Nashville Songwriter Series: Cary Barlowe

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Countless artists and songwriters come to Nashville with great expectations, and North Carolina native Cary Barlowe has far exceeded his. After only a couple years in town, Barlowe signed a publishing deal with TobyMac’s Emack publishing company, while at the same time working with his older brother, Nathan, in modern rock band Luna Halo. Luna Halo, most of whose material is penned by the Barlowe brothers, was signed to Rick Rubin’s American Recordings, which released their eponymous CD in 2007.

Meanwhile, Cary continued to grow as a writer, and was signed to Major Bob Music, the publishing company of Garth Brooks manager Bob Doyle. Cary has seen cuts by Taylor Swift, Bucky Covington, Caitlin and Will, Mandisa and others, and has had three number ones this year: “Get Back Up” and “City On Our Knees” by TobyMac (which garnered Cary his second Grammy nomination), and “American Honey” by Lady Antebellum. Not bad for somebody who’s not yet 30.

Barlowe spoke with American Songwriter about his success.

Even though you had the publishing deal with Emack at the time, it must have been a big turning point for you a few years ago when Rick Rubin showed an interest in Luna Halo.

When we found out that American Recordings and Rick were interested in Luna Halo we were thrilled! That guy had done so many amazing things and worked with such amazing artists. It was an awesome experience to be sure and I learned a lot.

How did you come to sign with Major Bob?

Well, after my deal with Emack Music, which was three great years but mainly a Christian publishing company, I wanted to get into writing country songs and pop as well. I met with several publishing companies. When I met with Bob I knew right away that it would be a good fit. They really believed in me and were willing to hang in with me while I continued to grow as a writer. I had to pinch myself, I mean, Garth Brooks is signed to this company (laughs).

How did you come to write “American Honey” with Hillary Lindsey and Shane Stevens? They’ve both had some great cuts.

Shane signed with Major Bob a year earlier than me. So when I signed there we started writing together, and he has actually been friends with Hillary for years. He introduced me to her, then the three of us started making music. We have a blast writing together. We have probably over 20 songs together now.

Countless writers, good ones, call Nashville home. What do you have to offer that’s better or different?

Well, I wouldn’t say I’m any better than anybody, but I am such a melody guy. Hopefully I have some more melodies in my head that people will want to hear.

Have you had any near misses that you thought were going to make an album but didn’t?

Oh man, yeah! I remember the first time I got my first country hold. It was for Faith Hill. I was like, awesome, it’s gonna be a hit. Then I quickly realized how many songs get put on hold for artists. Since then I’ve had many holds that haven’t gone through to make an album. But, you just have to keep writing and keep the volume of holds coming, and eventually you will get a cut.

Have you gotten any kind of flack from the Christian community for having gone from a Christian music-based company to working in the secular market?

Not really, but it’s interesting you would ask that. The guys in Kings of Leon are friends of my brother and me and we’ve talked about that. The bottom line is that we still believe the same way we’ve always believed no matter what kind of music we’re doing.

What are your goals for the future?

Luna Halo is still a priority, and my brother and I also have a side project called the Honeymoon Thrillers, so I’ll want to see where those go. But like any other writer I want to continue to get my songs out there. For right now, I’m happy to have a pub deal as long as I am hopefully writing relevant, melodic tunes. One day maybe I would l like to own all my publishing and have my own company. But we’ll see.

How does it feel to be only 28 and doing so well, when so many other folks struggle for a lifetime and don’t seem to get anywhere?

Man, it’s a blessing. I don’t take anything I have accomplished so far for granted. There are so many amazing, talented people in Nashville. Every day driving down Music Row I am very thankful to the Man Upstairs.

Who in town would you like to write with that you haven’t yet?

Hmmm. There are many writers in town and out of town I would like to write with. Keith Urban would be awesome. I think we would have fun writing one.



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