After spending the last few years as one-half of the country-pop duo the Wreckers with Jessica Harp, singer-songwriter Michelle Branch is stepping out solo, again. The Wreckers enjoyed success in their short-lived career, scoring three hit singles off their debut album, Stand Still, Look Pretty, before splitting up, and now Branch is readying to release her first solo album in six years. “Leave the Pieces,” the first single off the Wreckers’ debut, enjoyed a two-week stint at the Number One spot on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in 2006, and the album as a whole moved 856,000 copies.
Branch threw herself into her new album once she and Harp parted ways and Everything Comes and Goes (Reprise/Warner Bros. Nashville) is the result. The album will arrive this fall, and the lead single off Branch’s upcoming solo set, “Sooner or Later,” just hit country radio. Cities like Chicago, Nashville, Cleveland and Bakersfield, California have been giving “Sooner or Later” some airtime, and it is likely to make its way onto the Hot Country Songs chart in the near future.
Everything Comes and Goes follows Branch’s two previous pop-leaning solo albums, 2001’s The Spirit Room and 2003’s Hotel Paper, which have sold a total of 3.2 million copies collectively, according to Nielsen SoundScan. After Branch wrote and recorded Everything, Warner executives in Burbank, California and Nashville debated whether to release the record to the country or pop market. Recalls Branch to Billboard.com, “I pretty much came up with the album and finished it within the first six months [after the break-up].
Then everybody started overthinking every little piece of the record. It was my nightmare position to be in. I’m very impulsive, especially with music. If it feels right, you should walk away and say, ‘We’re done.’ But I actually stopped and listened to everybody giving their two cents about what the record should be.”
Branch had high hopes of releasing Everything Comes and Goes in 2008, but it will finally arrive late this fall. Produced by John Leventhal and John Shanks, a duo branch refers to as “my two Johns,” the resulting album is the original version Branch recorded some two years ago, despite the lengthy discussions about whether or not to alter it. Says Branch of the delay, “This record has been a process for sure. I’m used to a quick turnaround, but this album has been two years of my life. It’s the next progression. I started out as a pop artist, then came to Nashville and it changes me. I don’t know how or why I could turn my back on that. I hope it’s a happy marriage of both [genres].”
It’s interesting that Branch uses the term “marriage” to describe her upcoming pop-meets-country album, as she used the word “divorce” in reference to the breakup of the Wreckers. Despite the difficulty of seeing success with the Wreckers before the pair splintered, Branch told Billboard.com the experience allowed her to move into country territory saying, “I don’t think I would have ever been able to go into Nashville on my own and accomplish what I did. I have Jessica to thank for that. And because of the Wreckers, people know this is where I want to be.”
After headlining select dates in support of her upcoming album this fall, Branch is hoping to join a country tour. “I’m dying to play this music live. I’ve never been off the road for the length of time. I didn’t realize how much I missed it and loved it until I didn’t do it for a few years,” says Branch. Fans of the singer-songwriter will be happy to see her back on the road, which means that Michelle Branch tickets to see her live will be selling quickly online.
with Phoebe Bridgers
CONOR OBERST Salutations Conor Oberst joined his first band at the age of 13 and has been releasing music since 1993. Over the next two plus decades, he s released cassette-only recordings, split 7-inches, and a dozen albums of uncommon insight, detail, and political awareness with his band Bright Eyes, under his own name, as a member of Desaparecidos, as leader of the The Mystic Valley Band, and with the Monsters of Folk supergroup. In Fall of 2015, and after more than a decade of living in New York City, Oberst returned to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, somewhat unexpectedly. Like John Lennon so famously said: Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. After canceling a tour with Desaparecidos due to serious health issues, Oberst returned home to recuperate. The musician was unexpectedly back home at loose ends and faced with some long, cold, claustrophobic winter nights, with nothing really to do. Such conditions were the same as those that contributed to the very early songs he penned in his boyhood bedroom. This resulted in the anxious poetry, heightened self-awareness, and revealing confessionals that catalogued his doubts, demons, and nightmares. It wasnt premeditated at all. I don t know if you know what Omaha is like in the winter, but it s just paralyzing. You re stranded in the house. Every night I was staying up late, making a point to play the new piano I had just bought and watching the snow fall outside the house. Everybody would be asleep and I would just go into this one room, make a fire, and play all night. In November I had a whole pick-up truck full of firewood delivered and I thought, I m never going to run out of it. Before I knew I had gone through half of the firewood and I had five songs. By February I had burned through it all, and I had 15 songs. I had just spent the whole winter making fires and playing music.Making and playing music has always been a healing balm for the sometimes troubled musician. And this time it especially seemed important. It was if he was writing himself back to sanity. Back to understanding what is really important and has meaning for him. And in the same kind of immediacy with which the songs were written, Oberst realized he needed to record them right away, in order to capture the kind of raw intensity and rough magic behind them. When Oberst wrote and recorded the songs, with just voice, piano, guitar and harmonica he intended to ultimately record them with a full band. In the midst of putting together that band – upstate New York's The Felice Brothers plus the legendary drummer Jim Keltner (Neil Young, Jackson Browne, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and many more) – the passionate responses Oberst was getting to those first solo recordings, from friends and colleagues, encouraged him to release the songs as-is, in their original sparse form, released in October 2016 as Ruminations. Pitchfork called it a record like none other in Oberst s catalog, stunning for how utterly alone he sounds, and the UK s Sunday Times called it, The rawest album yet from the forever troubled one-time voice of a generation. Political and very, very personal,saying Oberst is one of the best songwriters around.Meanwhile, Oberst simultaneously moved ahead with his plans to record with the band, heading to the famed Shangri-la Studios in Malibu to record Salutations – co-produced with Keltner and engineered by long-time musical compadre Andy LeMaster. Guest contributions come courtesy of Jim James, Blake Mills, Maria Taylor, M Ward,Gillian Welch, Gus Seyffert,Pearl Charles, Nathaniel Walcott, and Jonathan Wilson. Salutations includes full band versions of the ten songs from Ruminations, plus seven additional songs, some from an additional session at Five Star Studios in Echo Park in fall 2016. Oberst says of the Salutations sessions: "Jim (Keltner) was really the captain of the ship and the spiritual leader of the project. We leaned heavy on his fifty-plus years of musical insight to get us to where we needed to be. He brought such depth and dignity to the proceedings that made everyone else involved rise to the occasion. It was a true stroke of luck that he got involved when he did."