By Peter Cronin
Cary Barlowe And the Sweet Taste of Success
While you may not recognize the face or the name, if you’re any kind of music fan you’re already familiar with Cary Barlowe. Artfully crafted hard rock anthems, chart-topping Contemporary Christian hits and multi-Platinum country crossovers have all become part of his growing creative resume. For this Virginia-born, Carolina-raised, Nashville-based songwriter, crossing borders has been one of the keys to success.
Barlowe spent a few years back home in North Carolina watching from afar as his older brother Nathan found his own success, first in the Contemporary Christian market and then in the mainstream, with his band, Luna Halo. By the time the younger sibling arrived in Music City in the early 2000s, he was raring to go and ready to use every connection he had to get where he wanted to be.
“Nathan had a pass in the CCM market, so I was able to sign a publishing deal with Toby Mac’s Emac Music,” Barlowe says. “Toby and I just clicked, and we’ve had five No. 1 songs together since then.”
While Barlowe continues to mine the Christian market, writing songs for top artists like Rebecca St. James and American Idol alum Mandisa and earning two Grammy nominations for his co-writes with genre star tobyMac, he followed brother Nathan into the mainstream realm. When Luna Halo reshuffled members in the wake of label changes, Barlowe was ready. He plugged in his guitar and joined his brother’s band.
“We’ve been through the ringer with the major labels, a rollercoaster ride,” he says. “When we finally put out a record with Rick Rubin and American Recordings, we were just glad it actually saw the light of day.”
With one foot in Nashville’s thriving rock scene and the other in Contemporary Christian, Cary Barlowe couldn’t help but be intrigued by the thriving country music industry just down the street.
“I didn’t want to just write in the CCM field,” he says. “I grew up listening to country music and I’ve always thought it was some of the best, most well-written music. I really looked forward to getting into it.”
He began collaborating with some of the town’s leading tunesmiths, including country hitmakers Hillary Lindsey and Shane Stevens, with whom he wrote the Lady Antebellum smash, “American Honey.”
“For the last few years the three of us have been going to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to write for a week. We pulled over to a store to get a bunch of stuff and I said, ‘Hey, have you guys ever tried this whiskey, American Honey?’ So I bought that bottle and that night one of us said, ‘That would be a killer song title.’ Obviously the song is not about whiskey, but you never know where those titles are going to come from.”
As that single was flying into the sales stratosphere, Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta passed along a copy of Luna Halo’s record to Swift, and the superstar subsequently included a version of the Barlowe brothers’ co-write “Untouchable” on the “Platinum” version of her mega-selling Fearless album.
With a few solid hits under their belts and Luna Halo on hiatus, the brothers Barlowe dove headfirst into their next musical adventure, a “Strokes-meets-the-Beatles-meets-the-Beach Boys” project known as The Honeymoon Thrillers. The new band’s quickly written-and-recorded debut, mixed by Vance Powell (White Stripes), is already generating serious industry and fan buzz, but expect things to be a little different this go-round.
“We’re having success in these other areas, so we don’t want to just get into a van and sleep on people’s floors,” Barlowe says. “ There’s definitely been a lot of blessings.”
What’s On My iPod?
“My iPod has all kinds of stuff on it. The Honeymoon Thrillers ;) ,
Elvis, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Chicago, Lady Antebellum
The Black Keys, Kings of Leon, The Cure, The Beatles, Muse
and so on and so on!!!!!