In the early 2000s, Michelle Branch was the it-girl singer/songwriter of the pop world. She was a teenager who wrote her own songs, which at the time was rare. Her hits were backed by producer John Shanks, and she had two hit records, both before her 21st birthday. But after releasing a country record as part of the duo The Wreckers, she fell off the grid. Millions of fans wondered what happened to their beloved pop singer. Did she quit the business? Was she focusing on raising her daughter Owen? Michelle explains more about it in detail below, but all we can say right now is that we’re ecstatic that she’s back.
Her album “Hopeless Romantic” is a bit more rock than her first two pop albums, but it’s still very much Michelle. You can feel the pain of her divorce in the breakup songs and you can feel her personal rejuvenation in the tracks about new love. While it might not have been exactly what we might have expected, we love the finished product and are excited to hear the new songs live on her tour this summer.
With “Hopeless Romantic” dropping on April 7th, we talked to Michelle about what kept her from releasing music for the past 14 years, the experience of writing the album with her boyfriend Patrick Carney, and why she considers this album to be the first one to be truly autobiographical. Ladies, Michelle Branch is back!
Q&A with Michelle Branch
For fans who don’t know what happened, can you explain your time gap between “Hotel Paper” and “Hopeless Romantic”?
After “Hotel Paper”, I decided to start a country duo with Jessica Harp called The Wreckers, which was an incredible experience. I had no idea what would become of it, but we had a #1 song, the album was Grammy-nominated, and we toured. Around the same time, [my then husband and I] had Owen, who’s now 11. After the record, The Wreckers broke up in 2007. I had a lot of material that I was writing when we broke up, but I decided that instead of letting that material go to waste, I would just record a solo country record. Shortly after discussing the release of the album with Warner Brothers Nashville, the [president] was let go. This was the beginning of a series of years of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as far as company shifts at Warner Brothers. When a new president came in, he said [my album] wasn’t country enough. I took the album to L.A. and they said it wasn’t pop enough. From the beginning of that record, that was three years of my life. I walked away from that album and made a pop record. I moved back to L.A. and the president was fired, then the A&R rep was fired. It was really disruptive. I got the OK to make another record, “Loud Music.” We had artwork and then the president got fired. My album got shelved.
I asked to to be let go from the label and they wouldn’t let me go. People would be asking me, “What happened?” To say I’m excited about having this record come out is the understatement of the year. I never thought I would see the day!
You figured out the album sonically before you hashed out the lyrics. How did that impact the lyrics you wrote?
The lyrics were written when I got off of 2014, which was a crazy year for me because I started the year freshly separated from my husband, who I had been with for 11 years. In June, I got off of Warner Brothers. I found myself as a single mother dating in L.A. and I had so much to pull lyrically. I had breakup songs, I had songs all throughout the process, and I continued to write as we recorded the record and started this album with Patrick [Carney]. Halfway through the album, we found love and now I live with him in Nashville. The album follows this arc of losing love and finding it again.