Q: Hello Cary, how are you doing?
A: On my way back to the U.S. I’ve been trapped in Holland due to the volcano ash cloud. We had to reschedule the tour because the band was stuck in the states, and I wasn’t able to get a flight home til today. I love Holland, but I have work to get back to in the U.S. Prior to “Operation Volcano,” I just had a great record release week in the US, played a sold out show at my home base The Hotel Cafe in LA, and shot a video for the first single “Ghost Town.” Oh, and signed a deal with Sony in The Netherlands. It’s been a crazy month, and next month is actually crazier.
Q: For those who don’t know your music very well, can you give a short introduction of yourself and your music?
A: I grew up in Nashville, TN and played guitar and wrote music for most of my life, but I didn’t start doing it professionally until I was out of my 20’s. I’m glad I had some real life experience before I committed to music full time. After a few years playing in Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to have a song on the soundtrack to a movie called “Garden State” that was very successful, and that launched me out into the world on tour. Musically, my influences are all over the place, but my biggest heroes were always Peter Gabriel and U2 growing up. I am drawn to very open, epic melodic sounds, and that’s what I like to write.
Q: In 2008 you released a full-length called “Who You Are”, a very good album! You are about to release the follow-up, “Under Control”. What can we expect on the new record?
A: It’s far and away the best thing I’ve done, though I guess everyone says that. It’s only my second full length, so I still mean it 🙂 All the music I had made prior to this was in spurts of creativity on stops in between tours, but this is the first time I was able to make a record in one long run as I took a year off the road. It feels more complete beginning to end than anything I’ve done. I think the vocals and themes tie the songs together, but it runs the gamut from the softest raw piano songs to big, Brit Pop-inspired rock tunes.
Q: Can you tell us something about the process of writing and making the album? Was it a long process or did it all come together very naturally?
A: It was an accident, really. I was in a bit of a battle with my label about the direction of my new record, and this producer Bill Lefler just started nagging me about working together. At first, he annoyed me, but I finally caved in and stopped by his studio. We wrote the song “After The Fall” on our first day then came back a few months later and started again. It was easy, like it was just meant to be. It was the first time I had written with someone before. We didn’t stop for a few months until the record was done. We would write music by day, and I would write lyrics at night and record the vocals the next day so I was as close to the intention of the song as possible when I sang. As we were writing, I was undergoing the legal wrangling of buying my way out of my record deal, which gave us more time to record. I’ve never had more fun in the studio than with Lefler. He became a close friend, and now I can’t imagine not working with him.
Q: Now that the album release is near, it’s time to take the songs out on the road. Nervous?
A: I was terribly nervous. I played a show a month ago, and I panicked right before I went onstage just hoping that I would remember everything after having played the same songs for years. It was like jumping off a high dive at a pool – it was nerve-wracking climbing up the ladder, but once I jumped off, I couldn’t wait to do it again. I feel so confident about these songs that it’s made me a more confident performer. The reason I was most upset about the Holland tour being pushed a month is that I want to play SO badly it almost hurts.
Q: If I’m not mistaken you played several European dates with Tom McRae, Greg Laswell & Jim Bianco in 2008. What do you think the biggest difference is between European audiences and American audiences, or isn’t there a big difference?
A: Every night of a tour is different, and that’s the difference – the exact mixture of city/weather/mood/etc. determines a night. I’m sure some bands would disagree, but music lovers are music lovers – if it’s a good night, an audience will come along with you when you go big and quiet down when you get mellow. That’s just human and has nothing to do with where you’re from. As for America vs. Europe, I don’t feel a critical edge either way. However, they are really, really quiet while you play in Japan.
Q: Back here in the Netherlands your best known song is probably ‘Ride’ because of the Tiësto mix. You also collaborated with him on his latest project “Kaleidoscope”. How do you feel about these collaborations with artists from a different kind of genre? Does it help you develop yourself as a musician because of the different influences or is it just something fun, something different for a change?
A: It’s just fun to play in someone else’s sandbox. From my days listening to Depeche Mode and later groups like Underworld, I always wanted to play around with electronic music, and Tiesto gave me an amazing opportunity to live out a little dream. His support has been invaluable, and it introduced my music to a whole new audience across the world. I definitely play with beats more on my computer as I’m writing. I’m not going to make a dance record, but bits and pieces of electronica have and will always find there way into my stuff.
Q: As an artist you have been somewhat of a frontrunner when it comes to using the possibilities of ‘new media’. Your songs gained a lot of popularity because they were played on TV shows and you have always made good use of the possibilities of the internet. How much has the internet, and the possibilities it offers, changed the dynamic of the music industry and distribution? Do you think musicians have more control over their music than before, or is it just a different approach?
A: Years ago, I started using MySpace before it blew up (and then fell apart). I would sit at night and send hundreds of emails to people who liked music that sounded like mine. I was able to build a fanbase across the world without ever leaving my apartment, and that is pretty incredible. At the end of the day, you still have to do the work and get out on the road and connect to audiences, but the internet helps get those audiences into the room. As for film and TV, I made a conscious decision to use that outlet the same way other artists use radio. If 20 million people can hear my song on Grey’s Anatomy on a Thursday night, that has as much impact as having a minor radio hit. It’s nearly impossible to get airplay as an indie artist these days in the US, so film and TV helps independent artists reach listeners and level the playing field a bit.
Q: As a singer, songwriter and guitarist, who are your biggest influences, and what makes these artists so special for you?
A: So many choices past and present. Peter Gabriel’s absolute control of his voice and ability to be complex within the structure of a pop song. Sigur Ros and Doves’ massive reverb’d out sonic landscapes. Paul Westerberg’s and Robert Pollard’s wonderfully scrappy carelessness. Johnny Marr and Peter Buck and The Edge’s solo-free (for the most part) guitars. The Cure’s 80’s growth from fast hooky pop to epic near-dirges that last forever. And on top of all that, I grew up listening to FM radio in Nashville, TN, so I knew every classic rock song (Buddy Holly to Queen) by heart before I was 8 years old – my brain is a giant mishmash of 50 years of pop music. Oh, and Phil Collins. I still think “Against All Odds” is a great song, as uncool as that may be. Then again, I think cool is a vastly overrated concept, as my CD collection will attest.
Q: And in that light, is there a band or musician you would love to go on tour with? Say you could pick anyone in the world, who would it be? And why?
A: R.E.M. They were my indie rock gods when I was a kid. Because they were from the South just like me, they gave me a lot of confidence that I could be Southern and also fight against many of the injustices common to the Southern United States. They were a new generation. Musically, they’re not quite the band they were when Bill Berry was playing drums many years ago, but the kid in me would be most thrilled to do a tour with them because I could encourage them to play the old stuff that I never hear anymore live.
Q: In a lot of European countries a debate is going about the regulation of downloads and to legally determine when it is legal or illegal. What is your take on downloading and sharing of digital music? How do you see this in light of the changing music industry?
A: It’s funny because I just posted a message a little while ago about being frustrated that my new record was already up on illegal download sites within 48 hours of release. I was both criticized for complaining and also given support by people commenting. Outside of the business of selling records, I’ve always believed that when I put a song out in the world, it is no longer mine. It’s someone else’s to interpret and hopefully make a part of their life or attach to a memory. I have to come to terms with the fact that this also applies to the actual song as a download, as a piece of property. The floodgates of piracy were opened and will never be closed. Hopefully, people will hear the music illegally and then come support me at shows or eventually buy the record. For bands with huge advances, piracy means less, but to me, every record sold pays my rent and bills, and I need that. There is a bigger question though – What happens when an entire generation and future generations see music as something that they are entitled to for free? What happens when people no longer value art as something that deserves to be paid for? That’s what scares me. I can embrace the inevitability that some guy will steal my music online because the technology can’t be stopped, but if that same guy stole a bunch of CDs off my merch table after a show, there would be consequences whether it be with the police or my fist 🙂
Q: You are also one of the initiators of the Hotel Café Tour. How is it to be part of this talented group of people? And how does it influence and stimulate you as a musician?
A: The Hotel Cafe saved me and gave me a musical home, so starting that tour was a way of paying the room back. It’s such a rare thing, especially in Los Angeles, to have a real community that supports each other. It feels like we exist as a collective in many ways. When one person has success, it affects everyone around them. There’s a healthy amount of competition, but only in the sense that you want to be as good as all of these ridiculously talented people around you.
Q: And last, but not least, if people want to find out more about you and your music, where should they go?
A: I have a website www.carybrothers.com with links to my brain ramblings on Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere, and the new record “Under Control” is available on iTunes worldwide. You can go to my website now and download a free song off the new record. I’m slowly putting together deals for this release in European countries, so hopefully it will be in record stores in Europe by this Summer.
Thanks for doing this interview with us. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions!