MUSIC Singer of The Fray makes a connection
Isaac Slade enjoys losing himself in episodes of 'The Office.'
By JOHN BENSON
Living on a meteor can be a dangerous and lonely experience.
That's exactly where The Fray singer-pianist Isaac Slade, who penned 2006's monster hit single "How to Save a Life," has been of late. During a phone call from a Wisconsin tour stop, the 25-year-old Denver native admits adjusting to not only the touring demands but the emotional emptiness of celebrity has been tough. That's why when he's not on stage, you'll often find him hiding on a tour bus doing the unthinkable.
"My guilty pleasure is watching episodes of 'The Office' on my iPod," Slade said. "For weeks, I've disappeared every free moment, watching the brilliance of Steve Carell."
When it's pointed out that perhaps by watching a show based around the unfulfilling and mundane aspects of daily life, something he no longer worries about or experiences, Slade admits he's living vicariously through the character's insignificance and anonymity. In fact, he said he relates most to the role of Jim (played by John Krasinski), who "wouldn't get picked out of the crowd."
After a brief pause, he added, "I never thought about that. Maybe that is my lonely effort to get back to some degree of normalcy. I have been having a hard time adjusting to the routine of this whole thing and I really treasure any moment I can get to have a regular day. So maybe watching people be totally bored with their work ..."
While he trails off before finishing his thought, you get the idea that it's been quite a year for Slade and his bandmates, who watched their 2005 debut effort, "How to Save a Life," grow from an obscure alt-rock release to double-platinum status. Slade said it seems just like yesterday he was a struggling musician making ends meet while working at Starbucks.
Focusing on writing
In fact, it's his java-pushing job that in a way made him focus on his songwriting. Initially inspired by Tori Amos and the Counting Crows' Adam Duritz, Slade said he wanted to create music that drew the listener deep into their own psyche. He also wanted to connect with people, so while he was serving up a latte or an iced white chocolate mocha with soy, he'd have three minutes to make a difference in each customer's day.
Naturally, he didn't sing them a song but he said he learned an emotional connection is a strong bond that people don't soon forget about. It's this notion that imbues the song "How to Save a Life," which Slade wrote after hearing the life story of a crack-addicted teen at summer camp.
"You don't have any idea what is going to happen to your art once you put it out there and open the gallery doors and let people come in," Slade said. "It's just an honor and surprise that people have connected to it as much as they have."
Despite the song's ubiquitous success, Slade is well aware of a single being too successful.
"We have the danger of being the next 'Hanging by a Moment' [Lifehouse's massive 2001 hit single] for 2006," Slade said. "We're always conscious of that."
It's for this reason the band, which recently released its third single, "Look After You," has already looked to its sophomore effort with new songs "Happiness," "Absolute" and "Uncertainty" currently getting stage time. You can see The Fray on Tuesday at Playhouse Square Center's State Theatre and Wednesday at Pittsburgh's Benedum Center. Both shows are sold out.
No matter how many new songs the band plays, you can bet the majority of people in attendance want to hear "How to Save a Life." And just as people have gravitated to the cathartic solace in the track's message, Slade is attempting to find the same within his meteoric life.
"We basically went from local band to national band and that transition has been sort of a culture shock," Slade said. "You have to adjust to everything, that means with finding new friends and holding on as hard as you can to old ones and trying to stay as normal as possible."