Album Feature: Frail

Frail Header
Navigation:

  1. About the Album
  2. Liner Notes & Lyrics
  3. The Missing Jar: Matt Bronleewe
  4. The Black Ring: Fake Frails
  5. Media

ABOUT THE ALBUM:
Front Cover

Frail is the demo CD recorded by Jars of Clay (Matt Bronleewe, Dan Haseltine, Charlie Lowell, and Stephen Mason) between September 1993 and April 1994. The first pressing of the demo was limited to 1,000 copies; a second pressing of 500 copies was made after the first sold out.

TRACKLISTING:

  1. Liquid (3:22)
  2. Boy On A String (Sunflower Song) (3:26)
  3. Art In Me (3:39)
  4. He (5:13)
  5. Fade To Grey (4:58)
  6. Frail (4:04)
  7. Like A Child (4:47)
  8. Love Song For A Savior (4:35)
  9. Four Seven (2:46)

9 tracks, 36 minutes, 50 seconds

RECORDING HISTORY:
It is impossible to separate the story of recording Frail from the story of Jars of Clay’s formation, as work began on the project before the band ever existed. Most notably, the album’s title track was composed by Stephen Mason when he was still in high school. He submitted an instrumental demo of the song for a scholarship to Greenville College in Greenville, IL, where he would meet his future band-mates.

In the fall of 1993, Charlie Lowell, Dan Haseltine, and Matt Bronleewe were students in Greenville’s now-defunct Contemporary Christian Music program. Dan spotted Charlie on campus wearing a Toad the Wet Sprocket t-shirt, and the two became friends based on their common musical tastes. Coincidentally, Charlie would meet Steve in a similar fashion the following year when Steve spotted him wearing an Innocence Mission shirt.

Being CCM students, it was an eventuality that the four would begin writing songs together, whether “just for fun” or for class credit. The first song Charlie, Dan, Matt, and Steve wrote as a group was Fade to Grey, and they produced it as an assignment for a recording class. Friends of the band responded positively to their song, so they started playing regularly at Underground Cafe, a local haunt for student-artists. Enthusiasm for the band continued to grow throughout the fall and into the spring as the group continued to write and perform songs. They felt it appropriate to choose a name for the project, so in January 1994 Jars of Clay was christened.

Jars of Clay's original logo

Jars of Clay’s original logo

Jars of Clay would go on to record the songs Love Song for a Savior, He, and Like a Child for class assignments, eventually compiling all of their recordings onto a demo CD called Frail. They released the demo at a small release party on campus, and copies began to sell quickly. After submitting their music to a talent competition, the band found themselves in front of record label executives in Nashville, Tennessee. On April 27th, 1994, the band performed Fade to Grey and Like a Child at the GMA Spotlight Competition, winning the attention of several record companies. It wasn’t long until band members were receiving phone calls on their dorm payphone from labels hoping to court the band. By June, Frail had sold out of its original 1,000-copy pressing, so the band ordered an additional 500 to distribute to record companies and new fans of the band.

GMA Pics

The band performing in 1994

In the summer of 1994, Charlie, Dan, and Stephen decided to put their college careers on hold in order to move to Nashville and pursue a recording contract. Matt did not make the move with the rest of the band; he chose to stay in Greenville and finish his education. Because Jars of Clay’s sound was marked by a duo of acoustic guitars, they found it necessary to find a new member to replace Bronleewe. Charlie reached out to his best friend from high school, Matt Odmark, who heeded the call and made the move from Rochester to Nashville.

Odmark joined Jars of Clay shortly after the band relocated to Nashville

Odmark joined Jars of Clay shortly after the band relocated to Nashville

As they shopped their demo to various record companies, the band rented a small two-bedroom apartment and picked up odd jobs at pizza shops, malls, and book warehouses. Life would continue this way for several months until the Jars of Clay finally signed with Essential Records in the winter of 1994. This was an unexpected move for the band, as Essential was the smallest label pursuing them. But their team believed in the band, and Essential had a solid backing from their parent company, Brentwood Music. With a new home in Tennessee and the support of a major record label, Jars of Clay began preparing to record a proper debut album.

Our retrospective will continue with our next album feature, Jars of Clay