Isaac Slade had to laugh. Here he was, finishing up a piano part for the last song to be recorded for the Fray's debut album, How to Save a Life. And co- producer Aaron Johnson is asking him how the second record is coming?

"I laughed at him. He wasn't laughing," Slade says. "I said, 'You've gotta be kidding, right?' He said, 'No, you've got to start writing for it.'"

Slade and his cohorts - guitarist and vocalist Joe King, drummer Ben Wysocki and guitarist Dave Welsh - got the hint.

"One of the first songs came six months after that," Slade says. "So it's been on our mind for a long time."

And what a time it's been for the Fray: The Denver-based group played to sold-out crowds around the world in support of 2005's How to Save a Life (Epic/Sony), which went on to sell more than 3 million copies in the U.S. Melodically charged hits "Cable Car (Over My Head)" and the title track worked their way onto the radio and into the hearts of fans - not to mention onto the soundtrack of TV phenom "Grey's Anatomy." Throw in a trio of Grammy nominations, and you've got the kind of out-of-the-gate explosion that any young artist would envy.

It's also the kind of success that can play some mind games, and all four musicians acknowledge experiencing moments of the unhealthy headiness of celebrity.

"It's a battle to go through any kind of fame or success - it's not good for a person," King says. "But we have people around us who really ground us. Most of them, at some point or another in the last couple of years, would say, 'Dude, you're nothing special.'"

"We've tried really hard to get back to who we are and what we do," Wysocki says. "And that's pretty much friends making music."

With perspective regained, the friends didn't take themselves too seriously - but took their art very seriously - when beginning work in earnest on the new record in the summer of 2007.

"A lot of people know us for two songs, and those are both extremes - way up and way down," says Slade, the Fray's lead singer and piano player. He and King are the group's primary songwriters, and count those two hits among their compositions.

"This album has a lot more depth. To write those songs in the first place, we had to have a soberness or gravity to what we were writing," Slade says. "We wanted to make the songs count. I'm happy with this record because the songs feel like they count. They really connect to us."

Like the Fray's organic beginning in 2002, when onetime high school friends Slade and King bumped into each other at a guitar shop, the new album's "You Found Me" begins quietly. Slade is at his piano, contemplating a soul lost and found. And like the band's rise in recent years, the song evolves from something intimate into something huge, a haunting guitar-and-drum opus, with Slade's anguished singing making for an unshakeable experience. And that's just one track.

On "Absolute," Slade pushes his voice into new territory, exploring the upper register of his range. The pretty "Never Say Never" boasts a chugging momentum that suggests it'll have a welcome home on the stage, where the group honed its chops over the past three years. The Fray even brought untested songs to the hometown stage early in 2008 at Denver's Bluebird Theater, taking note of audience reaction before returning to studio work.

"With our first experience in the studio, recording 'How to Save a Life,' maybe we could hear something in our heads, but we didn't know how to translate it onto the physical record," Welsh says. "Now, we're better musicians, and all of us are beginning to

think outside the box. This time, I branched out a little past guitar, whether it was synthesizer or other keyboard parts. I love to explore musically."

Reunited with producers Mike Flynn and Aaron Johnson, the bandmates began their explorations for the second album at a storied facility in Sausalito, Calif., The Plant. But it was at a nondescript studio back home in the suburbs of Denver where they felt most comfortable, putting in workmanlike hours six days a week to write and record the follow-up to their hugely successful debut.

There was no shortage of real-life experience to influence the storytelling, with the band amassing about 30 songs to choose from for the record.

"With success, you have a lot more drama," King says. "For me, it was extreme highs in career and extreme lows in a relationship. There were really obvious things to write about."

"Three of us got married within the last three years," notes Welsh; King's marriage predates the band. "Trying to have these two things coexist - traveling in a band for nine or 10 months out of the year, and having a wife at home who's trying to go about this other life she has - is fascinatingly difficult. If you could put your finger on one thing that's been hard or a challenge, that would be it."

With its reference to "a sailor in a new port every night,"Absolute" could very well be inspired by the risk of long distance relationships and life on the road. " Never Say Never" is even more direct, a love song between two people who are "pulling apart and coming together again and again."

"A lot of really big realizations about ourselves are on this record," King says. "We're singing about real things that we've experienced. I'm not really comfortable talking about it, but I'm a lot more comfortable singing about it. It's a different side of me. The lyrics didn't come until the very end on a lot of the songs."

"The biggest goal we have is to be honest, at every point, with the music," Welsh says.

"There's a lot more questions than answers," Slade says. "But there are points of light throughout the record. I'm really proud of how we managed to capture extreme perspectives. A lot of the lyrics are super intimate, about the interior of a relationship. And a lot are from the perspective of human struggle."

King says every track on the album was given long, thoughtful attention - one reason the album's creation took about a year.

"We've spent a lot of time on each song, and I hope that shows in the record, that it's all very balanced," he says. "The intimate songs are special - and the same with the big, loud songs. If I'm a fan of a band, when I listen to a second record I look for the things that I immediately want to connect to - things I liked in their music on the first album. Then I look for, have they changed in a good or bad way? Hopefully the fans will see that we've grown, that we've changed artistically a little bit. And I would hope they would listen to it and say, 'They haven't become different guys.'"

Sara Bareilles first achieved mainstream critical praise in 2007 with her widely successful hit, "Love Song" which reached #1 in 22 countries around the world from her debut album LITTLE VOICE. Since then, the Eureka, CA native has gone on to sell over 1 million copies of her debut album, earn 3 Grammy nominations including Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Love Song." Bareilles' critically acclaimed sophomore release KALEIDOSCOPE HEART was released in September of 2010, debuted at #1 on the Billboard top 200 chart and has gained critical praise everywhere including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, People and Los Angeles Times. The album yielded the hit single "King of Anything," which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and was certified platinum by the RIAA. In 2011, Bareilles joined the judge's panel on the hit NBC show "The Sing-Off." In early 2012, Bareilles released a documentary called "A Trace of the Sun: Volunteering in Japan," which chronicled her trip to Japan where she joined All Hands Volunteer efforts in the city of Ofunato after the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated coastal cities and left over 26,000 people without homes. Soon after she released her critically acclaimed ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME EP, which was produced by singer/songwriter and fellow "Sing-Off" judge Ben Folds. Sara's highly anticipated third studio album, THE BLESSED UNREST is set for release on July 16th through Epic Records. For more information, please visit www.sarabmusic.com.

For the members of Mercury Records group Parachute, the name of their third album, Overnight, could well be a sly commentary on the hard work and commitment it's taken for them to experience the success that's been building over the last four years and first two albums. Their 2009 debut Losing Sleep featured the Top 15 single, "She is Love" (boasting more than 6.5 million views), while 2011's The Way It Was included the #1 iTunes Rock Song "Kiss Me Slowly" (co-written with Lady Antebellum) and the Top 15 hit "Something to Believe In."

Or it could refer to the late evenings put in by chief songwriter Will Anderson, burning the midnight oil, writing in his new Nashville base, after moving from the band's hometown of Charlottesville, VA (where they were discovered and signed to Dave Matthews Band's Red Light Management out of college). Anderson composed more than 50 songs for the album with a variety of collaborators, including Ryan Tedder (the first single, "Can't Help"), as well as Grammy winner Chris DeStefano [Kelly Clarkson] and Ashley Gorley [Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban] on the title track.

"Even though there's plenty of pressure to break through on your third album, the actual recording process was much less stressful," says Will about the band's sessions at Ocean Way in Nashville with producer Oren Yoel, a young contemporary who has worked with hip-hop phenom Asher Roth as well as Miley Cyrus, among others. "All of us were on the same wavelength. We all kind of knew exactly what we wanted without having to say it out loud. There was a weird sense of peace that we knew where we were going and where we needed to be."

From the pop fervor of "Can't Help" and the powerful simplicity of "Hurricane," composed on acoustic guitar by Will after a long frustrating day, to the '80s Phil Collins-meets-U2 flair of "Waiting for that Call" and the slow Peter Gabriel/John Mayer jam of "The Other Side," Parachute prove adept at combining guitarist Nate McFarland's Edge-influenced arena-rock guitar licks with Will's melodic sense of what will resonate with their passionate fan base.

It's no surprise for anyone who has followed the band's history. Will has been playing with drummer Johnny Stubblefield, bassist Alex Hargrave and saxophone/keyboardist Kit French since they were high school classmates in Charlottesville almost 10 years ago. Anderson met Nate while attending University of Virginia together, and the guitarist joined the band six years ago.

"We're just now getting to know one another as musicians as well as we know each other as people," says Will. "We wanted to capture a sound in the studio that reflected us as a band. And we all know which parts each of us had to play to get that sound."


The band's stylistic palette can run the range from old-school legends like Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen to newer acts like U2, Coldplay, Weezer, Ben Folds, Maroon 5 and John Mayer.

With producer Yoel, the band has even begun to stretch the boundaries, with Will's spoken word vocals adding almost a hip-hop flavor to a new song called "Didn't See It Coming," about an actress friend of theirs in Hollywood excited to land a gig, only to discover it was an X-rated feature.

"That's probably the catchiest song I've ever written," he says. "I just laid down this spoken-word track, thinking we'd replace it later, but everyone loved it so much, we kept it on."

Anderson is most proud of "Hurricane," a song he wrote before going to sleep by strumming an acoustic guitar.

"It's like the feeling you get when you think you're never going to be able to write another song," explains Will. "Once I started, it all came spilling out."

Anderson credits guitarist Nate with creating parts that were "just perfect" for each song. "He really nailed it, with a unique spin to every song that made them epic, but at the same time, within a pop framework. That's something we've always tried to do, melding his rock guitar to my sensibilities, making it work both for the arena and within the melodic sense of strong hooks. I think we really nailed it this time."

Having played more than 400 shows over the last few years, touring around the country with everyone from NeedtoBreathe to Andy Grammer, Parachute's live show continues to grow and impress. They've also played before several million at a New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, as well as appearing on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, ABC's Good Morning America and Jimmy Kimmel Live and CBS' The Early Show. The band's songs have been featured on MTV's The City along with CW's One Tree Hill, Vampire Diaries and 90210.

"It's so nice to have three albums' worth of material to choose from in concert," says Will, while the band has always played an eclectic variety of covers, from Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Loving" to vintage tracks from Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, the Commodores and Motown. "We're just now hitting our stride as a live band. We're better musicians who have come to trust one another. We all have our pocket and fill it. But we still have a long way to go."

Overnight has a little something for everyone. Longtime fans will recognize their favorite band, with a fresh sound bound to intrigue newcomers.

"The last album was like taking a brand-new car straight off the lot," says Will. "This album is just as fun to drive, but it's like a vintage Mustang, a little more muscle and grittier, built to last."

On their third Mercury Records album, Parachute is firmly in the driver's seat.

Pretty in Pink

David Schuler is a multi-platinum, grammy nominated record producer and songwriter. Originally from Rochester, NY, he now lives in Los Angeles and has recently produced records for artists such as P!nk, John Legend, Daughtry, Backstreet Boys, The Saturdays, Ricki Lee Coulter, Tina Arena, Frida Gold and many more. Formerly of local Rochester band "The Sunstreak", David now fronts his own musical project, "Pretty in Pink", in which he writes and produces all of the music on his own and releases the music independently.

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