Michelle Branch

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My passion for music started when I was a pre-teen listening to the "mainstream" radio which at the time was really all I knew. Clearly I've broadened my horizons since then. With my music library shuffling between everything from noise rock duos to pop rock at its' poppiest, the classics still find their way in on occasion. Okay, more then on occasion. To me, one of those classic artists of my generation was Michelle Branch. Be it her solo work to her time in country duo The Wreckers to her collaborations with Santana, she always stood out in the steady stream of music that we listened to on car trips and on MTV!

While she may have stepped away from the spotlight these past few years, she is working on a new record 'West Coast Time'. While no longer flying solo, she does have a husband and child in tow, she is sure to regain the superstar stardom she once knew. For our interview, we sat down in a room off of the Goo Goo Dolls' vocal warm up and discussed everything from her new record to what she's been doing the past few years to how antsy and excited she is to be back on the road!

It's definitely been a while since you've been on the road but what are the three things you must have while on the road?
Oh wow! Um, the must haves have changed having my daughter out on tour. We try and make it like as normal and family life as possible during the day so we actually have a kitchen on our bus and the first thing we do is go to the grocery store and stock up. Just as much food as we can. What else do we have? A yoga mat! Me and the band do yoga we try to. Doesn't always happen and it's funny to see the boys do it then what's the last thing? And that would be counted as the incense I guess. We go through it like crazy!
And then I believe this is like your first major tour in a while.
Well, yeah it is! Actually it is my first like "tour" tour. I've been doing one offs for the last few years which has obviously been like the biggest tease because I'll have like three shows with some one and then I'm like 'Okay, that was fun I'm going home now' but yeah it's nice to be back out on the road again. It takes a while to get back in the rhythms especially now because having my daughter out- it's just a million different things pulling my attention in different directions. I think it must be the same for any working mom. You have the things you're supposed to do and things you want to do. Some days you get all of it done and some days you don't but it's a definite balancing act.
Sure! How has it been to be back on the road. I mean I was right behind the girls with the signs.
Sorry then (laughs)!
No, it was funny! Clearly, you still have those fans that have like stuck with you this whole time even though maybe you haven't been playing as much. How has it been to be back on the road and playing these shows?
It's weird because, in a sense, it feels like I haven't left in the grand scheme of things because I have been working this whole time then I sit back and go 'Oh yeah you're right I can't remember the last time I was here'. It's like how many years ago was that? So I definitely have my insecurities and I'm like Okay are people going to show up? Are people going to like it? Will people know the songs and it's just the same I'm sure as any other artist. You just wonder like if people are actually going to come!
That's what's the best part of being on a opening spot. It's a relief just because of you not having to worry about if I'm having my own show if people are going to show up or not. You kind of just get to relax.
And then 'Hotel Paper' was the last solo Michelle Branch record, right? I know you had The Wreckers' record but that was your last solo. Maybe how do you think it actually helped you with putting out the new record this fall?
In a way, I feel like doing a record just really gave me the chance to grow up a lot and having found success so young in age I think people were just, when I say people I mean people at the label, completely content to keep on shelling out the same kind of songs over and over and that's why I did The Wreckers. To kind of get a different perspective away from that and some time to just do an album because I liked music. So yeah, it's kind of given me this fresh start and it's going to be really interesting to see how people react once, you know, the album's out.
And do you think the songwriting has changed for you? Like as a singer-songwriter.
Yeah (laughs). I mean a lot of the songs that were on the first record especially were just kind of fictional songs. You're a writer so you know I would just conjure up different scenarios in my head and go maybe 'Oh this is what it's like' and have a little bit of experience on the subject but I mean what do you know at fifteen and now cut ahead to where I'm 28. Married and have a child and I've seen the world as opposed to wondering. So definitely, I think that it's changed!
And then the first single 'Loud Music' just came out a little while ago. What's the story behind that song as your first one out?
'Loud Music' is a song that is kind of like a homage of what my favorite records growing up were and it all started where Jim Irvin and Joe Emery and I were all writing and we came up with the line 'driving too fast is the definition'. And we were like wouldn't it be cool if we could hook that, put that hook from, 'Immigrant Song' in there and snuck the oh woah part in there. It was like 'Wait a minute, what other bands can we talk about' and that's kind of how the whole thing started. Was just the thought of like 'Wow, how would my life be different if I didn't find those records?' It changed my life.
Then obviously, like at the show tonight, people were into it and they knew the song. How has it been going over to like the fans? Is it a good indicator of what's to come on the record? I know it's hard to put it in boxes, it's no fun!
Yeah it's hard because of course like I am so excited for people to hear new songs and there were three new songs in the set tonight. There were three new songs in the set tonight and that's a lot for an opener slot so I know like some nights I'll take one out and put an old one back in and play with it a bit. It's hard when you're opening up for some one and especially when we're trying a new format where we're not playing with a drummer. So we have nights that like are dependent on audiences. Honestly it's more based on the venue. Like if people are closer to the stage and standing, it tends to be better but like stadium style seating isn't so great because no one wants to stand up so it's just different every night.
Then how did the recording process go for 'West Coast Time'?
It went really, really well. I went to London to record half the record which is something that I've been wanting to do for a while and it was just so nice. Like I definitely am very affected by whatever environment I'm in so being there and being so far away from home changed my writing a lot and it changed just the sounds that I was playing with. Then the producers coming from England, they had a completely different background so it was definitely something where thye pushed me a little bit in certain ways and I pushed back in different ways.
Then maybe obviously you've toured with records when you were younger and fifteen I think you said when 'Everywhere' came out. So maybe what's the most familiar sounding song on this record for past fans and then most out of left field?
I would say the most familiar is 'Loud Music' and that's probably why it was used as the first single. It's definitely a kind of like just straight ahead pop song. So I would say that's probably the most similiar. There are a few songs on the record that are really different from anything that I've done. One is a song called "Master Mind" and it was produced by a guy named Mike Hellazondo who has a really amazing background of working with a lot of urban artists like Dr. Dre. So not like mine at all but he was an amazing musician and I kind of wanted to make kind of a pride song like with spaghetti western guitars and that type of thing. So it's definitely different and my brother, my older brother, loves that song and that's a good indicator because he doesn't listen to the same kind of music I do and he's like 'When can you email me that song?' So, we'll see!
Perfect and then I actually spoke to Tyler Hilton last year and he said he has written with you a little bit you guys have messed around and then obviously you've collaborated with Santana. So who would be like your dream writing partner?
That's a good question. I am so obsessed with Jack White and I recently was on a flight with him by chance from LA to Nashville and I literally like sat there and was like 'Oh god I can't listen to his music while he's sitting next to me' but I would love to like one day make kind of a more rock record and I would love to see what he would come up. Like that would be my dream.
Great, then these to end it off, are bringing it back a little bit. The first CD or cassette you bought and then the first concert you went to?
Yes! Well, I remember the first record I actually bought so even further and it's embarassingly enough. It was Pebbles' 'Mercedes Boy' or single for 'If You Want To Ride My Mercedes Boy', that was it! And then I got the Beatles 'Love Songs' compilation in the same setting so it balanced out.
Then those experiences, like the first concert and everything, do you think that really influenced you maybe just as a person or your style?
They definitely, I think, I remember the excitement of it all and still whenever I see people who I really, really love live I still have moments where I kind of drift off and just 'Oh my god I can't believe it!' You know I'm a big fan. Fan. Music fan first. That's why I'm here. So I definitely still have fan moments. There was a moment when I got to see Neil Young play in Hong Kong and no one spoke English and then he went out and played and everyone sang every word and I was just like 'Life is so great right now. How am I standing here right now?' So I just love music.
Perfect and then I know you said that you are touring in the fall or you plan on it? Are you going to be back touring?
I will be doing a headlining club tour in October/November which I'm really excited about. I don't know who I'm bringing out with me yet we're still trying to figure out what openers there are that I want to bring out but I'm really excited to get back to them. I would say clubs are my favorite places to play. I'm looking around the audience, seeing like the girls with signs here and there and go 'Well okay if we were all in a small room, it would be really high energy'.

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