Due to unforeseen circumstances again, two posts got missed last week. This week, however, I plan to make up for it as I have some topics that I’ve wanted to talk/write about for a while now, so this week I’ll have a bonus Tuesday Thoughts post tomorrow (or today I suppose, depending on when you’re reading this) on a topic I’ve had banked for a while: social media overdose– in my case, specifically Facebook– and how I’m handling it. On Wednesday night. February 22, I’ll be seeing another one of my favorite artists, KT Tunstall, for the second time in 6 months (also saw/met her this past September), so Thursday Thoughts will be much like this post, me gushing about one of my favorite female singer-songwriters and the shows; hope you’re excited for that (and if not? Deal? I don’t know.) I’m wavering on the Weekend Reflections topic, but there will be a post this weekend as well.
On to the topic of today’s Music Monday post, which I’ve wanted to write about ever since I heard the news a couple of weeks ago: one of the most influential singer songwriters in my life, Michelle Branch, will be finally releasing her first official studio album in 14 years, Hopeless Romantic, on April 7, 2017. As mentioned in the article just linked, the album was produced by Patrick Carney, drummer of another one of my favorite bands, The Black Keys, and whom is now Michelle’s partner as well. This information alone excites me wildly, but the title track and lead single, the video of which I’ll link here and sounds nothing like Michelle’s previous work in any incarnation in the best way, and the badass, vintage rock album cover posted below just compound that excitement completely. The album is also slated to have 14 tracks, which is exciting considering many releases of the last 6 months and near-future releases have 10 tracks, or no more than 12 (I’m considering writing a future Music Monday post on this, wondering why it’s the case and how it kinda bums me out. Let me know if you want that post down the line).
Before I gush further on my love of Michelle and excitement over Hopeless Romantic, let me give you the condensed version of Michelle’s career and release history and why this release is so monumental. Most of you probably know Michelle from her 2001 debut The Spirit Room, which contained smash hit singles “Everywhere,” “All You Wanted,” and “Goodbye to You.” In 2003, she released her sophomore effort Hotel Paper, which surprisingly didn’t have as many hits save for “Are You Happy Now,” but was the record that cemented me as a fan of hers, showed her growth as a still very young songwriter (at age 19 vs. 17) and is a record I still listen to as a benchmark for my own music. In 2006, she joined up with her friend/touring backup singer Jessica Harp to form a country duo, The Wreckers, and they had another hit with “Leave the Pieces.” This is seemingly where things started to go downhill. According to this 2011 Hollywood Reporter interview, Michelle (and presumably Jessica?) self financed The Wreckers debut, Stand Still, Look Pretty, with no label support despite its release on Warner Music Nashville and didn’t count toward Michelle’s five-album solo contract with Warner. After touring for Stand Still, Look Pretty, Michelle and Jessica had written many songs for a second Wreckers album, but later decided to pursue solo projects, so Michelle felt obligated to use the material for a country-genre solo record. Due to label shake-ups , however (i.e. heads of executives in Michelle’s corner rolling,) the country album, Everything Comes and Goes, became a 6-track EP released in 2010. Michelle also felt that the country genre was no longer the way forward for her, so she moved back to California to work on a pop record, and also traveled to London, England, to write and a record a large portion of the work, per the Hollywood Reporter interview. At the time of that interview, the pop record, West Coast Time, looked like it had a chance at release, with Michelle feeling optimistic, and a lead single, “Loud Music,” released to the excitement of me and many other fans. However, due to similar limbo that Warner put Michelle in with heads rolling at Warner, West Coast Time never saw release either; “Loud Music” was released as part of a haphazard Greatest Hits EP containing the aforementioned early hits.
Although Michelle herself has since released many of the tracks for free from these two projects (and some others leaked) which enabled all of us to hear some of the material from them, it was still disheartening to me and I’m sure many other fans to see two highly anticipated releases scrapped over a period of 7 years, and I personally wondered if Michelle would finally quit the business, particularly in the wake of her divorce from Teddy Landau after 11 years of marriage in 2015. However, Michelle always keeps going and working–signing with Verve Records after also finally divorcing Warner–and finding optimism about her work, all while being unflinchingly honest both in the music itself as well as in interviews and her own social media about the struggles, which continually inspires me and stops me from being deterred that we’re over 5 years out from my own debut EP release, Different Side of Me, which was released in October 2011, and I feel like my own material just keeps getting better as time passes and I continue to write, but that’s another post entirely.
I want to conclude this by saying the following (to be clear, Michelle Branch doesn’t know me from a hole in the ground): congratulations, Michelle. As a lifelong fan, I’m proud that you’re able to finally have a new album length release after fourteen years, and I’m excited that it’s different in terms of sound from anything you’ve done before. I’m glad you’re still excited about writing, recording, and performing music. You inspire me to do the same and not give up hope on releasing another music project of my own one day. I’m not sure if you will ever read this, but your impact remains the same.
To all of you: check Michelle’s new record out if this post inspired you to say to yourself “Yeah, whatever the hell happened to her?” I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
See you tomorrow to talk about Facebook overdoses.