Michelle Branch got the urge to play music early on in life. Growing up in Sedona, Arizona, meant there were limited resources, but her parents encouraged Branch to hone her craft, signing her up for voice lessons at Northern Arizona University and buying her a guitar at age 14.
"It was interesting growing up in a town that didn't even have a record store, and I was too young to play in bars," Branch says. "My mom was managing a restaurant back then, so I would play there once a month."
They also helped finance her first independent album, Broken Bracelet. That record and performing as Hanson's opener for a few dates caught the attention of Maverick Records, who signed her in 2001, when Branch was 17.
Her major label debut, The Spirit Room, catapulted her into fame. The ubiquitous hit singles "Everywhere," "All You Wanted," and "Goodbye to You" made her a household name. She also saw major success with "Breathe" and "Are You Happy Now," from her 2003 follow-up, Hotel Paper.
Those tracks have endured and so has her side project, The Wreckers. Which is why you might not have realized that until fairly recently, the singer-songwriter was trapped in a decade-long holding pattern with Warner Brothers Records. She delivered two albums during that time, and they never saw the light of day.
In the midst of all of this, Branch was on the outs with her husband of 11 years, Teddy Landau. Together they had a daughter, Owen. Branch and Landau separated in 2014, and the divorce was finalized in 2015. Although painful, 2015 proved to be one of freedom for Branch. She signed with Verve Records to release new music.
She also ran into Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney that year at a Grammy party. It was a serendipitous meeting for more reasons than one. Not only did Carney jump at the chance to work with Branch as a producer (alongside Gus Seyffert), but over the course of recording, they fell for each other, too. She moved to Nashville from Los Angeles, and the couple became engaged earlier this month.
In contrast to the relentless pace of the past few years, her new album, Hopeless Romantic, feels at ease.
"There was no one from a record label breathing down my back," Branch says of recording the album, which came out in April. "It was really just three friends in a house recording."
The heart of Hopeless Romantic comes from Branch reckoning with her life head on. Tracks like "Best You Ever," "Fault Line," and "Not a Love Song" see her boldly facing the dissolution of her marriage. "Making this record was very therapeutic for me," she says.
Whimsical love song "Carry Me Home" and empowering closer "City" speak to a woman ready for her next chapter.
She called on Keith Jeffrey from Atlas Genius to sing on "City," and that relationship has already set in motion new ideas for the revitalized songwriter.
"We've talked about writing together," Branch says. "Patrick and I have also talked about doing a project together."
But first, she's taking the new album on the road. Branch is currently in the midst of her Hopeless Romantic Tour, which hits Phoenix's Crescent Ballroom on July 26.
She'll have Carney in tow on drums with a bigger touring setup, another step in a new direction.
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"When I first started, I had never played with a band. It was mostly solo acoustic gigs until that point," she says. "It's taken me a while to get comfortable fronting a band."
Chances are, that newfound confidence will translate into a bigger, better Michelle Branch.
"We're playing all the older songs you might know and my favorites off the new record," she says. "It's definitely a rock show."
Michelle Branch is scheduled to perform at Crescent Ballroom on Wednesday, July 26. Tickets are sold out.