The Fray Interview: New Album, ‘Love Don’t Die,’ Adam Duritz’s Advice + More – Off the Record
“A song that reflected the excitement of where I’m at, the fresh new love, is ‘Love Don’t Die.’ For me, it came out of that place,” the Fray‘s Joe King tells PopCrush.
After a several hours-long shoot to film a live performance session for PopCrush’s Off the Record series on the release day of their new album, ‘Helios,’ the band still lit up and gladly turned into storytellers during our interview – at least, three quarters of the band (drummer Ben Wysocki couldn’t make it, as he and his wife were expecting a baby at any moment during the time of the shoot). Known for heartstring-pulling pop-rock hits like the emotional ‘How to Save a Life’ and the ballad ‘You Found Me,’ the Fray ventured to a new place when making their latest record, and what they had to say about it felt totally genuine: “It’s a happy time. It’s bright. It’s sunny. And the music is reflective of that.”
Watch the Fray Perform ‘Love Don’t Die’
“We had just written the song,” Joe continues of ‘Love Don’t Die,’ “and I was heading overseas with my girlfriend (at the time), and I was planning my proposal to her like four days after that. I remember getting there and we were in Italy, and Ryan [Tedder], the guy we co-wrote the song with, sent the track over and it was the first time I heard it since we’d wrote it. We were there in this little town of Cinque Terre in Italy, on this tiny little cobblestone street. I had my headphones on and it took me like 20 minutes to download it because there was no Internet. I downloaded the song, and I was so pumped up when I heard it. I let her hear it, and I’m just watching her expression to see if she likes it or not, and she’s smiling. And then after the song, she just gives me this big kiss. And I was like, ‘Yes! Marry me, darling!’”
“The next week, I ended up proposing. It just came out of that place and exciting time of life. I’ll always have that special memory to that song,” he explains.
This is just one of many sweet stories that the band opened up about during our conversation about the making of ‘Helios’ and the evolvement of their music and careers. From marriages to babies to just having plain old fun recording in the studio, the band — Isaac Slade, Joe King, Dave Welsh and Ben Wysocki — collectively seem to be in their happy place right now.
Still, it’s probably fair to say that tracks like the previously mentioned ‘You Found Me’ and the moving ‘Break Your Plans,’ the Fray’s new single, are the core of this band: piano-driven (except in their gorgeous acoustic performance of the song for Off the Record, which is all guitars and vocals) and likely to bring fans to tears because they can personally relate to the lyrics. Isaac admits that laying his emotions out on the table for the world to hear night after night sometimes affects him, too — but he was lucky enough to get some solid advice from an idol who helped him realize that this was normal and OK, and not a bad thing.
"Something Adam Duritz from Counting Crows said that really struck me … He said that if the songs feel like you could totally sing them, no problem, they’re probably not going deep enough."
“I remember I was struggling with that on our second record with this song called ‘You Found Me.’ It was hitting really close to home, and I was getting emotional at shows and having a hard time and singing it,” Isaac recalls. “Something Adam Duritz from Counting Crows said that really struck me … he said he’s really worried if the songs don’t feel like that. He said that if the songs feel like you could totally sing them, no problem, they’re probably not going deep enough. He said he wants songs that cut to the bone, and those are the ones he knows are actually going to reach people. So that one comment, I was like, “Ohhh, this is a good thing! It’s a good thing that I choke up every once in a while at shows thinking about the original stuff in these songs.”
Watch the Fray Perform ‘Break Your Plans’
Watch the Fray Perform ‘Heartbeat’
“I’m not close with Adam. We text a little bit. And by ‘we text,’ I mean I text him and sometimes he writes back,” Isaac adds with a laugh.
Isaac, the lead vocalist of the Fray, may be a bit starstruck by Adam — he is one of the band’s early influences, after all — but it’s his former tourmate Ben Folds that may have given him the best life advice of all.
“I wanted to perform ‘The Luckiest’ mainly because I like the song so much and I’d never played it,” he says of the Ben Folds song that he chose to perform, with a dedication to his wife, Anna, at the band’s Off the Record session. “Actually, it’s a pretty special song for me.”
“My girlfriend at the time [now wife] and I were at a Ben Folds show back in ’05, when we were opening for Ben, and I asked Ben if I could propose onstage during that song,” Isaac continues. “He said, ‘Why don’t you just let me play it, and I’ll dedicate it to you guys, and you can propose somewhere else?’ And I was like, ‘No, man! This’ll be great! It’ll be a moment!’ and he’s like, ‘You’re girl’s not gonna wanna do that in front of everybody. Your whole life’s about to be public.’ Dude, she would’ve hated it. Ben knew my wife better than I did. So we were at Radio City [Music Hall, in New York City], and Ben said something really cool right before the song and played it, and then I chose not to propose that night. I proposed earlier that morning already. So it was our first engaged musical moment.”
Watch Isaac Slade of the Fray Perform ‘The Luckiest’
The Fray formed in 2002 and released their first album in 2005. It went double platinum and birthed multiple hit singles, including the commercial diamond ‘How to Save a Life,’ which is still the band’s biggest success to date thanks to its prominent run in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ episodes and promos.
“I view our band as an art-making collective first and then I view it as a business second, because we do balance those two things all the time. When the opportunity comes up for us to put a song on something, we just make sure it’s legit and classy and go for it, and then you hope it goes big. That piece we did with ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ was awesome because it was SO much exposure – like 24 million people a week, every week,” Isaac says.
"In the ‘90s, would Pearl Jam have put a song on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ if that show existed? We all said, ‘Hell no, they wouldn’t.’"
“I think when the opportunity came around, we were still basing a lot of what we thought about the music business with bands that we grew up liking,” Dave adds. “In the ‘90s, would Pearl Jam have put a song on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ if that show existed? We all said, ‘Hell no, they wouldn’t.’ But we were also at that moment in time … I think there was a shift happening. Looking back on it, if we had an qualms then, I feel like they were trivial at best. Now, looking back, it was just simply an opportunity to get your song to more people than not. Now it would be an easy decision.”
“And then 10 years later, Pearl Jam did the Target commercial,” Isaac says, laughing and kind of proving a point: licensing music to movies, commercials and TV shows is just part of the new normal in today’s music business.
As the band continues to navigate their way through Top 40, they look to fellow pop-rock musicians to help hold a spot for songs that sound something like their own on the radio. Imagine Dragons and Mumford and Sons dominating the charts keeps them optimistic — because it means the door stays open, that people are still interested in hearing the kind of music that they do best.
“I end up listening to half the stuff my little girls listen to anyway,” Joe is happy to admit. “They love Lorde.”
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