. The release of their second single, "How to Save a Life", brought the band worldwide fame. The song charted in the top three of the Billboard Hot 100 and was a top 5 single in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The Fray
The Fray in 2014
Background information
OriginDenver, Colorado, U.S.
GenresPop rock, alternative rock, soft rock
Years active2002–present
Past members
  • Caleb Slade
  • Mike Ayars
  • Zach Johnson
  • Dan Battenhouse
  • Jimmy Stofer

The group's self-titled, second album, released in 2009, debuted at number-one on the Billboard charts[1] and was certified gold in the United States, Australia and Canada. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album in 2010.[2] While both the albums were commercially successful, critical reception was mixed. The Fray was ranked No. 84 on Billboard's "Artists of the Decade" list.[3] Their third album Scars & Stories, released in 2012, achieved moderate commercial success; debuting and peaking at number four on the Billboard 200. The album again received mixed reviews from critics. The band's fourth album, Helios, was released in February 2014. The band's greatest hits album, Through the Years: The Best of the Fray, was released in November 2016.

The band's use of the piano as the lead instrument in their music has led critics to compare the band with English piano-driven bands such as Coldplay and Keane. Their lyrical content and moods has been described as austere, theatrical, cathartic, and ethereal, with overarching themes of tribulation, poignancy, and yearning, among others.[4][5][6][7] However, the band lists its influences as the Wallflowers, Counting Crows, Better Than Ezra and U2.[8]


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. Isaac Slade and guitarist Joe King were several years ahead of drummer Ben Wysocki at Faith Christian Academy. Wysocki and guitarist David Welsh 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' waning relationship.[9] Following this Johnson left the band 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 bandmate 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 acknowledge contributions from all members.[10] The band has had no permanent bassist since Caleb, instead employing touring bassists on a temporary basis. The current bassist is Jason Hardin, who has been touring with the band since 2014.

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.[11][12] 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".[13] 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.[14] 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.[12] Epic Records A&R man Mike Flynn discovered the band through the article in Westword[11][15] and soon after, Epic Records officially signed the band on December 17, 2004.

How to Save a Life (2005–2007)

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.[16] "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.[17] 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.[18] On the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart, the single reached the No. 2 position.[19] 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.[20]

While "Over My Head (Cable Car)" was rising on the charts, the song "How to Save a Life" was first featured during an episode of Grey's Anatomy, aired March 19, 2006, and then on an episode of Scrubs, aired April 25, 2006.[21] 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.[22]

The Fray performing at BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend in 2007

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)".[23] It tied for the seventh longest charting single of all time on the Hot 100 chart, with Santana's "Smooth", at 58 consecutive weeks.[12] The song also topped the Adult Top 40 chart for 15 consecutive weeks.[24] "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.[25]

"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.[23] 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.[26][27]

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".[28] Stylus Magazine gave the album a negative review, stating, "The Fray, as a rule, are moribund, emotionally strained, and uninvolving."[29] Rolling Stone and Blender echoed many of these statements while giving the album three stars out of five.[30][31] 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.[32] HM Magazine, another American magazine devoted to Christian music also gave the album a positive review, rating it 4/5 stars.[33]

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.[34] 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.[12] 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)[34] and worked with Reverb, a non-profit environmental organization, for their 2007 summer tour.[35]

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.[36] 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.[37] A documentary, Fair Fight, directed by Rod Blackhurst[38][39] was included with the first 300,000 copies of the second album.[40][41] The lead single from the album, "You Found Me" debuted online on December 9, 2009, on,[42] 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)[43] and topped the Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks chart[44] as well as the Australian Singles Chart, becoming the band's first song to reach number-one in Australia.[45] 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".[46] 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[1]

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.[47][48] The demo version of the song was released on the band's official website on November 11, 2009.[49] The band also covered Kanye West's song "Heartless"[50] 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,[51] 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".[52]

"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 song was used in the pilot episode as well as in the series finale episode and the pre-finale special of the television series, The Vampire Diaries.[53] The third single from the album, "Syndicate", released on January 12, 2010,[54] 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.[55]

Again, critical reception to the album was mixed. Rolling Stone termed the album as "nothing new"[56] while Entertainment Weekly stated, "The Fray is all blah, all the time: more minor-key melodies and more dreary tempos."[57] 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."[58] 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."[59] At Metacritic, a review aggregate website, the album holds a rating of 56/100 based on 9 professional reviews, meaning "mixed or average reviews".[60]

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.[61]

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.[62]

Scars and Stories (2011–2012)

The Fray's third album Scars and Stories, was produced by Brendan O'Brien 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.

As for the lyrical aspect of the album, Slade said that the lyrics capture a more aggressive tone than their previous records.[63][64] Guitarist Joe King recorded on the album.

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.

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.".[65] 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.[64] However the date was pushed backed to early 2012. It was released on February 7, 2012.

On September 13, during a live performance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, the band announced that the album, Scars and Stories, and performed its first single: "Heartbeat".[66] They also performed "Run for Your Life", which was going to appear on the third record. The band announced in an interview on the VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown that "Run for Your Life" would be the album's second single. 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 included 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.[citation needed]

Helios (2013–2016)

After Scars and Stories, Slade promised a fourth album by the end of 2013.[67]

On June 4, 2013, the Fray announced that they had begun recording their fourth album.[68] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

The album was revealed to be titled Helios, and was made available for preorder on November 25, 2013.[69] It had been scheduled to be released on January 14, 2014, but was pushed back to February 25, 2014. Instead, another song, "Hurricane", was made available on January 14, 2014.[citation needed] On May 9, 2014, the band announced via Twitter that the next single, "Break Your Plans", was released.[70]

The album was produced by Stuart Price and Ryan Tedder. It received primarily mixed reviews, although it did peak at No. 2 on the Billboard US Top Rock Albums.[71]

In mid-late 2015, the band went on tour with Train as their opening act for the Picasso at The Wheel Tour Summer Tour in mid-2015, along with Matt Nathanson.[72][73] The tour started on May 21 and ended on July 25 of the same year.[74] The band also continued to tour with Train into late 2015, until their final show in Las Vegas on November 7.[citation needed]

Through the Years: The Best of the Fray and hiatus (2016–present)

On September 9, 2016, the Fray released a new single, "Singing Low", which is also included on their greatest hits album, Through the Years: The Best of the Fray, which was announced along with the single's release.[75][76] It was released on November 4, 2016. In late 2016, the band went on tour to promote the album.[citation needed]

In July 2019, the band revealed in an interview that they were on hiatus, since they had fulfilled their 5 record deal with Epic Records and wanted to focus more on their own freedom.[77]

Musical style and songwriting

How to Save a Life consisted of a mix of mid-tempo piano-driven pop rock tracks and power ballads.[78] 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.[79]

Slade's vocals feature falsetto and a strong American accent. On the second album, his vocals were more aggressive, most notably on the tracks "We Build Then We Break" and "Say When".[80]

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[81][82] has also had critics labeling the Fray as emo, comparing them to mainstream emo acts like Jimmy Eat World.[28] 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."[83]

Band members



Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2007"Over My Head (Cable Car)"Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with VocalNominated
"How to Save a Life"Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with VocalNominated
2010The FrayBest Pop Vocal AlbumNominated
"Never Say Never"Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with VocalNominated

Billboard Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2006"How to Save a Life"Digital Album of the YearWon
The FrayDigital Album Artist of the YearWon
Digital Songs Artist of the YearWon
New Artist of the YearNominated

Planeta Awards

The Planeta Awards is an annual Peruvian awards ceremony established by Radio Planeta. The Fray has received one award from two nominations.

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2007The FrayNew Rock Artist of the YearWon
"How to Save a Life"Ballad of the YearNominated

Teen Choice Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2007The FrayChoice Music: Breakout GroupNominated
2009"You Found Me"Choice Music: Rock TrackNominated

Premios 40 Principales

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2007 "How to Save a Life" Best International Song Nominated

APRA Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2010"You Found Me"International Work of the YearWon


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