By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Cary Brothers isn't a household name yet, but it's been pretty hard to escape his music ever since his acoustic ballad "Blue Eyes" appeared on the Grammy-winning soundtrack to 2004's Garden State. In the interim, Brothers has released two EPs, and his folksy pop has served as the emotional backdrop to just about every cool show on television, but it wasn't until this year he released his debut LP, Who You Are. Curious, we asked the self-made artist what took him so long.
"Blue Eyes" became one of the breakout hits of the Garden State soundtrack. Why didn't you follow up its success by immediately releasing an LP?
I wasn't ready, to be really honest—mentally and in a lot of other ways. I knew I didn't want to put a record out just because I could sell some because of Garden State. I didn't have the money at the time, either, so I knew I couldn't go into the studio to make the record I really wanted to make. Another thing that was important to me was getting on the road and touring. I've been touring pretty much nonstop for three years now. That was really important to me, to make sure the live show would be up to the record and vice versa.
You also remained independent after Garden State. Why?
Labels wanted me to make another record of "Blue Eyes," and that was never what I wanted to do. I love that song, but it's not representative of everything I do. I knew if I put a record out at the time, I would've had to do "Blue Eyes" all the time, maybe even a "Blue Eyes" remix.
So instead you turned the Internet into your own personal marketing tool—including MySpace, back when it was novel— and, along with touring, expanded upon the following Garden State had given you.
[The Web site] looks like there's a real label or machine behind it, but no one knows I'm actually doing it in my room with boxes of CDs while I'm sitting around in my underwear. The luck I had with Garden State—I wanted to earn that luck with hard work. I wanted to build a fan base, a real fan base, that wasn't just about one song.
Where do you get your independent streak?
I'm not so good with authority. I've been working in this industry awhile, and I've seen enough dumb people do stupid things in my name. Finally, I had to step up and do it all myself. You don't get multiple chances at doing something like this.
You've finally signed with a label, but a small one: Blue Hammock Records.
It's the first time I don't have that kind of control anymore—and I'm slowly letting it go. If I didn't have other people doing some of this stuff, my brain would have exploded by now.