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  • Michelle Branch’s huge hits were nearly impossible escape if you took a car ride, went to a movie, or visited a mall in 2001. She provided the soundtrack to our lives. Ten years later, she’s about to release a new album.

    At 18, Branch became a platinum seller with her debut album, The Spirit Room, thanks to self-penned pop/rock singles “Everywhere”, “All You Wanted” and “Goodbye to You.”

    After selling four million albums, and winning a Grammy Award for a collaborative single with Carlos Santana (“The Game of Love”), the talented songstress brought more hits to the table with her second album, the edgier Hotel Paper.

    The 2003 singles “Are You Happy Now?” and “Breathe” were also huge successes, but left Branch looking for a change.

    Check out Michelle’s new song and some classics.
    Click to play

    In 2005, she joined Nashville singer/songwriter Jessica Harp to form The Wreckers, giving her entree into the world of country music.

    Although the duo was nominated for both a CMA and Grammy, they parted ways just as their music was rising on the charts.

    Branch pulled from the emotions she felt throughout the experience to create a six-song EP she released for fans in 2010.

    Branch continues to work on her third album, West Coast Time, in between touring with the Goo Goo Dolls and spending time with her husband and five year old daughter.

    The down-to-earth artist chatted with The Improper from the road as she gears up to play Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on July 24th.

    The Improper: What has it been like to tour with the Goo Goo Dolls?

    Branch: I think my inner teenage girl is kind of freaking out that I’m on tour with them! I’m a big fan of theirs. It’s just so great to watch them play every night and go, “Oh, I know that song! I know that song! I know that song!” Every song is a hit. They’ve been really, really great.

    IM: What can people expect to hear from you on the tour?

    Branch: It’s hard because I’m in the opening slot, which is kind of a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that I get to be on the road with the Goo Goo Dolls, and the curse is that I only get to sing for forty-five minutes. The bulk of my set is older songs that were singles, and I have room for a couple of new songs in there. Mostly it’s all hits from my first two records. It’s fun to play them in that setting, all one after another. I think I’m going out solo in the fall, so anyone who wants to get a taste of my new record can do it then.

    IM: How have your inspirations changed over the years?

    Branch: They have definitely changed. The perspective I have now, ten to fifteen years after starting out, is definitely a lot different than the one I had. I’m married now, I have a daughter, I’ve traveled the world. Not to sound cheesy, but the difference is that I’m a woman now. I have a lot more life that I’ve lived, as opposed to a lot of the music I wrote for the first couple of records. They were a little bit from personal experience, but a lot from just my imagination and a lot of fiction from other music I’d heard or books I’d read, or what I thought situations were like. Now, it’s definitely more from experience.

    IM: Speaking of your journey, your EP features a great song called “Crazy Ride”. Which aspects of your life does it reflect?

    Branch: “Crazy Ride” was one of those songs that I wrote for my daughter Owen. I was watching her sleep, and I was going, “Oh my God, you have no idea. I wish I could just shelter you from the world forever, but someday some jerk is going to come along and break your heart, and you’re going to get your feelings hurt. You’re going to have your good days, and you’re going to have bad days.” The song is just looking at that innocence of how magical life is and how easy things are, and just not really wanting that to stop quite yet.

    IM: Why did you choose to give your new album the name West Coast Time?

    Branch: “West Coast Time” is a song that’s on the new album, and it’s a song that I wrote about my experience in Nashville. I had success there and was really accepted by a lot of people who I was told really weren’t going to be so accepting. Everyone kind of warned me, ‘Listen, you’re a pop singer, you’re going to have to jump through hoops to really prove yourself if you want this to work.’ I still kind of always felt like an outsider just because I had a different upbringing than a lot of the country artists there. I didn’t grow up in the south, and I wasn’t bred purely on country music. I listened to rock ‘n roll, and I’m a west-coaster at heart. “West Coast Time” is about my time in Nashville and how much I loved it, but I still always felt like I was kept an arm’s length away.

    IM: You have taken your music in many directions, and you try a variety of genres. You started out as a pop star, teamed up with Carlos Santana, hit the country route, and now you’re touring with a pop/rock band again. What else would you like to try?

    Branch: I’d love to make a rock record. I’m such a fan of rock ‘n roll music. I love the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age and bands like that. That being said, I would love to collaborate with a guy and a band, because I love to have that energy with the writing and the music making, and I think it would be so much fun to do…but that’s down the road. The problem with me is I’ll start ten different projects, but I have to keep my focus. If I don’t, I tend to get sidetracked!

    IM: Are there any people with whom you dream about collaborating?

    Branch: I tried to get Dave Grohl to play drums on the new record, but it didn’t work out. I’m such a fan of his. I’m obsessed with Jack White and Beck.

    IM: At the time that you rose to fame your competition consisted of artists such as Christina Aguilera, Vanessa Carlton and the Goo Goo Dolls. What do you think of the current crop of pop stars like Britney Spears and Lady Gaga?

    Branch: I will admit I don’t completely understand Lady Gaga. I admire her for her inventiveness and her originality, and I love that she writes and she plays. I love that there’s more females coming up, which is always fantastic in my mind. I love what Katy Perry is doing, I have “Teenage Dream” blasting in my car when I’m driving around. I don’t listen to too much pop radio. I wish there was a little more room for more organic music, and I just think everything goes in waves. There’s always going to be some new trend that people follow, and that’s just the nature of the beast.

    IM: Which artists would we find on your iPod?

    Branch: Believe it or not, I don’t have an iPod! (Laughs) It’s really pathetic! I just sort of carry around my computer everywhere and plug it in. Everyone’s like, “Are you serious, Michelle?” I love Angus & Julia Stone, they’re fantastic. It’s really beautiful music, kind of folky inspired rock.

    IM: What is your earliest memory of yourself as a performer? Were you that kid singing for everyone at the Thanksgiving dinner table?

    Branch: Oh yeah! I have a sister who is four years younger than me. She and I were constantly putting on shows for anyone who would watch us. Growing up, I was obsessed with musical theater and all the Rodgers & Hammerstein stuff. I was like, “I’m going to live in New York and be on Broadway!” We used to sing all the show tunes and put on costumes and dance. We still get teased because last Thanksgiving we actually went to a costume store and got outfits and dressed like pilgrims and indians. Everyone was like, “Really you guys? Really?” My sister and I will turn any occasion into a costume party.

    IM: You obviously know how to have a good time! What do you find yourself doing to relax?

    Branch: It’s all about yoga so I can then go out and eat. I’m a big foodie. It’s just so easy when you’re traveling to get in the habit of only eating at the chain restaurants that you’re familiar with. You don’t really get to see much that way. I think the quickest way to learn about where you’re from is through food, and the quickest way to learn about the people you’re meeting is through food. Today I’m probably going to take the whole band out and we’re going to find a good meal and have some wine and relax. To me, that’s the perfect day.

    IM: What are some of your guilty pleasures? Are you into any of the talent competition/reality shows?

    Branch: I’m not a big reality show person, except for when it comes to Food Network type shows. My husband is constantly baffled by my entertainment choices. He’s like, “You really have no standard when it comes to television or movies, do you?” I love True Blood, and I’m really bummed out because I’ve missed a few episodes being out on the road. I go onstage right when all my favorite shows go on! A friend of mine recommended I get into Friday Night Lights, so I just bought season one. I will literally watch anything. I’m not into the CSI type shows though. I don’t like thinking about that stuff before I go to bed.

    IM: Your music reveals a lot about you and your persona. Is there anything you can tell The Improper that no one else would know about you?

    Branch: Not many people know that I have a port-wine stain birthmark on my face, right under my right eye. It’s dark. When I’m not working I barely wear make-up, and people go, “Oh, you kind of look like that girl, but it couldn’t be….” I cover it with make-up for work, and no one really knows it’s there. It’s my built in disguise when I’m not working (laughs). It’s relatively big, probably the size of a half dollar!