“If we don’t hold on, we’re lost,” says singer, songwriter, and revered guitarist John Smith, speaking on the meaning behind his song “Hold On”. The tune embodies a thread of hopefulness in a blanket of bad news; a thread that runs throughout his new full-length album, The Fray. Out March 26th, The Fray finds Smith writing his sixth album, grounded from his usually-busy touring schedule, and reeling from a cascade of even worse news in his personal life; wading through it all with a defiant positivity. “It’s been a hell of a year, but I feel I’ve created my most honest work as a result—and as a necessity,” says Smith. “A lot of these songs are about accepting that life is hard, but just holding on and trying to enjoy it anyway.” Today, Fretboard Journal premiered “Eye to Eye” off of The Fray, describing it as, “A gorgeous new album...beautiful, introspective and loaded with great guitar tones.” A pulsing plea for understanding which was co-written with Americana mainstay Sarah Siskind and features Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Sarah Jarosz, “Eye to Eye” is a shining example of Smith’s ability to deliver a tough conversation wrapped in uplifting verse and melody. Fans can listen to “Eye to Eye” right now at this link and pre-order or pre-save The Fray ahead of it’s March 26th release right here.
Smith co-produced The Fray with long-time friend and producer Sam Lakeman at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio. Calling on an all-star band—pianist Jason Rebello (Sting, John Mayer), bass player Ben Nicholls (Seth Lakeman, Nadine Shah), Drummer Jay Sikora (Paolo Nutini) and Jessica Staveley-Taylor of The Staves—Lakeman and Smith honed an honest sound not unfamiliar to existing fans; a focus on the songs as well as the beautiful way in which Smith picks and plucks them. Not allowing a global pandemic to prohibit collaboration, Smith’s guests on the album recorded remotely and sent their contributions digitally over international borders—Sarah Jarosz, Courtney Hartman, The Milk Carton Kids, and Bill Frisell from the Americas and Smith’s frequent touring partner Lisa Hannigan via a virtual studio session in Dublin.
Throughout The Fray, Smith touches on not just his own emotional turmoil experienced over the past year, but also his observance of the pain of those around him. But it’s Smith’s stubborn optimism that shines through and differentiates his experiences and songs from his influences and contemporaries. His traits of holding onto hope, forgiving transgressions, and reckoning with his place in a world which doesn’t always reciprocate are not only necessary for Smith to deal, they’re contagious to anyone who finds themselves in similar situations, adrift in the wind. For those who echo that sentiment, from experience, Smith shares his message on The Fray; “If we don’t hold on, we’re lost.”
More About John Smith: Smith was born in Essex and raised on the Devon seaside. Known for his intimate songwriting, his honey-on-gravel voice, and pioneering guitar playing, he has spent the last fifteen years touring internationally and has amassed over 40 million streams on Spotify. As a session musician, he has played guitar with artists as diverse as Joan Baez, David Gray, Joe Henry, Lianne La Havas, and Tom Jones.
The Fray Tracklisting:
2. Hold On
5. The Best Of Me (feat. Bill Frisell)
6. Star-Crossed Lovers (feat Lisa Hannigan)
7. To The Shore
8. Eye To Eye (feat Sarah Jarosz)
9. Just As You Are
10. The Fray (feat. The Milk Carton Kids)
11. She's Doing Fine
12. One Day At A Time