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Michelle Branch: She's 'Everywhere'

Michelle Branch
All Michelle Branch wanted out of life was to be the star of a musical, any musical. "Cats" would have been fine. Then she went to a concert and her whole world changed. The Arizona native decided that being a rock diva was preferable to Broadway and a star was born.

After playing the county fair circuit for a few years, Branch released an independent album, Broken Bracelet, and the big record labels came a-sniffin'. Madonna's Maverick Records won the battle to sign Branch and her major label debut, The Spirit Room, has already spawned a hit with the yearning acoustic pop tune "Everywhere."

Aaron Cummins stepped into Branch's room and found out what it's like to be suddenly famous, who "Everywhere" was written about and why she just might be the antidote to this teen pop thing.


MTV: When did you realize that this is what you wanted to do?

Michelle Branch: I started singing when I was three. When I was younger, I wanted to be on Broadway. I won tickets to a New Kids on the Block concert, but I wasn't a fan of theirs. I was more of a fan of the image that surrounded them and the idea that girls were passing out in the aisles. I was like, "Mom, people don't pass out when they see 'Cats.' This is so much cooler. I want to do this kind of stuff." I begged her to let me take voice lessons when I was eight. I started playing guitar right before my 14th birthday. I had been writing poetry and I always had melodies going through my head, but I never played an instrument. I fell in love with [the guitar] and locked myself in my room and came out two weeks later with a song. I am more comfortable in a room of 5,000 people than five people. I was a really shy, quiet kid, but once there was a lot of people around, I always wanted to be the center of attention. I was a ham.

MTV: What was going on in your head when you were writing "Everywhere"?

"Everywhere"
[RealVideo]
Branch: I guess I could never do "Behind the Music," because none of the songs I write are about personal experiences. I mostly write love songs because I think it's the one thing that everyone can relate to. You see it in movies, in novels ... I like to keep my songs open-ended so people can listen to it and say, "Oh, I think it means this. I've been through that." Instead of having it be about, "I dumped my boyfriend. This is what the song is about." Then it's like, "I don't get it. This has never happened to me. I'm not Michelle." "Everywhere" started out as this simple acoustic love song. When you first like somebody, every little thing reminds you of that person. They're everywhere, in every little thing.

MTV: How would you describe the vibe of The Spirit Room?

Branch: Pop/rock/folk with a little edge and a vibe. [Laughs] I really wanted to make a record that was true to what I did. I didn't really think a lot when I went into the studio about how I wanted it to sound. [I didn't say], "Ooh, we have to make it a little pop, 'cause that's what's going on." When me and my friends first started buying records when we were 14, pop was really mainstream. That's what I have grown up listening to. I just wanted to have an album for kids to say, "Hey, this is an 18 year old writing lyrics for another 18 year old. I feel like this and have never been able to express it." I think that I got that across, because I get emails from people who are like, "I like this guy and this is how I feel."

"Everywhere"
(TRL) [RealVideo]
MTV: Where does the title come from?

Branch: I have this photo of my great-grandmother, who was a gypsy ... in front of this bar called the Spirit Room. She made her living reading people's fortunes. We were talking about the photo and what a great name for a bar that was, and how many different things come to mind when you think of the Spirit Room. The studio where we were doing the record was like a Spirit Room for me. It could mean so many different things.

MTV: What was it like shooting your first video? That must have been very exciting.

Branch: Before we made the video, it was a big deal for me to help find the guy [who co-stars in it]. I was like, "I'm taking over. Send all the photos to me. I have to pick the guy." I was watching every WB show saying, "He's cute. Can we contact him?" As a teenage girl, this was really exciting for me. They finally brought me the picture of the guy in my video, Jake Muxworthy. I was like, "This is it. He has to be in it." The scenes that he was in were so hard because I had this little crush on him. I would giggle and start blushing [when I saw him]. ... I think his girlfriend is probably going to track me down and kill me now. [Laughs]

MTV: A lot of reviews of your album have talked about how you're this fresh alternative to the sugary dance pop that's been big for a while. Was that a conscious direction you wanted to go in?

Branch: That was the thing that I loved about Maverick. I came to them and it was me and the guitar and [I said], "This is who I am." We didn't say, "Look what's going on with girls my age. I have to do this and this." It was all about the songs for me and focusing on the music. It has a pop feel to it because it's all around right now. I can't help but be influenced by it.

MTV: How has your daily life changed since all this started happening?

Branch: Before this started, I woke up at 10 and I would be in my pajamas until noon. I would write songs all day and just hang out. Once this started, I was like, "This is a lot of hard work!" For a while, it was really gradual and easy. Within the last couple of weeks I felt something shift. It was like, "Whoa!" I haven't slowed down since. I'm having so much fun. I learn something new every day. I see something new everyday. That's the coolest thing about music. That's why people like Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones are still putting out records. Because every time you pick up the guitar you learn something, and you can write something that didn't exist five minutes ago.

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