Michelle Branch , May 10, 2001

 

Written and photos by: Jason Perlman

 

Hey Michelle. How are you doing?
I'm doing great. I am excited about the release of The Spirit Room.

Speaking of your debut CD, how did you get started in this crazy business?
Well, I have been singing ever since I could talk, basically. I have a tape of me singing when I was three, and music has always been such a big part of my life growing up and was always what I loved. Right before my 14th birthday I decided that I wanted to play the guitar, and I have always written poetry most of my life. When I picked up my guitar and put my poetry to it I realized that I had been writing songs all along. So I started writing songs and playing out at fairs and festivals and I ended up meeting my manager and we put out an indy record. Hanson heard it and chose me as their opening act on the West Coast. Maverick came to the first show, followed me to the second show and offered me the deal right there.

It kind of fell in your lap.
It was funny, because I wasn't out looking for a deal, it just happened which was really satisfying.

You have a lot of styles in your music, what did you grow up on?
I'm a huge classic rock fan and that was always blaring in my house. I grew up listening to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Aerosmith, all that stuff was going in my house. And I still listen to that stuff, like I will just go home, put one of their records on and just blast it.

Still listen to classic rock?
Well, I listen to Joni Mitchell and stuff like that too, definitely.

I just say Aerosmith not too long ago, they were great.
Awww, how was it? See I'm cursed. I have tried to go to a couple of Aeromsith shows, but they always get canceled to something comes up and I can't go. It's just not in the stars for me I guess.

Not only with your musical sound, but even the marketing and publicity photos of you, you have a lot of early Jewel in you. Has or is she an influence?
Yea, people have actually been comparing me a lot to her and Alanis (Morisette), stuff like that. Which is great because they are both successful in this business, so it's ultimately a compliment. I get the Jewel thing a lot I think because she definitely ahs the lyrics that you listen to and pay attention to and I hope people do the same thing when they hear me. Pay attention to the lyrics and really listen to it.

And Hanson can be credited with helping get you where you are. What was it like opening for them? It is a far stretch to say you have similar sounds, although some elements are the same.
Well, I have to tell you. Like right before the show I was super excited to go play the show. And then the day of the show, we showed up at the venue and there were thousands of fanatical girls. Here I am, I have opened up for Jackson Browne and B.B. King and they are like the most calm audiences. People are just hanging out on the lawn, and I come out and people clap when they are supposed to. It's like, the day of the Hanson show, I was like, 'Oh my God, I am going to be murdered up there.' Every girl is out there going, 'Oh, I am going to marry him.' And here I am, the first female to open up for them. People are going to like throw things at me and I was like so nervous the day of the show to go out there. But I went out there and they loved it. It was amazing, they were all screaming throughout my whole thing, they wanted me to do an encore. It was like they definitely, definitely embraced me and I was very, very glad they weren't throwing tomatoes. But they have kinda taken me as their own, and that is probably where most of my fans have come from, are shows I did for Hanson, so it turned out really good.

Oh, that's cool.
Yea, it's definitely very cool. And before that, I was out playing with my acoustic guitar and there is no way I would have had that experience just playing by myself. It was really cool to be able to share that audience with them.

You have come a long way fast and furious. Do you ever find yourself feeling like you are watching yourself in a movie and this is all happening to, but it's almost not even real?
I am so excited, I stop and pause ever day and am like, 'Oh my God, I can't believe this is happening.' But I can't think about it too much because it starts messing with your mind, but I am very, very, very excited about all this happening and am very proud of the record I made and I can't wait to see where it takes me. If nothing happens with it, and you know, my music career ends, I definitely will be able to leave satisfied because I know I made the best record I could and I have been working really, really hard. I am just really happy where I am.

Can you see yourself changing your music for the next album? Trying to do something that other's expect of you or want out of you?
I guess with me, when I make anything or write any songs, I don't really think about what are people going to think when I write this song or are they going to hear it. I just do what I do and I hope people see it however they want to. Like any artist, you are just inspired by living and being in the world and everything that goes on day to day kind of inspires you, so you kind of grow and change with what's going on. So hopefully, if I keep doing my music, it will just evolve into something different and go with what's going on. But I don't think I'll try purposely to do anything or change anything I am doing to get a certain audience. I'm just gonna do what I do.

You are in a time where your music is more accessible than ever before. Someone half the world away can be listening to your song while we are talking and the CD isn't even over there yet.
It's very exciting. I am like an Internet junky and I will go on the Internet and get e-mail from people in Japan and in Germany and who have never seen me live and have just downloaded songs and really, really love it and e-mail me. It's so cool to see how that happens, because without the Internet, that wouldn't be a possibility. But it's a great tool to bring people together and I think it's very cool to see that happen.

Can you believe you are doing this for a living?
It's so cool. It amazes me that you would be able to play music for a living and be able to travel and see the world and get paid for it. Who thought of that? This isn't a job, it's so much fun and when you do something you love, you wake up ever day and are grateful for being able to have this opportunity.

You are going to be traveling around the world and seeing countries you never thought of getting to. How much will that influence your music?
It will probably definitely play a part. I don't know how directly it will. But who knows, I could be in Japan and find a new instrument or some new sound and dive into it. We will see what happens I guess. I am real excited to get out there and see the world.

And how do you write? Do you wait for inspiration to strike or do you grind it out whether it wants to or not?
Well, I can definitely sit down and try to write something, but I don't like to do it that way. I kind of wait until inspiration strikes. If I feel it, I will stop whatever I am doing and grab a pen and paper and write down whatever is in my head. But I've never really like tried to sit down and like purposely write a song. Although I could do it, it's just not the way I really like to work. But I find they are never really as good, if you try to do it. If your creative juices are flowing, it is always better.

Did you have everything written for this record? Or did you hit the studio and jam to get inspired for songs?
It was funny. I knew I was going into the studio to make a record, so I definitely got all my songs together and I had been writing a lot because I was really excited about getting the deal. So I went in there with like 20 songs and we started recording some of my own and just being in the creative environment and being in the studio. John Shanks the producer would give ideas back and forth. And before I knew it, we would have other songs. I did about half the record before I went in and the other half, we didn't plan on it, but it was just songs that happened while we were together. We would be writing in the studio very spontanious. So yea, about half and half.

I remember talking to Jason, the singer from Lifehouse, and he said he had to wait til like 2 am and light candles to get the vibe in the studio right. How was it for you?
We definitely had the candles lit and we definitely made the studio our home. There was trash everywhere, stuff like that. But we always had candles lit and incense going and I am definitely more creative late at night, so the two in the morning thing is definitely believable.

Are ya a big city woman or still a small-town girl? Your promo photos make you look like a LA veteran.
Well, kind of both. I definitely am kind of a down-home kinda girl. But recently, with everything that has been happening, I have been getting out in the city and I love it out here in LA and its kind of like I have the city Michelle and the sit-at-home-and-hang-out kind of girl, too.

Is it funny to go back home now that you have began a career as a musician and are on a major label? Heck, even Madonna's label?
Yea, it's funny, because I live in a really, small town in Arizona, and when I go home I have the worst time sleeping and the minute I got out to LA to do the record, I guess the noise really comforted me. I ended up falling asleep. I come out here and I feel great and I get awesome sleep, so that was definitely a perk. And just being out here, I think it's the energy of being in the city, it's really inspiring. I love being out here.