Michelle Branch Is Everywhere
Let this be said for Michelle Branch: She's sure one timely T-shirt wearer. Mere days after Winona Ryder's Beverly Hills shoplifting bust, Branch -- riding high on the charts with the hit 'Everywhere' and her album The Spirit Room -- appears at the restaurant of her Sunset Strip hotel wearing a free Winona shirt.
'The stylist brought it to the video I've been shooting,' Branch says. 'I snagged it because I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen.'
Over brunch, the eighteen-year-old singer-songwriter is charming and well-spoken despite having been up until 4 a.m. the previous night on that shoot -- for 'All You Wanted' -- in a less-than-swanky part of downtown Los Angeles. 'It was really awful,' she says. 'There was a helicopter searching for someone on the next block. They were all scaring me. We do this scene where I'm running in the rain and a car comes by. And they're like, 'Last time we did this with one of the Backstreet Boys, we hit him.' '
Branch -- who wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the album and plays some impressive guitar -- shares little with pop's more polished and packaged young bloods. But she has yearned for stardom as far back as she can remember. 'I always wanted to be a famous singer,' she says. 'Growing up, I thought there was a special school for it -- I must have been watching too many Fame reruns.'
Branch grew up in Sedona, Arizona, but don't get the wrong idea from her hometown's famous New Age reputation and the fact that her album is called The Spirit Room. 'The town didn't really influence me at all,' she says with a grin. 'There are two different sides to Sedona. There's the touristy side, with all the psychic bookshops and crystals shops. Then there's the other side of town, where all the locals go and say, 'Jeez, look at Axl Rose in the crystals shop.' But the town did inspire me in the sense that so many artistic people go there to be inspired, so I was exposed to many things early.'
By the age of three, Branch was doing her own home recording of the theme from An American Tail. Later, she got her first guitar, started writing songs and gradually became something of a local music figure. 'I was the girl at the fair,' she says, 'because I couldn't play bars.'
Her big break came when she was fifteen, at home in the garage jamming with her sister on drums and her best friend, Jenifer, on bass. 'The phone rang, and it was one of my parents' friends, who's a time-share salesman,' Branch says. 'And he said, 'Michelle, get down here with a demo tape now.' '
It turns out that a rock manager from Los Angeles named Jeff Rabhan was taking a time-share tour. 'My parents were out,' Branch says. 'I had no ride -- I have no license -- so we took my neighbor's golf cart down to this resort.' Before long, Rabhan was managing Branch, sending her demo to Danny Strick, who signed her to Maverick. 'I owe my whole career to this Harley-Davidson golf cart,' she says.
These days, Branch's career is hot enough that she is constantly approached by young women who want to follow her example and pick up the guitar themselves. 'I've signed so many blue Taylor acoustic guitars from fourteen-year-old girls,' she says. 'Guitar teachers will stop me and say, 'Girls are bringing in your record and dying to learn your songs.' My e-mail, every other one, is 'I'm learning guitar now.' It's so cool that it motivates them, because that's what great records did for me.'
(Edited by emily at 8:52 am on Feb. 9, 2002)
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