Isn’t it a bummer to realize that everybody loves the exact same track on an album that you thought was your own unique discovery? Take ”Blue Eyes,” the sixth track on the Grammy-winning Garden State soundtrack. The song not only became a surprise hit (the single has been downloaded on iTunes more than 20,000 times), it jumpstarted the career of its writer, Cary Brothers. Other Brothers songs have since appeared on Scrubs, Bones, Smallville and Grey’s Anatomy, and his song ”Ride” also made its way onto the soundtrack to Zach Braff’s second film, The Last Kiss.
But don’t be misled by his name. Cary is just one guy, a singer-songwriter who calls Los Angeles his home and Braff his friend. ”On my MySpace, people are like ‘Why is there just one guy on the picture, what a jerk,”’ says Brothers, who’s adds that he’s not tired of having to explain that the rest of the guys in the band are not his brothers. ”As long as people are listening, I don’t care.” Judging from the crowds at his album release party in Manhattan last week, people are all ears. Who You Are is his first album (in stores May 29) — a follow-up to two Brothers EPs — and it’s the kind of record that you want to listen to all the way through. Or as Cary likes to envision it: driving across the country with the windows rolled down. Brothers, who will be touring through the summer, spoke to EW.com about life since Garden State and making the kind of record ”that people get attached to.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you talk about the whirlwind that was the Garden State soundtrack?
CARY BROTHERS: The fact that it has been as successful as it has is just shocking. Zach asked me to put ”Blue Eyes” in the film…and we would go up when he was editing the film and it was almost like mixed tapes that a bunch of friends made rather than what it has become. I think its organic nature is one reason for its success. To this day, I get phone calls from other people doing soundtracks saying, ”We want to do a Garden State-type of soundtrack.” I’m like, ”That’s just never going to happen again. It was a one-time thing.”
Actually, when you played ”The Last One” at your release party, I was thinking that should have been on the Marie Antoinette soundtrack. The film felt like one long music video.
[Laughs] I love it. I’ll take it. That movie was just a sensory experience for me — all of my favorite ’80s tunes, and everything was just gorgeous.
So what was life like before ”Blue Eyes”?
Something great had happened before Garden State: The Hotel Café. [It’s] this great community of musicians [in Los Angeles] who kind of found each other. Every Tuesday night, [there was] just amazing music that attracted all of us who were playing open mics and at other venues and weren’t really happy about [the scene] in LA. That’s where I really started getting my legs on, onstage as a musician. It’s an amazing environment, unlike anything I’ve ever seen in music — at least in my generation.
There was a Hotel Café tour last year too with a bunch of folks like Matt Costa and Rachael Yamagata.
Yeah. It was a thing where we’d get a tour bus for six weeks and every two weeks different artists would hop on and hop off. It’s kind of like an old Motown review. It’s fun as an artist because it’s not the same old grind. And you get to do it with your friends every night. I think that tour is probably going to go forever. It did really well the last couple of years and everyone who did it wants to come back and do it again.
So is Garden State still helping you pay the bills?
A lot of these songs are licensed for film and TV shows so that’s kind of kept paying the bills. I’m a big film buff so I unconsciously write cinematic songs. When I came out to L.A., I started a production company right out of college, and did a couple of indie movies [including 1997’s Sparkler with Freddie Prinze, Jr., and 1999’s Dill Scallion starring Lauren Graham, Peter Berg, and Jason Priestley]. I love films and I love working with writers and directors.
So how’d you make the switch to music?
I was going home every night and writing songs. One day I just realized, I want to put in the work that I’m putting in other people’s dreams into my own. I [started] taking odd jobs, working as a camera assistant, anything I could do to pay the bills. It was about that time that I started to hang out with Zach. He was waiting tables. Good friendships come when you’re broke.
And so you and Zach went to Northwestern together?
Yeah, we were buddies in college. We didn’t know each other too well. [But] then when were in L.A., none of us really knew many people, [and] we became really good friends. Zach was the first one out of the gate who was able to find some real success and he helped everybody else out a lot. That’s my attitude with any success I have — I just want to help anybody else out I can. I just don’t have time for that kind of ego.
But having said that, which Zach Braff film or Scrubs episode do you hate the most?
Do I hate the most? [Laughs] Zach who?
NEXT PAGE: Brothers talks about returning to movies, growing up in Nashville, and idolizing Peter Gabriel