PAUSE: Full name?
Cary: Robert Cary Brothers.
PAUSE: Otherwise known as?
Cary: The…Cary Brothers?
PAUSE: The Cary Brothers? Then where’s your other brother? Where’s your other brother, Robert?
Cary: It’s so difficult on this tour. The Kahn Brothers are opening, so it’s Cary Brothers, the Kahn Brothers and Ben Lee and we’re like “what?”. So everyone’s realized that I’m just one dude now and everyone’s thrown off by that, so I have to re-explain it. At this point I really don’t care. As long as people are coming to the shows and buying CDs, you can call me whatever you want.
PAUSE: So, let’s get a little bit of history: where you come from, and how you got to where you are.
Cary: I grew up in Nashville, hating country music and pretty much despising the South at the time, at the time. At that time, I felt like Nashville was a place where entirely too many people were still pissed off that they lost the Civil War and, generationally, the older generations were just racist, homophobic, everything. I just didn’t get it. My whole family, from the time I was a little kid, knew I was wanting to get out of there as soon as I could. But at the same time, I had this weird relationship with the South. There was a real beauty and kindness to a lot of people but then there was a dark side, this secret of the South that was just mysterious and amazing but to me, the only side I got was this redneck country music side, and it just left this really bad taste in my mouth. So musically, I was always listening to stuff that wasn’t southern. I went over the pond, listening to stuff like The Smiths, The Cure, Stone Roses, you know. That was my bread and butter back in the day.
PAUSE: So this is mid-80s?
Cary: Yeah, like mid-80s, early 90s. There’s was a mystery to that music; this idea of “the Other”, like “what else is out there?” Nashville’s a small town. I just knew there was something… better. Because country music is really obvious to me. It was obvious to me and I was just into, like, reverbed guitar and just the epic nature to that music. Of course once I got out of Nashville, I just fell back in love with it and will probably end up back there, when it’s all said and done.
PAUSE: What brought you out of Nashville?
Cary: Well, I went to Northwestern in Chicago.
PAUSE: What major?
Cary: For an English major actually. I also did film projects and I had a little band there, but English felt like an easy way to not really commit to anything. It was kinda like a halfway point; you can kind of use anything with that major. And you know, Northwestern was much more about finding an artistic community, like writers and actors. Those are all my friends. By the time I got near graduation, I didn’t give a crap about school anymore but I met all the people I still work with and write with and support. Once I left there, I went to Los Angeles and went into film production, because I had done a lot of film projects and wanted to get into it in LA. But that being said, since I was 14 I had been writing songs and it was just a therapeutic thing. It was purely for me to write and record and put it on a shelf and the next night, write one and put it on a shelf until all the shelves were full. I just got to the point where I was helping other people realize their creative visions during the day and working my ass off to help them, and then coming home at night and writing songs. Finally, I was like “why am I doing this? Why am I putting this much time into other people’s dreams and not pushing my own?” So I shut down the whole company and started over.
PAUSE: How old were you?
Cary: 28, 29. So I started doing open mics and working as a second camera assistant and P.A. to support myself. The LA music scene at the time was really sketchy, just a lot of pay-to-play business and I just couldn’t bear to do that so I found this place, the Hotel Café in Hollywood where… it just came back to that whole sense of community, it was like a real community of musicians, all different types of music just playing in this really comfortable room.
PAUSE: I know that Josh Radin was also there. So did you all live there or…?
Cary: Well at that point, I was playing for the Hotel and right about that time, Zach Braff was waiting tables and we were just all kind of broke together and I was helping him get a screenplay together, just helping him out there and he was helping me with my ideas for songs. Once again, we just kind of built this community, and a lot of them came from this Northwestern posse from back in the day. I don’t know what it is… it seems like there’s this generation of people that went to school together that all had this specific goal. So we all, at some point, met up in LA. Between that group and the group of musicians I had met at the Hotel Café, it was everything I didn’t expect LA to be. LA just has this cutthroat mentality, and yet I’ve found all these people that… I realized that if you support other people’s art, they will support yours. I mean occasionally somebody will go by the wayside and be a dick, you know; once they find their success they bail. But Zach gave me an opportunity by putting that song into Garden State, and in kind I’ve tried to do everything I can to support other people. Like with Radin, I had Radin in my house when he played the song “Winter” on guitar and I was like “You can sing?” and he hadn’t played a song in his life and it was beautiful. We recorded it in the corner of the room and gave it to Zach that day and it was on Scrubs two weeks later. Not in a cheesy way or anything, but it’s like Pay It Forward. If I’m going to have an opportunity, I want to be able to lift everyone else up around me. That’s the rule I want to live by, that we’re all connected and everyone should be able to share in the success together, which works. We’re going to hitch up a tour, like we did last year and hopefully next year. And it’s great, because whoever’s doing well is the headliner.
PAUSE: Out of your friends?
Cary: Yeah. And we can play a national tour and bring some local kids that I really believe in, and let them fill the opening slots and give them an opportunity to play in front of crowds and in rooms that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. And it works. I mean, it’s fun to take all your friends on a tour bus.
PAUSE: So you’ve been on the road how long now?
Cary: 8 months.
PAUSE: How has that been as far as your relationships with other people? Is there a strain? Does it help? Does it hinder?
Cary: Like relatably?
Cary: Well emotionally it’s like… I got in this thing to write songs. I like writing songs. Coming up with melody and whatever. I was dealing with in my life at that very moment, and that was it. I didn’t want to be famous. That was not the intention, the intention was to create. And yet, I want to do this for a living. I have to go out and play. What happened after the Garden State stuff was that I passed up some opportunities. Because I was much more of a studio guy and a writer, I didn’t feel very comfortable playing out. I turned down a bunch of potential record deals in order to do it independently and start a record label in my house, and I went across the country to really learn how to connect with an audience, and that’s a whole other skill set. That’s a whole other thing. That kinda inspired a confidence that whatever I could do on the stage, I could do in the studio. Then I felt really strong enough to go out and do shows.
PAUSE: So do you have any future plans at this point, or is it more of an existential, fly-by-day thing?
Cary: I think just being in LA and seeing a lot of new acts playing at the Hotel. Every week I see a kid there who has so much potential and talent, and knowing how to do it and having done it independently… knowing how to do it on a small scale at the time when all the labels are falling apart and crumbling. I’m starting an indie label now; I need financing at this point, so I can do what I did with these kids. Selling fewer records then one would hope to sell a few years ago, but making a hell of a lot more money doing it. So for me it’s like, if I could direct films and do this, I’m happy. And I feel like I’m continually finding people with this same mentality. If I can make this label and do that, kind of like what I did with Josh. I heard him, I helped him do what he wanted to do, produced his EP, brought him out on the Hotel Café tour. That was Josh’s first big thing, and I was proud of it. Josh was like my first experiment. Now that I know how to do that, I don’t want to be out on the road touring for the next ten years of my life. I’d much rather be home in LA, helping other people with their music. It’s just more fun.
PAUSE: Do you care to comment some on the industry as you see it right now?
Cary: To me, one of the funny things about meeting with all these labels and stuff over the last few years before I did this indie deal was that they still think it’s 1989, where they can just pump a lot of money into something and the public will buy it and believe in it. It works with some people, if you’re Beyonce or on that level. But I love this other way, I get excited by it. I mean you can get scared that this will all fall apart. How am I gonna make money? But the truth of the matter is that making $3 on a record instead of 12 cents means you don’t have to sell as many records. You can do fine. You can tour and sell merch. So for me, if there’s any time to be an independent artist, now’s the time. It’s the guys who want to be superstars that are screwed. I’ve just seen so many friends of mine over the last 2-3 years cut the big deal, get the big advance and get a big picture of them in Rolling Stone and I’m thinking “Dang man, I should have done that.” Then their single comes out, and it’s not well received, and they get dropped three months later, and now they’re back doing a day job trying to pick up the pieces. It’s terrible, because of the huge talent of these writers and musicians who just got beaten up by the business. I just don’t want any part of that, because I don’t want to risk getting beaten up. Those kind of people get so disheartened that they don’t want to make music anymore.
PAUSE: Do you think there will be a place for those mega-stars in ten years?
Cary: Well yeah, in a capitalist society, there will always be room for Justin Timberlake and The Killers to do well, but I feel like for everybody else coming up… to me it’s about connecting with people. Like with Myspace, I would stay up all night long emailing kids one letter at a time, because I see their music lists, what kind of music they like. I would send out hundreds of messages every single night, literally earning one fan at a time. Now, a major label assistant knows how to sell a product, one specific product, in this case the single to a large group of people. But once that’s over… are you a band? Are you a song? So many of these bands are only one song. So many people will come out and see that one song that’s one huge tour. And then they put the next record out and because they didn’t do the legwork to really make it about the band and the album, people are like “Oh I already saw them do that song. I don’t need to see it again.” So as an artist… I don’t only want to do one song. If I had wanted that, I would have done a deal after Garden State and done an entire record of “Blue Eyes.” “Blue Eyes” isn’t representative of everything I do, it’s what I wanted it to be, about one thing. I could have cashed in by now, I could have been back in LA wondering “what happened?”
PAUSE: Well obviously you have an eye for what’s coming up next musically, that’s what intrigues you. Is there anyone specific who people haven’t heard of yet that they should go check out?
Cary: I guess right now there’s a guy named William Fitzsimmons. He opened for me on the last tour. He came out and played before me and William’s just someone I love, he’s just a good human being and in a time where a lot of musicians around in our community are going to LA and New York trying to get in with the right people, William just checked out and is living in the woods somewhere with his girlfriend making a record right now. He’s just one of those people who are doing it for all the right reasons. And when someone’s doing that, I’m just going to support the hell out of it.
PAUSE: Anyone else?
Cary: Jim Bianco. He’s another LA guy. Bianco does jazzy, burlesque big band stuff, and he’s without a doubt the best live performer. Over the course of a night, you’ll have five artists sharing the same stage, and some artists have similar styles, but it’s cool seeing Bianco. Bianco’s one of those guys who people have never seen before, but you can’t help but be entertained. He’s just one of those old school showmen. His songwriting’s up there as well.
PAUSE: Well thanks a lot man. That was awesome.
Cary: My pleasure, Chris. Thank you.