The Fray are one of the most successful piano-pop acts of the last decade, having sold well over three million copies worldwide of the three studio albums that they’ve released thus far. Their biggest hits, “How To Save A Life” and “Over My Head (Cable Car)” may have both been sung by lead singer Isaac Slade, but The Fray co-founder and guitarist Joe King co-wrote both of those tracks. King’s no stranger to singing the occasional song on his band’s albums—see “Ungodly Hour”— but on his solo debut, Breaking (out April 23), King takes control of the writing, singing, and production reins for the very first time.
We spoke to King on the phone earlier this afternoon while he was stuck in traffic in his hometown of Denver, on the day which his new single, “Need A Woman By Friday,” dropped on iTunes. He just got back from a trip to New Orleans (see picture at right), where he shot a video for the song with NOLA resident Trombone Shorty (aka Troy Andrews). As you might expect, the song prominently features the trombone, a brass instrument that you don’t generally hear playing a lead role on radio tracks.
“Yeah, you usually don’t hear a trombone on pop records because its sound can sometimes dominate a track,” King explained to us. “But in working with Trombone Troy, I just felt that the instrument added a unique and distinguishable element to the song.”
King’s decision to write and record outside of the framework of the band that he co-founded gave him the kind of creative freedom to explore new directions like this. “I usually write on guitar [with The Fray], but this experience allowed me to explore a whole new approach to songwriting,” he told us, and the result that you’ll hear when Breaking drops on April 23 will include “more synths, more beats” than what you would normally hear from a Fray release.
Speaking of which, what do his bandmates in The Fray — don’t start any drama, people, they’re not broken up or anything— think of his new material? “I played [the album] for them as soon as it was ready, and Ben (Wysocki, the drummer) was relieved that it didn’t sound exactly like The Fray,” King confessed. “Dave (Welsh, lead guitarist) sat in the corner silently, like he always does, and Isaac said ‘That’s f***ing awesome, I want to hear it again!’”
We’re sure that fans are going to say the exact same thing as soon as Breaking streets on April 23. His Coloradan fans will be lucky enough to experience his new material live and in the flesh when he performs four shows in the Denver area in the days following the release and, depending on how that goes, King might be lining up more dates nationally.