Leader of the Band

The Partridge Family may have had the multi-colored bus, but the Frye Family Band opted for blue silos near their Indiana home instead. Though the former was a contrived Hollywood family band, the latter is the real deal, and the imagery on their new CD, Under Indiana Lights, reflects dad Tom’s desire to change his own family tree.

As a young boy, Tom Frye grew up in an unstable household. His parents argued constantly and filed for divorce several times, but never followed through. Tension was part of daily life for young Tom, but he found solace from his bedroom window.

“I could look out my window and see three blue silos on a farm a mile away,” says Tom. “I didn’t know the people there, but blue has always been my favorite color, and the silos always seemed to have a calming effect on me, sort of an oasis. I remember wondering if life was normal there. My only two escapes seemed to be the blue silos and my hour with the Waltons, which helped me get a glimpse of what a family that loved each other looked like. Walking on egg shells was a normal and ever escalating part of life. I look back now and realize that I was always the peacemaker, thinking that if I could just work harder, or be better that I could fix my parents’ problems. Of course, my efforts always fell short.”

After graduating from college where he met his wife Lisa and learned to play guitar, Tom was finally introduced to the family who lived below the blue silos and they became fast friends. When Lisa became pregnant, the family embraced both she and Tom and eventually became the couple’s role models of parenting and family life. After Tom had to set boundaries with his own parents, the blue silos family became the Frye children’s adopted grandparents.

“As our kids grew, my parents continued to lose control of their anger. For a long time, Lisa and I took the brunt of their outbursts because we wrongly believed that in order to represent Christ to my parents we had to be door mats, all the while sheltering the kids from our hurts. We hoped that the kids would never have to experience it first-hand, but when they did we knew we had to establish some healthy boundaries. During that time, I heard a man speak at a music conference who said ‘If you want to plan your life God will let you, but if you want God to plan your life, you need to let go of your plans, take up your cross and follow Him.’ When I heard that, I felt convicted and knew that there were plans I had that I needed to let go of. One was trying to fix my parents’ relationship; another was trying to fix things at the church where I grew up where the main person in charge at the church had similar tendencies as my parents, which only reinforced the conditional love that I was raised with at home. So as I began to un-plan my life and set healthy boundaries in those two situations, it became obvious I was going to lose both of them. The church began the process of closing and tension escalated with my parents. Finally, six months of tension turned into an ultimatum from my parents and when I could not satisfy their demands, we were asked to leave the family. But through it all, God has kept us in His care and showed us grace, placing people in our lives that have offered us unconditional love and acceptance.”

Under Indiana Lights showcases Tom’s reflective and poignant songwriting skills along with his family’s talents. For the recording, Tom serves as the main vocalist with the kids singing both lead and background vocals. The CD also features special guest musicians including legendary guitarist Phil Keaggy, Ben Shive (Andrew Peterson), and Ken Lewis (Steven Curtis Chapman, Emmylou Harris). On tour, it all becomes a family affair with daughter Kaylyn, 17, sings background and lead vocals and plays bass & rhythm guitar; Maggie, 15, sings background and lead vocals and plays keys and recorder; son Jonathon, 13,plays percussion, drums, and penny whistle along with singing background vocals; and wife Lisa joins in with percussion. Tom co-wrote the tunes for Under Indiana Lights with Andy Osenga, formerly with Caedmon’s Call, and Jeremy Casella, both of whom are members of Square Peg Alliance. They challenged Tom to get very personal in the lyrical content, and what resulted became powerful moments of unyielding honesty. “Where is God?” the CD’s first single, is such a tune.

“Hope in spite of circumstance is a message I share often during concerts,” says Tom. “There are times when the tidal waves of circumstance can assault us to the point of wondering how much more we can take, shaking our faith to its very core. In January of 2010, as we were writing these songs, we witnessed the devastation of Haiti on television and it broke our hearts. During one of our sessions Jeremy said to me, ‘I want to write a song for Haiti.’ I already had the idea for ‘Where is God’ and it seemed like the perfect theme for the song. As we continued to develop the song through the summer, it became evident that this song was no longer just about Haiti, but about many aspects of human suffering. The challenge for me was to write a song that honestly addressed the heartache of tragedy, and yet reflected the hope of Christ, all the while avoiding the clichés that can often seem so flippant. As I worked through how best to communicate this I was reminded of Jesus’ words: ‘Whatsoever you do for the least of these, you’ve done unto me.’ I realized that as we serve others we become representatives of God’s grace to them. It made me understand even more the depth of Jesus’ promise that wherever two or more are gathered in His name, He would be with them. And not only is Jesus there with us, but because of His amazing willingness to lay down His life for us, He fully identifies with our suffering, all the while assuring us that our hope is not in vain.”

Another song on the CD entitled “Sarah Dances” talks about a family Tom met while on tour. Sarah suffers from Spina bifida, a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord. “When I first met Sarah, she had her arms around her daddy’s neck and said ‘I’m holding my daddy!’ Of course, her dad was actually holding her, but that was such a picture of how we are with Jesus. We think we’re clinging to Him, but He is actually the one holding us up. Her mom is a dancer, something little Sarah will never do this side of heaven. So I wanted to write a song just for her to give her that encouragement. One day, she will dance in the presence of Jesus.”

“Dream Come True” is a song that is especially close to Tom’s heart. After feeling compelled to meet with a worship band he had heard, one of the member’s wives began praying for Tom, describing in detail a dream he had been having for years. “It was a total God moment,” says Tom. “I had never even told Lisa about that dream. I knew God was giving me the Fatherly affirmation that I had always longed for.”

Long before they hit the road together, Tom and Lisa homeschooled their kids and role-modeled ministry to them through – what else? – helping family. “Even before I was involved in music, I was a big believer in family ministry. Lisa and I spent the first several years of our marriage caring for my elderly grandmother. I think it’s important as Christian parents to have regular prayer and devotions and to find a ministry that you can do together. I think that’s a huge part of discipleship. The whole family band thing wasn’t really intentional, but I can look back and see how God has been at work, ordering our steps and bringing this to fruition.

“Having the whole family on the road has definitely broadened our audience,” Tom continues. “I see more teens interested in our music, and I think it’s a great thing for parents and kids alike to see a family serving together. Not that we’re perfect by any stretch of the imagination. We’re just a real family, doing our best to love each other and put God first in our lives.”

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