Michelle Branch returns to pop music after detour through Nashville 

click to enlarge Old and new sounds: After a detour writing country music in Nashville, Tenn., Michelle Branch is playing pop and rock on her latest recording, “West Coast Time.” (Courtesy photo) - OLD AND NEW SOUNDS: AFTER A DETOUR WRITING COUNTRY MUSIC IN NASHVILLE, TENN., MICHELLE BRANCH IS PLAYING POP AND ROCK ON HER LATEST RECORDING, “WEST COAST TIME.” (COURTESY PHOTO)
  • Old and new sounds: After a detour writing country music in Nashville, Tenn., Michelle Branch is playing pop and rock on her latest recording, “West Coast Time.” (Courtesy photo)
  • Old and new sounds: After a detour writing country music in Nashville, Tenn., Michelle Branch is playing pop and rock on her latest recording, “West Coast Time.” (Courtesy photo)

Grammy-winning pop stylist Michelle Branch hadn’t planned on composing a pure country solo album, initially.

But — inspired by her love of California twangsmiths such as Gram Parsons and Dwight Yoakam, plus her stint in a one-off folk duo with Jessica Harp called The Wreckers — she wound up living in Nashville, Tenn., where she tracked a banjo-and-pedal-steel-girdered recording for Warner Bros.

“Everything Comes and Goes” features “Long Goodbye,” a duet with Yoakam himself. Yet the record — which was made available to press in advance-CD form — never was released.

Branch, who plays today in Golden Gate Park in Alice radio’s Now and Zen Fest, instead will be backing a new rock CD “West Coast Time,” her first since 2003’s “Hotel Paper.”

Her techno-thumpy comeback single “Loud Music” — with a road-trip video in heavy VH1 rotation — feels familiar, like she never went away. But she did disappear to pen half the record — to London with the hot U.K. team Jim Irvin and Julian Emery of Lissie/David Cook renown.

She also moved to Los Angeles, leaving Music Row — and her country career — far behind.

What happened to “Everything”?

“It took three years of me fighting for that record to come out, and a lot of people at Warners getting let go, to the point where I just couldn’t waste another year of my life on it,” Branch says.

The chiming single “Sooner or Later” was released, with “Long Goodbye” slated to follow.
 
“But then — and this still shocks me — we started getting feedback that maybe country radio didn’t respond to Dwight in the same way we were hoping, so suddenly I didn’t have a single that was ‘country enough.’ They even talked about finding other people to replace Dwight, and I said, ‘No! You are not taking him off this!’ I couldn’t compromise just to get the record out.”

Branch took countless frustrating (read: humiliating) label meetings. Perhaps her album worked better as a six-song EP? Maybe young Nashville hitmakers could give her a fresher sound?

“I just said, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m so creatively tapped out, I just can’t work on this anymore,’” she says. “I needed to get out of Nashville, go to England, write with new musicians and get out of my comfort zone.”

Judging by new numbers such as “Spark” and “Mastermind,” Branch, 28, made the right call — for now.

“But I hope that one day I’ll be able to release that record and let the fans finally hear it, the way I intended,” she says of “Everything.” “Because it still deeply saddens me that it never saw the light of day.

 

 

IF YOU GO
Now and Zen Fest
Presented by Alice@97.3

With Goo Goo Dolls, Michelle Branch, Eoin Harrington

Where: Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
When: Noon today
Tickets: Free
Contact: www.radioalice.com

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Tom Lanham

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