#TBT, Audiophile Style: Michelle Branch
For this week’s #ThrowbackThursday, let’s take a look at one of the most-listened to artists from earlier in the 21st century. Anyone can tell you, they had at least one or two of her songs in their playlist throughout that time.
I was a very melancholic teenager (or moody, hormonal), but where most other boys took it to the basketball court, I took it to the library, devouring books with gusto while listening to music. Lots of pop, some classic rock, and mixtapes courtesy of a silver and blue Walkman – and headphones to match – that had been a present for my twelfth birthday.
Anyway, around my fourteenth birthday, I got a present in the form of new books and a couple of new cassettes: Hanson’s Live from the Albertane, and Michelle Branch’s The Spirit Room. I hadn’t actually asked for the last one, but my dad said I should give it a listen.
I don’t think I looked back after that. I remember wearing down that tape with all the listening I did to it. My tastes in music were shaped by the way I generally felt back then, Everywhere was the song I played on a regular basis when I started getting crushes. Since then, a little bit of Michelle Branch’s music still follows me around in my media player.
I always feel you, so…
I learned later on that The Spirit Room was her first mainstream album, but her first EP was Broken Bracelet, which she self-produced in 2000. The Spirit Room (named for a bar near her hometown) was released in 2001 after she inked a deal with Maverick Records. Everywhere was the first single to come off of it, and was followed up by All You Wanted and Goodbye to You. Back then, news on artists was hard to come by, because of dial-up internet. Add the fact that I lived in Zamboanga, and well… The only time I’d even find out whether or not she had a new album was if I visited the singular record shop in the city.
While a lot of the songs in her first album were about finding love (and the inspiration in it), or making peace with things in life. I drew plenty of inspiration from it, mostly ‘cause I was young and kind of an idiot when it came to a lot of things. In 2002, she collaborated with the legendary Santana on The Game of Love, and won a Grammy for it. I’d actually stayed up on a school night to watch the Grammys, just to see if she’d be nominated or would win.
My mom came home from a trip to Cebu in 2003 with her second album Hotel Paper (in CD now, since my Walkman had been stolen). If I had to describe the way it sounded as a whole, I would’ve said that it sounded less like yearning and more like accepting who you were and that things just happen. By then, I’d tried and failed to persevere at learning to play the guitar and opted to just listen. Breathe and One of These Days were a couple of my favorite tracks, and her collaboration with Cheryl Crow on Love Me Like That was fairly interesting.
I’ll be honest; I began hunting up more of her acoustic performances, as I believed that her voice was more powerful and striking live than in the studio. It surprised me to learn that she’d formed a duo with Jessica Harp called The Wreckers, and I only learned this after I saw the video for I’m Feeling You, Branch’s second collaboration with Santana. I never really got to listen to their album, as my tastes had shifted then.
Coming back to her music recently, I still find her songs incredibly soothing. I went to YouTube at random just to see if there was anything new from her, only to see that her YouTube channel had changed. Many of the videos had new thumbnails and new videos, featuring seemingly unreleased tracks had been recently uploaded. A bit of digging revealed that her third album West Coast Time had gone unreleased, though she released an EP called Everything Comes and Goes in 2010. She’s apparently working on a new album in Nashville and I actually find myself anticipating it.
As far as pop-rock artists go, Michelle Branch has always been one of those artists that you cannot forget (Everywhere alone can still get stuck in your head). Listening to any one of her songs makes you feel like maybe talking to an old friend, or spending time with the ones you care about. Goodbye to You remains a seminal break-up feels song.
If you do want to hear something more-or-less recent from her, look up her cover of Radiohead’s Creep, which you may have heard if you watched Stalker.