Branch was 17 when she signed with Maverick Records. In 2001, Branch released The Spirit Room, which sold two million copies in the U.S., spawning the hits “Everywhere” and “All You Wanted.” She followed it up with 2003’s Hotel Paper, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Album chart and became Branch’s second platinum selling disc in the U.S. It spawned the hit single “Are You Happy Now?” which was nominated for a Grammy award for “Best Female Rock Performance.” Branch also won a grammy for singing on Carlos Santos “The Game of Love,” which reached no. 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and spent many weeks atop the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
In 2006, Branch found success with modern country duo The Wreckers, whose debut stand still, look pretty was praised by critics for breaking down barriers between pop and country. The gold-certified album spawned the hit single “Leave the Pieces,” which topped the hot country songs chart for several weeks, as well as “My Oh My” and “Tennessee,” and earned Branch her fourth Grammy nomination.
One day in 2012, Michelle Branch wrote a song called “City” that would turn out to be eerily prescient. “I was nearing my 30th birthday and I thought, ‘Something needs to change in my life,’ she says.
“I felt stagnant in this weird holding pattern, but I never acknowledged it to myself until I wrote that song. A lot of huge things happened to me really young. I got signed at 17 and released my first album a month after I turned 18. I met my ex-husband when I was 19, got married at 20, and had a baby at 21. ‘City’ was a song about me realizing that I wanted to make a change. It was one of the first things I wrote that felt really honest and it was kind of an ‘A-ha’ moment for me. Once I sang it, I thought, ‘Oh, here we go.’”
“City” is now the closing track on Branch’s upcoming new album Hopeless Romantic, and Branch’s world has completely changed since she wrote it. The Sedona, Arizona-born singer, songwriter, and musician went through a divorce, changed record labels, moved from Los Angeles to Nashville, fell in love, and, in the process, made the album of her dreams with her producer and now partner, Patrick Carney of The Black Keys.
Not surprisingly, Hopeless Romantic is filled with songs about relationships. “They’re my favorite topic,” she says.
“I love hearing human stories about people interacting with each other, and the title perfectly sums up the record. A lot of these songs are about heartbreak, but knowing that it doesn’t mean the end of the world, it just means letting go and moving on and knowing that you’re going to find something better, as hard as that is.”
Branch also notes that Hopeless Romantic is her first truly autobiographical record.
“My first album certainly was written without much real-life experience,” she says. “But this album is about adult, messy love and not teenage love. It’s been a couple of really interesting years. I mean, the last time I dated I was a teenager!”
During the course of making Hopeless Romantic, Branch and Carney realized that their feelings for each other went beyond friendship. The song “Carry Me Home” will always remind her of the first days in the studio when, without realizing what was happening, she had set in motion a sequence of events that would change everything.
“I remember saying to my sister, ‘I’ve met someone who’s going to be so important in my life. I don’t know if it’s a mentor thing or if it’s just purely a music thing, but I have never connected with somebody in that way,’ she recalls. “I truly believe everything happens for a reason. I made a record I’m enormously proud of and, in the process, found the love of my life, and it just feels like it was supposed to happen.”