Friday, 20 June 2008

Michelle Branch

Ya know,I really hate writing these things. I mean, what do you say to make people listen to your music? I'm not a fan of changing yourself for anything. With me, what you see is what you get. That's why biographies irritate me so much. I'm supposed to tell you all the amazing things I've accomplished, drop a few names here and there, and sell myself as a product. I don't want to do that now. So here it is, my un-glorified bio. "The love story between me and music."

"For as long as I can remember, and from what my family recalls, I was always singing."

When I asked my mom what music she listened to while she was pregnant with me, she told me that she sang along with the radio in the car to The Beatles a lot. Perhaps that's why The Beatles are my favorite band, who knows. By the way, my dad still says that my mom was the most beautiful pregnant woman he'd ever seen. I was born seven weeks early on July 2nd, 1983. I only weighed 3 pounds 11 ounces. I guess I just couldn't wait to get out and see the world. I haven't changed a bit.

The earliest documentation of my singing was when I was three years old. My parents decided that we were going to make a tape of me singing my most favorite songs and send it to my Grandma. I sang with perfect pitch, although I didn't know most of the words.

That didn't change. When I was four until I was about seven I thought the words to "Ticket To Ride" from The Beatles was really "She's got a chicken to ride." I was heartbroken when I found out the real words. That was probably the point when I decided to write my own songs. After all, I thought my words were better.

I would watch musicals constantly. My favorites were "Oklahoma" and "The Sound Of Music." I would act like I was in the films, singing the songs word for word, dressing up like the characters and putting on plays with my sister for our family. Even though my audience wasn't very large, I thrived on performing. I was gonna be a Broadway star when I grew up.

I forgot how old I was when I witnessed a life-changing event. No, I wasn't diagnosed with a deadly illness and I didn't get any visions of the future, nothing fancy like that. I won tickets to a New Kids On The Block Concert. I was so excited! After all, I would sing and dance along to their tape everyday. (Just for your info, that was probably the last time I've ever been seen dancing.)

I know most of you are wondering why this was so "life-changing" but bare with me, and try not to barf. When I saw them live and witnessed how the music touched people, I was in awe. Who cares if I had to cover my ears the whole time so I wouldn't lose my hearing! The next day, after the concert, it ended up that the New Kids were staying at the same hotel as me. I squeezed through the crowd of girl fans (I was small. It was a wonder I didn't get killed!) I peered up to the balcony where I saw a huge man, their bodyguard. Then one of the New Kids came out. The hyperventilating started. One girl even tossed him a Jolly Rancher candy and asked if he would sign it for her. I knew at that moment that I no longer wanted to be singing show tunes. I wanted to be a pop star.

"My parents started noticing that my singing was becoming more than just a hobby."

Other parents were telling my mother to put me into voice lessons. I begged for her to look into it. Finally my mom and dad enrolled me into private voice lessons at Northern Arizona University. I was eight.

I went to a Catholic school, uniforms and all. Every Friday we had to go to Mass. I think this had a big effect on me. Every Friday I got to sing.

For the first 11 years of my life, I lived in Flagstaff, Arizona. My family and I all got sick of the snow and cold weather, so we moved to a small artsy town about an hour south. It was the best change that could have happened to me. Sedona, most known for it's natural beauty, was such an inspiring place for me to live. Unfortunately, the University that I took my music lessons at was in Flagstaff. It was time to find another option. It was perfect. Just when I started looking, I found out that a vocal teacher named Gina Bettum had just moved to Sedona from New York and was taking on new students. I started taking lessons from her and it was the best thing I've ever done. Gina has been in the music industry so she was the perfect mentor. She also started teaching me about singing from your heart with a lot of soul. All the technique I learned prior was finally put to use. She helped me find my own voice and it was as if I had finally taken my first breath.

For my 14th birthday, I asked for a guitar, and amazingly I got one! (Hey, what ever happened to that pony I asked for when I was 5?) My uncle happened to have his brothers' old guitars and he decided to let me borrow one and figure out if I even liked playing. A day later, I wrote my first song. I remember telling my parents that I had written a song. They didn't really believe me. After all, they didn't even know I could play guitar yet! They knew my love for writing poetry and making up melodies, but could I actually put the two together? The next few months I was basically living in my room playing guitar and writing songs all day long. I didn't want school to start up because I wouldn't be able to work on my music. But it did start, and I slowly became miserable.

But I guess out of every negative thing comes the positive, because it was at school that I met my best friend and fellow musician Jenifer Hagio.

So at school Jen and I would hang out, write songs and decide what kind of outfits we'd wear when we finally make it to the Grammy Awards. I found myself taking classes like chorus, music, theatre, and creative writing. Math class was the time when I would write most of my songs (one example is "Sweet Misery", I wrote it in Algebra 1.) The school year went by fast, and soon it was summer vacation. Not only did Jen and I survive our first year of high-school, but we were now known to all our peers as the musicians of Red Rock High School.

Summer meant more time to work on music and also summer festivals, fairs, art shows, and concerts to perform at. I was coming up with new songs faster than I could write them down. I started taking guitar lessons with my voice teachers' husband, Gary. I quickly became well known around my small hometown and was surprised to see the large response of fans from such wide age ranges. Record people were seeing my shows, everybody I met had "connections" for me to try out, and I was playing larger venues. I knew this is what I was set out to do.

I wanted to share my music with the world and inspire people. However, things quickly got frustrating. I learned never to expect a call back or get your hopes up from the people who you send demos too, always bring something to tie your hair back with for outdoor gigs, and no matter how good you are-14 is just too young to play at 99.9% of the venues in Arizona. People just wouldn't believe that I was any good. I decided to just keep doing what I was doing. If something was going to happen, it would. I wasn't going to try and force it.

So summer ended and my second year of high school started up. The music program at our school was going downhill and I had taken every artistic class I could. I wasn't writing any songs. All I wanted to do was stay home and play guitar. I had to answer questions in class such as "What do you want to be when you grow up?", "Preparing for college and your first job" etc. It was a joke. I had a job of playing music. I knew what I wanted to do when I "grew up" and I needed more time to focus on the things that I was doing and my career. I left the high school to be home-schooled. I was 15.

On January 2nd, 1999, I got a phone call from a family friend telling me to get down to a nearby resort and to bring a demo tape and a picture. She told me that she was giving a timeshare tour to a guy in the music business from Los Angeles. My parents weren't home so my little sister, Jen and I hopped into a golf cart and high tailed it down to the hotel. It was there I met Jeff Rabhan. I gave him my demo and photo and we spoke for a while.

A week went by . . . no phone call.
A month went by . . . no phone call.
Then two months.
I gave up.
It had happened to me before and I knew not to expect a call back and . . .
"Hi. Is Michelle Branch there?"
"This is her."

"Hi Michelle! This is Jeff Rabhan. Remember me?"

So I guess that brings you up to date at where I am now. It was an accidental meeting and a call back. Two years later, Jeff is my manager, and we just signed a contract with Maverick Recording Company. I'm in the process of recording my first major label album and I couldn't be more thrilled!

Still after all the wonderful experiences I have had, the thing that I love most is that people are inspired by my music. I've received hundreds of e-mails with wonderful comments like "When I'm having a bad day I listen to your songs and I feel better." That to me is the best reward. That's why this website was made. You, the fans, have done so much for me. So, follow your dreams, never give up, do what your heart tells you. You never know, you might get that one phone call back.


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