Cary Brothers hit it big in 2004 with his song “Blue Eyes” on the “Garden State” soundtrack, but instead of heading off to a big-name label, he started his own record label and dedicated time to California’s Hotel Café. Accent Editor Jamie Saine spoke to Brothers about the Hotel Café Tour 2008 and his unique career path.
Jamie Saine: I know you play quite a lot at the Hotel Café in California — the root of the Hotel Café Tour — how did you get involved with that?
Cary Brothers: I’ve been playing open mic nights in Los Angeles for awhile, and a guy named Gary Jules was doing a Tuesday night residency at the hotel, which prior to that had kind of been a jazz coffee shop, but once Gary started playing there it was a little more singer/songwriter oriented. … And everybody would sit around and watch Gary play. And for whatever reason a lot of … songwriters and a lot of singers in Los Angeles didn’t have any kind of home or place to go hang out, and I think the hotel sort of became that because of this residency that Gary did. A lot of us started going to see his shows. I asked Gary to play there after I saw one of his shows and he had me open for him two weeks later and I never left. And that’s kind of where the whole community started.
JS: Is this your first time on the Hotel Café Tour?
CB: This is the third time. I came up with the idea for the Tour about three and a half years ago, and it’s in year three and it’s rolling really,
JS: What keeps you coming back?
CB: This is basically summer camp for musicians on a bus. You know, the rest of the year you’re out doing your grind and having fun or being paired up sometimes with bands you don’t really want to be with and it can get lonely, it can get a lot of things. But this tour is different because it’s all great friends, you know, rolling around for six weeks. … The cool thing about this tour is over the last few years, different people who have done it, a lot of people, have gone on to a great deal of success and they still want to come back and do this tour again because everyone knows that if you do the Hotel Café Tour you’re going to have a great time.
JS: So I heard that you still play your first guitar on stage. Is that true?
CB: Well I did up until a couple months ago. She’s just not holding up anymore. (laughs) … My first guitar is now my song-writing guitar. I keep it at home. It doesn’t quite work live so well anymore.
JS: Do you miss it?
CB: Oh yeah. I kind of had to put her out to pasture.
JS: You started a film production company a while ago then went on to start your own record label. How do you manage to start so many companies?
CB: Accidentally. When I moved out to L.A. I was writing songs all the time. I always write songs for me; I didn’t write songs to make money or have a career as a musician. I wrote songs therapeutically … So I initially thought film was going to be my career and that was what I was supposed to do and I did that for three or four years. And it was helping a lot of other people do what they wanted to do creatively, like directors and writers. And one day I was like ‘Well, why am I not doing that for myself?’ and switched and went in the other direction.
JS: You’ve toured the U.S., U.K. and Japan. Do you have a favorite place?
CB: Most of my friends in the world are in New York City, so anytime I can go back there is a little bit of heaven.
JS: You majored in English. What was your original plan with that degree?
CB: I knew I wanted to do some film stuff when I got out of school, but I didn’t want to get stuck in just a film degree, just in case I left and bailed on it, which ultimately I didn’t anyway. … I was into English and scene writing when I was younger. Writing in general and creative writing was always pretty important to me so I figured if I can do it I might as well major in it.
JS: Does it help with your song-writing at all?
CB: I think it does. … There’s a certain instinct to writing that can’t really be taught and I think I just kind of knew how to do it. And any part of being an English major has definitely helped a little bit, but I think it was already kind of there from the start.
The Hotel Café Tour 2008 will perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at The State Theatre, 107 W. State St. Tickets are $15.