When I hear singer/songwriter Cary Brothers describe the aura that surrounds the Hotel Cafe Tour, I keep thinking of the 2003 documentary film The Festival Express. The film captured a group of like-minded artists and friends - namely The Grateful Dead, The Band and Janis Joplin - as they traveled by train across Canada in 1970. The Hotel Cafe Tour parallels The Festival Express by featuring a collection of artists that are touring as much for the camaraderie as the music.
"The energy is fantastic," Brothers says, speaking by phone from El Paso, Texas. "There's something really special about this tour in particular. It's just a bunch of friends on a bus together - you really can't go wrong."
When asked about the origin of the tour, Brothers gives some historical perspective on the venue that serves as the tour's namesake.
"Max and Marco - the two owners of the Hotel Cafe in L.A. - converted this old coffee shop and people could bring their own wine and beer. It was an old-school 'BYOB' situation. A guy named Gary Jules started doing a Tuesday night residency there playing singer/songwriter kind of stuff. It was just an amazing night every time he would play. A lot of singer/songwriters started to gravitate toward the room specifically on that night. That's where we all met and started hanging out - we all started playing the Hotel Cafe and we never left. The idea [of the tour] was to take a typical Saturday night at the Hotel Cafe and put it on a bus and take it across the country. As everyone has found greater success in the last couple of years, it has raised the stakes of the tour. We're able to play bigger and bigger rooms," he says.
On Monday, March 17, Brothers and fellow Hotel Cafe veterans Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, Joshua Radin and Christopher Denny will perform in the Workplay Soundstage.
Given the emergence of satellite radio, iTunes and the Internet, Brothers sees the current climate as empowering for an artist like himself that tours and distributes music without major label support.
"If enough people like your music, they'll buy it. I would love to be 13 years old in a garage band with a 'myspace' page. To me, it's like the wild West. I don't trust what the majors are doing or what big radio has been playing for years. I don't want to be saddled with their way of thinking. I think a lot of music is marketed. There are so many indie bands that have a buzz and I can never tell if the band is that good or if some marketing executive decided that's the band that's going to get all of the attention this month," Brothers says.
Though Brothers has resided in Los Angeles for 10 years, he is a Nashville native that doesn't rule out a return to his hometown.
"I had to get out of Nashville to really love Nashville. It wasn't until I was gone for a few years that I realized how much I loved the South and Nashville in particular. I really think I'm going to end back up there, but 75 degrees and sunny is a nice place to go when you come off the road - that's my attitude with L.A. It does what I need and I have a lot of great friends there."