Michelle Branch Finds Freedom

Nineteen-year-old hanging with Eagles, Jane's Addiction

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"I'm being selfish," Michelle Branch says of the continuing work on her as-yet-untitled second record. Branch has already tracked twelve songs for the album -- the follow-up to her 2001 debut, The Spirit Room -- but she says it won't see release until late April. "It could be finished right now," Branch explains, "but I want to take more time and see what else I can come up with, just because it's fun and I have the luxury of doing it."

Among the musical experiments Branch is conducting this time around is the union of her songs with an orchestra. "David Campbell [Beck's father] is writing string arrangements," she says. "I keep thinking, 'I get to watch an orchestra play music that I wrote.' It's pretty incredible."

The freedom and budget to have an orchestra play on the album is just one of the benefits Branch is reaping from the triple-platinum success of her debut. She also has landed big-name collaborators, as Sheryl Crow added vocals to one track and Dave Navarro contributed guitar to a couple of songs.

The Branch/Crow union makes sense, since the two toured together this summer. Navarro might seem like a strange fit with the more mainstream Branch, but Branch explains that Jane's Addiction are recording their next album in the same studio where she is working. As a result, Jane's bassist Chris Chaney has also played on Branch's new material.

"Right now, we have Jane's Addiction in one of the studios and the Eagles in the other one," she says. Could the Eagles also make an appearance on the new record? Branch says it's possible. "We'll talk to the Eagles and they'll be like, 'Hey, do you need harmonies for anything? We'll come do harmonies.' We were all joking that by the end of our respective experiences we'll have a side project with the three of us on it," she says, laughing, "because we all go over and we share gear and we share stories."

Though the supergroup seems a long shot, that nineteen-year-old Branch can hold her own with the two bands says much about the confidence she's gained in the past year. "The intimidation factor is definitely not as it was before," she says. "With the first record I had creative control, but it's definitely a different thing . . . A lot of the lyrics I'm writing are more personal. It was very strange for me to be out on the road and grow up so much without really having my parents there to witness it. I make my own decisions now, and it's a pretty scary, yet powerful thing. I think that the main theme of this new record is independence."