In a world of flashy swipe-ups, contrived collaborations, filtered moments in time and oversaturated influence, Caroline Hobby, wife, mother, former country music darling and podcast contender, wants you to get real.
Reclined in a plush, camel-colored chair in her stylish, ranch-style Brentwood home, an iced matcha latte in hand, and casually dressed in black yoga pants and a T-shirt, she looks impossibly radiant. Her aura does more than smile; it beams.
“Some people walk into a room and want to be a big powerplayer, but I walk into a room and feel everyone’s feelings. I feel like my gift is to sit with those who feel misunderstood, undervalued or unheard. I like to help people make their story a beautiful work of art,” she says.
She speaks with a gaze so tenderly penetrating and voluminously compassionate, you get the sense that she means it. There’s something about her that makes you feel as though it’s safe to drop whatever heavy emotions you might be lugging around, and come back home to who you are.
Her husband, Michael Hobby, lead singer of the Southern Rock band, A Thousand Horses, is kicked back in a chair a few feet away from her, taking slow sips of his coffee, encompassed by rows of song plaques. He’s a real rock-n-roll spirit, though there’s a humility and a sensitivity about him that’s equally as inviting. While Caroline’s presence chirps and roars like a summer anthem, Michael’s lands with more of a bluesy whisper. Yet, there’s something infectiously harmonic about their synergy as a couple. It’s impossible not to like them.
Now both well into their 30s, and doting parents to their 2 year-old daughter, Sunny, their first encounter stretches all the way back to their early 20’s. They were both musicians at the time, saturated in the Nashville scene, playing gigs and wandering out of bars at all hours of the night. They fell madly in love and dated for four years, but it didn’t work out because they each had a roster of self-discoveries to strum through.
At the time, Caroline, a Texas native and Belmont University graduate, was busy recording and touring with her trio, Stealing Angels, alongside Jennifer Wayne, granddaughter of John Wayne, and Tayla Lynn, granddaughter of Loretta Lynn–opening up for the likes of Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Lady A. Michael was riding the early success of A Thousand Horses, a band whose roots were dug somewhere in his hometown of Newberry, South Carolina.
Two years after parting ways, and after a series of unexpected detours, when they came back together, sparks flew–each carrying a flame for the other that had never burned out.
Four months after reconnecting, they eloped on a small island in the Bahamas while on a trip with Caroline’s family. “The funny thing is, my plan was to ask Caroline’s dad for permission to marry her while there, but she had no idea. When I was talking to her brother about it, Caroline ran toward me and shouted, ‘Hey! What do you say we get married down here?’ It was so Caroline,’” Michael says, grinning fondly.
Days later, the couple stood on the pale pink sand, exchanging vows of forever, a few feet from the sparkling, turquoise-hued waters of the Caribbean, surrounded by their closest loved ones.
“Everything fell into place in a divine way. It’s important to mention that because the way we got married is also how we live our lives and raise our daughter. Michael and I are big believers in taking risks, trusting your gut and not being afraid to take leaps of faith,” Caroline says.
Though it might appear that theirs is a perfectly charmed life, they’ve trampled through a lot of hard stops and restarts–separately and together. Michael, whose band was first signed to Interscope by Jimmy Iovine when he was 20 years old, had traveled through a few lifetimes by the time he'd left his musical thumbprint on Nashville.
Spending much of his childhood in and out of hospitals, he watched his older brother, Grayson, suffer with cancer for seven years before his body succumbed to illness. Growing up, Michael was serenaded to sleep by the beeping of his brother’s heart monitors. Music, though already in his bloodline, considering his cousins are Chris and Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes, became his haven of healing, joy and refuge.
“From a young age, I learned that life isn’t always fair. But, even with the bad things that happen, you can make beautiful things,” Michael says.
And he’d have to loop through this theme many times over. Although his band’s song, “Suicide Eyes” would be featured in the 2011 remake of Footloose, after six months with Interscope, A Thousand Horses was suddenly dropped, along with the rest of the label’s rock roster.
Caroline has spun through a series of high and low notes as well. Once it became clear that the Stealing Angels singles weren’t charting well, the trio self-destructed.
“It felt like my world had suddenly ended. But it quickly proved to be divine because that’s when I got the opportunity to be on The Amazing Race. That was the beginning of me learning to trust my intuition, and to know that nothing ends without a new opportunity coming your way,” she says.
Between seasons 22 and 24, Caroline traveled to 20 countries. She was hurled into the belly of small town America and into tiny nooks of countries she’d never imagined visiting. She befriended locals. She worked in a sweatshop, making shirts and building a canoe to race across the Amazon.
“Following my curiosity and listening to my soul is what led me to my true passion, which is podcasting. I had no way of dreaming the direction it would take, though. I just let my soul naturally lead me. There’s never a road map, but when you follow the open doors that feel good to you, you’re taken on the most amazing adventure,” she says.
Caroline’s podcast, Get Real, launched in the spring of 2016, spotlighting Darius Rucker as her first guest. “I even got a tear out of Darius. I felt like Barbara Walters,” Caroline says, laughing.
The podcast now boasts 1.6 million downloads annually, and she’s since featured celebrated figures from Lauren Alaina to Taylor Dayne, her childhood idol. And, in true Caroline fashion, she wraps up every episode with the heartfelt sentiment, “Leave your light.”
Michael reflects on both Caroline’s and his career, emphasizing the necessity of being tuned to the melody of living vibrantly and knowing your “why.” Because, though you might find yourself at the top of the mountain one day, your wildest dreams unfolding like a heart-thumping ballad, you could suddenly wake up to find out that you’ve tumbled to the bottom of the valley.
He says that success is rarely what you imagine it’ll be, and transcends the fantasy of being rich and famous–of hearing your songs on the radio, of traveling the world in private planes and graduating from cozy venues to roaring arenas, and that none of it can satiate you if you aren’t driven by a sense of purpose.
“I’ve been through multiple record deals and management teams. The thing is, you have to be truly in love with what you’re doing, because if you don’t, you’ll quit when it gets hard, and then you’ll miss out on the most incredible thing that could be around the corner,” he says.
Just a few years after being dropped by Interscope, Michael’s band was signed to Big Machine Records. Their hit, “Smoke,” set a record for the highest debut by a new act, opening at number 28 on the Country Aircheck radio chart and later soaring to Number One.
And, when Michael’s dad passed away two years ago, that loss further punctuated his allegiance to a spirit of openness and resiliency. His life-long hero, Michael’s dad was burned from head to toe at 3 years-old when a hot water heater burst near his crib. “Shortly before my dad died, he said to me, ‘Live life all the way. Go and do whatever you want while you can. No one is entitled to anything, so take responsibility for the life you want to live,’” Michael says.
Caroline is moved to tears as she listens to her husband reflect upon that near-final message, adding that it embodies a life stance that the two of them fully embrace. The couple, who credit so much of their empowered outlook to Porter’s Call, an artist-geared counseling center located in Franklin, hope to inspire others by sharing their hearts.
Michael says that, most essentially, when his name floats across someone’s desk, or anywhere in the world, his intention is that it be met with a warm feeling.
Caroline nods in passionate agreement, adding, “Michael and I have the same goal, which is to create a colorful world around us, and to be led by our souls. For him, it’s through music. For me, it’s through sharing stories,” she says.
The electricity between them is energizing and potent, with a takeaway that gleans clear: Seek refuge in the things you love. Turn the volume up on your intuition, and follow the nature of its song. Be a steward of your own healing, and encourage others to embrace theirs, too. And don’t forget to leave your light.
Photographer: Ford Fairchild
Stylist: Cirby Ryan Snodgrass
Hair: Tyler Bishop
Caroline Cut and Color: Marissa Martin
Michael Cut: Chris Morris
Makeup: Paige Higgins
Suits: Any Old Iron