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  • Interview: Cary Brothers

    Tue, 03 Jul 2007 11:54:45

    Interview: Cary Brothers - A star of the <I>Garden State</I> soundtrack talks about forging his own path to success

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    Cary Brothers almost became an overnight sensation in 2004. His song "Blue Eyes" was featured on the hit soundtrack for the film Garden State, hand-picked by his old buddy, writer/producer/star Zach Braff. The song soared up the iTunes folk chart and major labels came calling.

    Brothers turned them all down. "I've seen too many people go through the major label process," the Nashville native said of his decision. "The rapid rise and fall that leaves artists burned out and used up." Wanting no part of the fast-track career trajectory, Brothers decided to go with indie label Bluhammock for his debut album, Who You Are. Bluhammock "didn't ask me to write ten songs that sound like 'Blue Eyes.' They let me make the music I wanted to make."

    That music is a diverse collection of rockers and ballads that ranges from the epic to the intimate, sometimes within the same song. Clearly Cary Brothers is not your typical singer-songwriter, and Who You Are is the sort of debut that neatly sidesteps labels in favor of something more original and ultimately more rewarding.

    In an exclusive chat with ARTISTdirect, Brothers talked about his early musical forays as a Nashville outsider, his days as a Hollywood gofer, and his surprise brush with Garden State stardom.

    You grew up in Nashville and started playing guitar and writing songs at a pretty young age, but you've said you were never into country music. Did it feel a little like you were working in a vacuum at that time, or did you find other musicians in Nashville who shared similar tastes and influences?

    Other than people in my family, I didn't really know anyone who played music. There were a lot of Dads that were songwriters, but no one really bragged about it. It was just like someone's Dad being a dentist or driving a truck. No big deal. Most importantly, I felt alone in Nashville in a lot of ways. I never quite felt comfortable there and made a lot of enemies speaking my mind in a place where people liked to be safe and keep the status quo. Music was an escape, so I never even thought to emulate the music around me. I reached over the pond to UK bands for inspiration. I had a few friends with similar views, but it took a good 15 years for Nashville to grow up into the city I always hoped it would be with people that I really understood. Now I love it there. The South takes great leaps forward with each generation.

    Have you come around to appreciate any country music now, or do you still pretty much avoid it?

    I love old school Hank Williams all the way up to '70s Johnny Cash, but the last remotely country record I bought was Lyle Lovett. The only twang in my stereo comes from Wilco and Ryan Adams. As for commercial country, I waffled on listening or even attempting to understand such broad-minded stuff out of respect for Nashville, but I completely gave up after they banned the Dixie Chicks.

    You and Zach Braff first met when you were students at Northwestern. What was Zach like at that time? Were the two of you close friends?

    Zach and I first met when I was living in New York one summer during college. We were buddies back at school but in different worlds. Years later, in Los Angeles, we finally became friends when we were both broke kids with big ideas.

    What were you first few months in LA like? First job, first place you lived....

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