To say Tom Frye is a friend is an understatement. To say Tom Frye is a fellow Ragamuffin and slave to the gospel is as well. To say that Tom is a man after God's heart, well that is the greatest understatement of them all. I met Tom nearly a decade ago at a songwriting convention in Nashville and we hit it off immediately. After several months it was clear that he and I would be lifelong friends. Tom shares many of the same artistic influences I do and we have talked for hours on end about our greatest influence being Rich Mullins. Tom has a style that is truly unique and is branching his writing now from the singer / songwriter genre to corporate praise and worship. What encourages me the most about Tom is that he has for years included his children Kaylyn, Maggie, and Jonathan in his writing, recordings, and in his tours. Family bands are hard to come by these days but Tom's family is one to take notice of.
The Story Behind the Song: "Alive For the First Time":
Alive for the First Time was inspired by a friend of ours, who in her late 50's met Jesus in a real and personal way. "Deb" was raised in a satanic cult and experienced many forms of abuse during her early years. At the age of fourteen she ran away from home, choosing a life on the streets.
Nearly two years ago she accepted our invitation to come to church with us, what followed was nothing short of miraculous, as we witnessed a transformation from bondage to freedom in Christ. Deb has inspired many people with her testimony, and was the inspiration for this song. The bridge is actually one of the two lines of the very first prayer she prayed.
Tom Frye and the Frye Family Band got the phone call that many artists would dream of receiving. A new reality show was interested in featuring them in an upcoming series. Reality shows have become a phenomenon in television in the past few years, and the overwhelming success of shows such as Duck Dynasty have made the realty genre a launching pad for people to find fortune and fame. So, Tom knew he had to at least give them a call back. So he did. Little did the show know that the Frye Family Band was about to add another element to their repertoire with the release of their first book, 101 Devotions for Busy Families. As with everything else they do, the Fryes wrote the book together with Lisa and all three kids contributing their own devotions, as well as Tom and wife Lisa collaborating on another. It was a project that came naturally to them.
“Having regular family devotions provides a sense of stability,” says Tom. “Over the years, we would read through scripture or a devotional and many times the text would speak directly to a need or situation, opening up opportunities for Lisa and I to share in a very personal way with our children. Sometimes they would lead to the kids sharing thoughts or feelings which might have otherwise gone unspoken, and potentially festered beneath the surface. Devotions have brought not just the peace and stability of God's directing in our lives, but also helped build trust, understanding, and patience when dealing with those inside and outside our home. By practicing the discipline of leading our families in prayer and scripture reading, we model the importance of faithful leadership in our own homes.”
Though Tom wrote the majority of 101 Devotions for Busy Families, he is quick to point out his lack of scholarly accomplishments. But he does have one thing going for him that he believes will connect with parents – honesty. “The world is not impressed by the number of scriptures we have memorized, our piety, or how faithfully we attend church,” says Tom. “They often dismiss scripture as outdated or irrelevant, but when we can speak personally about how God has met us at our point of need, what we were before and how His love has transformed our lives, they cannot argue with it. They may not view us as biblical scholars, but we totally have the authority to speak on our individual stories, because those are personal, tangible and relevant.”
Tom’s honesty has always spilled over into his music as reflected in the songs of the band’s new EP, Alive For the First Time. The EP features some serious, emotional songs such as “I Will Strive No More,” co written by Tom and Andy Gullahorn. The song was inspired by an exchange of letters between Hudson Taylor, a 19th century missionary to China, and a friend with whom Hudson was sharing his struggle of dealing with spiritual burn-out. “I could easily relate to the frustrations Hudson was pouring out in those letters,” says Tom. “They were borne out of the same struggle we all face when we choose to be self-reliant and attempt to live out our call in our own strength. The letter was so rich with honest emotions and vulnerability.
The EP also includes less serious moments with songs like “Family Band,” written to answer the numerous questions they often get while traveling together. “This is a very light-hearted look at what it is like when we travel,” says eldest daughter, Kaylyn. “My favorite part of performing this song is just watching everyone's faces as we sing through it.” But while the song pokes fun at the lighter side of traveling as a family, it doesn’t capture all the nuances of being a real-life Partridge Family.
“The good thing about a family band is that practices are fairly easy to schedule,” jokes middle daughter, Maggie. “But sometimes long nights on the road, trying to record with a sore throat, or having your little brother pushing for a Star Wars marathon in the van can be less than a positive experience. In the end, however, making music with people I love far outweighs any negative moments.” Brother Jonathon agrees. “I like traveling because you get to meet new people and see new things.”
Wife Lisa, however, sees the character-building side of things. “Sometimes we don't know exactly what we are walking into, where we'll stay or maybe even when we'll be eating. This can create tension. But seeing how God works it out and how we have learned as a family to 'go with the flow' is very encouraging. During those trying times, it is very important to teach the kids that life doesn't always go as we plan, but being content in all circumstances is exactly what God desires and we can shine His light bright when we do. When Tom and I became parents, we wanted to be deliberate in raising our kids. And we believe that anything of value doesn’t just happen. It takes sacrifice, hard work and purpose.”
While most families will not perform music or write books together, Tom insists that ministering together is essential. “For the first seven years of our lives together, Lisa and I gave in-home care to my elderly grandmother. While it was a difficult season, it was also rewarding and taught us a lot about hands-on ministry. After her death in 1999, God began shifting our ministry from being focused on one person to a ministering to many people. So, ultimately, my hope is that our story can inspire families to serve together, beginning in their homes and then to whomever God calls them.”
So, after Tom explained all this to the reality show, the producer then presented a question that stopped Tom in his tracks. She asked, “So isn’t it weird for a dad to write and perform songs with his kids?” That one question, says Tom, is why the Frye Family Band will not be a “dynasty” on television anytime soon.
“It struck me that she could have asked that same question in numerous ways,” says Tom. “She could have said, isn’t it fun or neat or used any other kind of positive spin. When I heard that question, I knew our answer was going to be no. I could tell they weren’t looking for a functional family. They were looking for dysfunction. I think there are plenty of shows to watch on television where people can view that.”
“Seeing our oldest graduate this year has reminded me to take every moment captive,” says Tom. “Because I grew up in an unstable household, I know the damage that can be done to a child’s soul when a mother and father are not on the same page. Lisa and I realized early on that the word ‘parent’ is a verb, and we’ve tried to be deliberate in all we’ve done with our kids. I hope they take that legacy with them wherever they go.”
In short, it is great to hear Tom's desire for God translated into the heart of the songs he writes. Tom will always be a close friend and fellow Ragamuffin and I am truly humble to call he and his family friends. Know ing that Tom has delved into the realm of Praise and Worship encourages me as there aren't many that can carve a lyric quite like Tom.