|“||One of the kids I was paired up with was a musician. Here I was, a protected suburbanite, and he was just 17 and had all these problems. And no one could write a manual on how to save him.||”|
Slade claims that the song is about all of the people that tried to reach out to the boy but were unsuccessful. As Slade says in an interview, the boy’s friends and family approached him by saying, “Quit [the problem behavior] or I won’t talk to you again,” but all he needed was some support. The verses of the song describe an attempt by an adult to confront a troubled teen. In the chorus, the singer laments that he himself was unable to save a friend because he did not know how.
While this was the original intent of the song, the band has opened the song to interpretation. They created a website where fans were welcome to submit music videos they had made for the song. This arose from the response that Slade got from the song:
|“||I got a lot of e-mails about it (…) One kid died in a car accident, and I guess it had been the last song he downloaded from his computer. They played it at his funeral, and some of his friends got Save a life tattooed on their arms. The response has been overwhelming.||”|
From an interview with Isaac Slade, lead singer of the Fray, by Bob Wilson in Sauce, Slade was asked, “How to Save a Life, was apparently inspired by an experience you had to as a mentor to a kid who had a drug problem. What’s the story behind that?” Slade answered:
|“||Well there’s a group home here in Denver called Shelterwood, and it takes in kids who’ve had a tough time; their parents don’t want to send them to jail, but they can’t keep track of them themselves… A friend of mine was actually the president for that particular school, so he asked Joe and I to come up for one of their weekend retreats… I was paired up with one kid in particular. His story was just amazing – all the relationships that he had put at risk because of the decisions he made, and eventually losing the relationships…the cost of his lifestyle and his choices, and kind of relating them to my own life and my own stories; seeing all the relationships I’ve threatened for one reason or another. It was a really inspiring weekend.