Today’s Feature – February 13-14: Cary Brothers

February 14, 2008 at 10:30 pm (Today's Feature)


Honestly, Cary Brothers thumped the eardrums of America with a sonic boom when his soft spoken tune, “Blue Eyes” appeared on the soundtrack of “Garden State,” a film that starred and was directed by good friend Zach Braff. But “Blue Eyes” certainly isn’t what defines the young musical career of the strikingly gifted Brothers. Rather, the process that created this almost legendary soundtrack is a story that defines an artist.

Brothers and Braff, classmates at Northwestern University and former struggling artists in Los Angeles, California, came together to form an album built on raw impulse and enthusiasm, following a course that was strictly organic. Brothers discusses the procedure of musically defining Garden State: “the night before he (Braff) sent that script out to investors, he came over my house and just sat with my CD collection and made a mix tape to send out with the script. He wanted them to listen to it as they read it to give a better idea of what the movie would be like. That soundtrack was really like a mix tape – just some friends coming over and throwing out song ideas. So it worked and I think that’s why it worked.”

Today, Brothers is a leader on the indie music scene with songs containing a balanced array of influences from 80’s British Pop New Wave to the tones of 70’s folk music. His debut album, “Who You Are,” includes songs that genuinely grew along with Brothers. A musician dedicated to his fan base, Cary sticks to the road more often and not, allowing his songs to mature before they enter the recording studio. His audience is a key element in his musical method as he tempts and finesses them with melodies never heard before.

You’ve probably already experienced more Cary Brothers than you realize – his songs have appeared on shows like Scrubs, Bones, Smallville, Grey’s Anatomy and ER. You can experience him live as well – as usual, he’ll be touring the country soon… not to mention Europe as part of the “Hotel Cafe Tour.” And if that wasn’t enough, HIS new label is starting to take shape. Get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Cary Brothers (PEV): Hey Cary, how’s everything going?

Cary Brothers (CB): Great. I’m navigating myself through rainy Los Angeles right now.

PEV: I thought it’s always sunny in Southern California?

CB: Yeah but when it rains, just a slight drizzle, people act like it’s a blizzard. People have no idea how to f–kin’ drive in the rain here.

PEV: So, you have a new tour coming up, right?

CB: Everything is about to start up again. I was on the road for like eight months last year and got off around Christmas. I had a little break time and then it starts all over again.

PEV: What did you do for Christmas?

CB: Just went back with my family. My family all lives in Nashville… Took some time off and now just really enjoying sleeping in my own bed.

PEV: How’s life in Nashville different than in LA?

CB: I mean, growing up in Nashville I hated it. But now, the music scene there, rivals anything I’ve seen. They have let go of just being a country town. There are so many people in Nashville that I want to play with.

PEV: Have you played in Nashville?

CB: It’s always a stop on the tour but I haven’t spent a whole lot of time there. I usually get back there like every three months or something like that.

PEV: How have all your friends and family back home in Nashville reacted to your career?

CB: I think my family is just shocked in awe that I can just pay my bills playing music for a living (laughs). Half of the joy is that my mom always brags about me to her friends… She has bragging rights now (laughs).

PEV: When you talk to your friends from high school is a little weird that you are all over the place, touring, they can buy your music.

CB: Yeah, I mean it’s a little bizarre. Like going out to dinner with friends of mine back home, some kid at the table next to me notices me. But I’ve been doing this for so long that any time someone notices me, I get excited.

PEV: Growing up what kind of music where you listening to?

CB: Well, growing up in Nashville, I was surrounded by country stuff but I wasn’t such a country fan. I kind of reacted against country. I grew up listening to The Cure… Brit-Pop kind of stuff. It wasn’t until I left Nashville that I started to appreciate country.

PEV: And when you were at college at Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois), was that how you broke into music?

CB: I wrote songs since I was thirteen when I got my first guitar. I had my little tape recorder and I would record songs but I was just doing it for me… like therapy more than anything. I never had any intentions (then) of going out and starting a band. I was an English major in college and I started a little band and played at some frat parties to make some money, stuff like that. But it wasn’t until I moved out here (LA) and I was working in film production and helping a lot of other people realize their dreams, working as their script writer and stuff. Then I thought, ‘I’m going home and writing songs and then spending all day helping people do this… what if I just one hundred percent just went for it?’ Then I just started my whole life over. I figured come hell or high water. Then I started playing open mics in town.

PEV: I want to touch on your role in “Garden State”. The soundtrack is one of the best of all time and your song “Blue Eyes” was a part of it. Tell us about that experience.

CB: You know that soundtrack, I was just happy to be a part of. Zach Braff and I went to Northwestern together and we kind of knew each other but it wasn’t really until I moved out to LA… When I made the decision to start over and was playing open mics, taking odd jobs, he was waiting tables before he was acting for a living. And he had this movie he kept talking about that he wanted to write about Jersey. He would have the script every now and then and I’d read it, give him notes. When the movie came together, he used the leverage of “Scrubs” to get that together. We were huge music nerds and would always go to shows in LA together. The night before he sent that script out to investors, he came over my house and just sat with my CD collection and made a mix tape to send out with the script. He wanted to them to listen to it as they read it to give a better idea of what the movie would be like. Then once he got the financing for it, no one really knew him as a director so there weren’t that many expectations for it. When the real soundtrack came together, he asked me to put “Blue Eyes” on there. I was just happy to have something out there. And at that time, no one knew what the movie was going to be like, if the soundtrack was even going to get released.

That soundtrack was really like a mix tape – just some friends coming over and throwing out song ideas. So it worked and I think that’s why it worked. It was so organic. At no time did anyone come down from above and say, ‘Oh wait, that won’t work or you have to put this band on.’ It just worked as a collection. It can never happen again. People try to put “Garden State” soundtracks together and it just won’t ever work.

PEV: Do you and Zach ever sit back and think that when you were taking odd jobs, your lives would be like they are today?

CB: We always really creatively kind linked to each other. It was like, ‘If I ever find something then you have something’ and vice versa. But yeah, it is kind of crazy to do what we can for a living. I mean, I am lucky as hell for sure.

PEV: Tell me about the debut album, “Who You Are”.

CB: I was on the road forever. So when I had a chance I’d hop into the studio with my producer and knock out a couple songs. Then go on tour, make some money and then go back in. That record to me was great because I went in with songs that I wanted and going on the road again and again, the songs just really grew up and matured a lot. That is why I loved having the experience to tour so much. It is a reflection of my roots… a lot of Brit-Pop stuff but in the end of the day, I’m still just a kid from Nashville with my acoustic guitar.

PEV: What has been the best part and worst part about touring?

CB: Really just connecting with people. People can be real hot and cold sometimes but being a fan, a fan is a fan for life. Just making that personal connection. I record songs in a room and then throw it out there and seeing what happens. That being said, I was out for eight months last year, it wears you down after a while. I was really disconnected with any human life at home. I realized I need to really pace myself.

PEV: What has been the best place to play so far?

CB: Well, I played the Bowrey Ballroom in New York and sold it out this summer and it was really the highlight of my life. New York crowds can be tough and when you go big they are there and when you go really mellow they shut up.

PEV: What’s your take on the New York VS LA music scene?

CB: I’m so wrapped like seriously in love with the LA music scene. The Hotel Cafe, the room I play here is really where I got my start. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. My New York friends really wish they had something like it there.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist you think we should all be listening to?

CB: I really like this guy William Fitzsimmons. He opened for my tour this summer. Just some really, really beautiful acoustic stuff.

PEV: Is there someone you haven’t collaborated with that you would like to?

CB: You mean like dream collaboration?

PEV: Yeah.

CB: I mean, I want to make a record with Peter Gabriel one day.

PEV: What’s one thing that people would be surprised to hear about you?

CB: I think on thing that people would be surprised to hear is that I’m an official member of of the Jack Daniels Tennessee Squires (laughs).

PEV: Really? What exactly is the Jack Daniels Tennessee Squires?

CB: You know it’s funny, when you go out and play these sad mellow tunes, people expect you to be sad and mellow but I’m quite the opposite. I like to write music for one part of me and then live outside of that. A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to be nominated to be a Tennessee Squire and I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ And Jack Daniels actually has a secret club of squires and you actually get a plot of land in Lynchberg, Tennessee and you become a member and any time you can drink in this private drinking room. The town is dry so you can drink in this one room. I am going to make sure to route my next tour through there.

PEV: That sounds pretty cool!

CB: Yeah it is (Laughs).

PEV: What’s a live Cary Brothers show like?

CB: I’m really big on dynamics. Some people can kind of get up on stage and go from that. But I like play a lot of rock and then come down to the acoustic guitar. I like to create an arch with my performance… peaks and valleys.

PEV: When sit down to write music is there a certain environment you have to be in?

CB: Corner of my bedroom man, with my little tape recorder. With touring, I haven’t been able to write as much. I mean, some people can write in hotel rooms and stuff but when I’m done playing shows I just want to go home and go to bed. I’m not the kind of guy that after a show will see some people walking around the streets of Chicago and then go back and write a song about people in Chicago from that night. I like to just disconnect. I don’t know how it happens but I’m just happy that it does.

PEV: When you are not performing or touring what can we find you doing in your spare time?

CB: I’m pretty much just watching movies and trying to reconnect with friends… whatever friends I have left when I come home! I’m just like a crazy movie geek. So I’ll come home off the road and try to catch up with things before I have to go back out on the road again.

PEV: What movie have you seen lately that your really liked?

CB: I saw Cloverfield the other day and it was pretty f–king amazing!

PEV: Alright, nice plug for Cloverfield. So, what is next for you?

CB: Well, taking a little time off and then do some writing. I’m doing some stuff with some friend’s music. I actually am starting my own label and look into artists that I really like to start working with. Then March 6th we start the next Hotel Cafe tour. Go over to London, UK and Europe. Get back the end of May, get some rest and then start all over again.

PEV: Cary thanks so much for taking time out with us. Best of luck.

CB: No problem man, it was good to talk to you brother.

For more information on Cary Brothers, check out


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