Just a few years ago, most people had never heard of the Denver-based band called The Fray.
The group of 20-somethings, made up of Isaac Slade, Joe King, Ben Wysocki and Dave Welsh, was formed in 2002 by former classmates Slade and King. Welsh and Wysocki were King's former band mates.
The Fray got its start playing local gigs and was named "Best New Band" by Denver's Westword magazine. In 2004, the band signed a contract with Epic Records. The Fray say its success is in part the result of both grass-roots and local radio support.
Its debut album is called "How to Save a Life" and the first single, "Over My Head (Cable Car)," reached the Top 10 on the Billboard singles chart, went platinum and was streamed more than 1 million times on MySpace in a single month.
Slade reportedly found inspiration for "How to Save a Life," which is quickly approaching platinum status, from his time working as a mentor to a drug-addicted teenager.
The Fray has gone from playing small clubs and opening for other bands to headlining shows at larger venues, including three sold-out live shows at Denver's Red Rocks this month.
These days, The Fray can be heard all over the radio and, perhaps as importantly, on television. The title track, "How to Save a Life," was prominently featured on "Grey's Anatomy" and the band's music has been featured on "Scrubs," "What About Brian," "NCIS," "One Tree Hill" and "Bones."
The band has often been compared to groups like Coldplay and Keane and Slade doesn't mind. As he told the Seattle Times in July, "We got a couple songs from our older days that definitely drew upon Coldplay and Keane and those early piano-rock influences. And I think, for the public, at a glance — tall, blond piano player — people think 'Coldplay.' So that's fine. I don't mind that. We definitely owe a lot to those bands for making the piano cool again."
The Fray is going green for its 2007 tour, working to spread awareness about global climate change to fans. This eco-friendly tour includes carbon-neutral buses and vans, reusable water bottles and eco-friendly merchandise.
Next up are sold-out shows at The V Festival in the United Kingdom followed by a number of shows across Ireland and the United Kingdom in the fall. "We wrote these songs in our basement," Slade told People magazine in July, "just trying to quit our day jobs."
Slade began singing at age 8.
"The first time I felt this magical pull towards music was with this band called Bush, and they had this song called 'Swallowed,'" he said. "It was about a lot of things that I wasn't allowed to do — drugs and stuff that was on the other side of the tracks for me and where I grew up. I was listening to a lot of fakey, happy, life will get better, cheer up music and this just ripped the cover off that and really forced me to deal with my own life and what I wanted my life to look like. I remember early on feeling that pull towards music through that song."
'Hit the Road, Jack'
Slade learned to play the piano when he was 11.
"My left-field influence was Ray Charles actually," he said. "I was a tap dancer back at the age 11 and we had to do the song 'Hit the Road, Jack,' and I had never made the connection between music and movement, like body movement and ear sound. … I can't explain — it was the craziest thing."
'Smells Like Teen Spirit'
In September 1991, Nirvana released the single "Smells Like Teen Spirit," changing the lives of a younger generation of musicians, including 12-year-old King.
"I think the first band that made me want to play music, and made me pretty much idolize bands, or want to start a band of my own was Nirvana, specifically the song 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,'" King said.
King said that the song was very influential at that time of his life.
"I remember actually, I was so excited about the song," he said, "my brother and I, we live in Denver, Colo., and my brother and I decided to — for some reason — take off our clothes and run out in the backyard, and it was like … six inches of snow, and blast the song out of my living room and just like roll around in the snow and kind of go crazy."
Growing up in a conservative Christian family, Wysocki was not exposed to mainstream music until a chance encounter with the Beastie Boys on a relative's car radio in 1994.
"We were going to a graduation or some family event and I rode with my cool cousin instead of riding with grandma, and he had the Beastie Boys tape in his jeep. We were listening to 'Sabotage' and it was my first experience of, I kind of felt guilty, like I shouldn't be listening to it because it sounded so, something is wrong," he said. "Maybe it was just my upbringing, and I just assumed something must be wrong with whatever is happening here in this music, because he didn't say God. He didn't say pray."
And in October 2000, Radiohead's release of "Kid A" challenged Welsh's assumptions about music.
"I think Radiohead's 'Kid A' was for me the point. … It was literally the first track, 'Everything in Its Right Place,' because my first experience with the album was playing track one and listening in my headphones and just being like, 'What is going on in this album?'"