Tonight, singer-songwriter Cary Brothers will be performing at the Old Rock House with fellow troubadour Greg Laswell and up-and-coming band Harper Blynn. (The latter is also functioning as the house band for the night.) The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $12. ($14 for those under 21.) In this week's paper, I interviewed Brothers about his new album, Under Control, and his return to the road after taking some time off to regroup his life. Below are outtakes from that interview - everything from the pluses and minuses of forming/releasing music on his own label to the magic of the Hotel Café, to Katy Perry's hidden past and why the Thompson Twins rule. Read on.
Annie Zaleski: The artists I've talked to who are doing things on their own and have formed their own thing, they all sound so liberated and so happy. Cary Brothers: I'm on cloud nine. I can do anything I want - there's no one saying no. Listen, every writer needs an editor -- so I definitely have those in my life. So it's not like I'm just doing this on my own, saying everything is amazing. That freedom, it's changed everything. It's changed my peace of mind and the way I form. I don't feel like there's a monkey on my back.
Cary Brothers, "Ghost Town"
What are the biggest challenges you've faced embarking on your own? The second you don't have a huge supplier of money behind you, everything changes. Radio is a completely different story for me now - to hit at radio now, it requires a certain amount of money. So many DJs are like, 'Wow, we love this song, but we don't think you have enough money to push it for six months, so we don't want to play it because you're not going to be able to keep adding stations because you cant' continue to pay radio promoters.' It's frustrating, because it's like, "Wait, but you like the song!" "Oh yeah we like the song, but there are a lot of other songs we like too. And if you don't have money to stick around, then we can't fully support it.'
The good thing is, a lot of stations, a lot of music directors at stations went ahead and played it anyway and added it. Where it's happening, it's been doing well. [And] my experience thus far has been...a lot of the success was in TV and film. To me, that's the new radio. That's my radio.
Cary Brothers, "Ride":
You had the Hotel Café and everybody collaborated and helped each other out. With the way the music industry is going, do you think that's still able to happen, could that happen now? The two organic things I've been able to be a part of that just can't be created were the Garden State soundtrack and the Hotel Café scene. The Garden State soundtrack was, like, a mixtape that was made by Zach [Braff] and a group of friends that loved music. With no idea it would go on to become this thing. That was completely organic and no promotion, no marketing behind it. It just naturally happened.
The same thing happened with me at the same time at the Hotel Café. I was in LA, it's a very dog-eat-dog kind of town. And then I walked into the Hotel Café one night and saw Gary Jules play and [he] just blew me away. I was like, "I have to be a part of this." I instantly knew that. All the people that were hanging out there and playing at the time were of the same mindset. There were a lot of young musicians, we all learned how to play live together. And competitive in the best way - not competitive like trying to beat each other, but [if] someone gets up onstage before you and kicks ass, you gotta step up.
And the other thing about that room, it was such a small place, it wasn't a rock club. The side of my brain that grew up listening to U2 and Cure and Joy Division records, I had to put that on hold and just make it, "Okay, if this song works, it has to work with a voice and a guitar." I was able to strip it down to that, and now I feel like what I've done since then is just building it all back up. In addition to the community that exists there, that still exists. When you look at the diversity of people that have come out of that room - Sara Bareilles... Katy Perry was at Hotel Café.