The Fray

Jason Ienner took his first vacation after graduating from law school, flying from New York City to San Diego for a week. With him was a stack of CDs courtesy of Epic Records where he had been interviewing. San Diego would give him a chance to consider his career options.

While there, he started playing a CD with a tune on it called “Over My Head (Cable Car).” Ienner found himself listening to the song constantly. He was the first of many.

When he got back to NYC, he knew he didn’t want to work for the record label but he did know he wanted to work with the band on that CD. He got in touch with The Fray in their hometown of Denver and scheduled a meeting. Unfortunately, it was the night after the Yankees lost to the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. Ienner had stayed up until 2 a.m., then took a 6 a.m. flight, arriving in Denver on October 21st.

“First impressions are important,” Ienner told Pollstar. “I walk in (to a Denver bar) and the guys look at me and go, ‘You’re from New York, right?’ Then they just start laughing at me about the Yankees. Which is something I would have done. It seemed like a family environment.”

The band had just signed with Epic but was still DIY. The signing brought a half-dozen potential managers to The Fray. The band members weighed each offer carefully.

But Ienner had an ace up his sleeve: Gregg Latterman, with whom he had worked during John Mayer’s developmental years. According to Fray guitarist and co-songwriter Jay King, that was the tipping point: the combination of Ienner’s young enthusiasm matched with Latterman’s seasoned experience.

“These days, I think you need someone who lives, sleeps and drinks everything The Fray … and Jason is 100 percent committed to the band,” King told Pollstar. “And I knew about Gregg because of what he had done and the respect he has in the industry. The combination was ideal.”

The Fray

which also includes Isaac Slade, Dave Welsh and Ben Wysocki

quickly moved from opening for Ben Folds and Weezer to a headlining tour early this year. It was a risk, Ienner admits, but the tour sold out.

Epic’s press kit includes a promo DVD that shows how popular the band is. It’s one song in length

The Fray

“Over My Head (Cable Car)” – and it shows a montage of various tour stops. In every market, the band lets the audience sing the chorus

and at every tour stop, the audience knows every word to the song.

The Fray is climbing fast, and not just on that one tune. The debut, How to Save a Life, has received acclaim for solid songwriting. Radio loves the first single. Meanwhile, its MySpace page, created a year ago January, took 14 months to get a million song plays. It took three weeks to reach 2 million, and 11 days to reach 3 million.

“We’ve been in some markets and cities where we had no radio play and it’ll be almost the same response as the market that has radio play,” King said. “I remember going into Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club for the first time and we really didn’t have any radio there, and the show was off the hook. The show was sold out and people were singing every song.”

What hasn’t been happening is the Blender-slash-Rolling Stone-slash-Spin level of media. But within a year, the band went from playing in front of eight people in Philadelphia to selling out the city’s 1,000-capacity Theatre of the Living Arts.

“I think we came out of nowhere,” King said. “We haven’t gotten the mass exposure and pasted all over every big publication, and I think that’s cool. Looking back, as much as I kind of wanted that big Rolling Stone thing or to be on VH1 and MTV right away, it’s really cool to have something like that before the big players came in.

“As I was learning about the business, I thought success equals having all these things. It kind of happened backwards. And not that we’re there yet but we’re definitely going outside those boundaries.”

The band has had some unfortunate comparisons to Coldplay – probably because the piano is a significant instrument in both bands. That’s not a criticism of either group, but The Fray has its own sound and creative voice. What The Fray probably has in common with Chris Martin’s band – apart from the same booking agency – is a career that will soon reach beyond the theatres.

The Fray’s next tour starts in early May and the band is already holding down two-night stays at House of Blues in Hollywood and Chicago.