A Conversation with Michelle Branch

Posted by Mike Kai

Grammy award winning 20 year old Michelle Branch chats with AsianConnections' Mike Kai on life, writing, and having a Dutch Indonesian mom.

AsianConnections is pleased to present an exclusive interview with Grammy winner Michelle Branch.

Michelle is one of those rare talents who is at the forefront of a new generation of talented female artists who write and perform their own songs.

In 2000, Michelle self-released her first album "Broken Bracelet." As luck would have it, a recording executive discovered her when she opened for a Hanson concert in Los Angeles in 2001.

Her album "The Spirit Room" was released by Maverick Records, Madonna's record company in 2001. The album sold more than two and a half million records ushering in a new era of artists.

Michelle has performed to packed audiences from New York to Tokyo, received an MTV Viewer's Choice Award, and a Grammy for her collaboration with Carlos Santana. She holds the record for the longest running Billboard Top 100 record of the last 18 months (82 weeks) with "The Spirit Room".

At 20, Michelle is currently on her "Where Are You Now" tour. Her latest album "Hotel Paper" launched this summer, and during Thanksgiving week, her newest, "Breathe - The Remixes" debuts in stores.

AsianConnections' Mike Kai, also an old soul at age 20, chatted with Michelle about her life and skyrocketing career.
Click here for a chance to win one of Michelle's latest CD's or an autographed mini-poster!

Mike: Congratulations on the debut of your two new releases. "Hotel Paper" includes some of your hit singles including "Are You Happy Now" and the very latest one, "Breathe - The Remixes" has just debuted this month. Can you tell us about your inspiration behind these?

Michelle : I'm so excited about this. I've been itching for people to hear my new music. I was 14 and 15 when I wrote my first album. The record was not personal at all. It was what it was. I lived that record up until I was 19. Everyone was listening to it, looking at me as a 19 year old and saying, wait, youve wrote all these songs, and Im like, no, I have so many new songs I want you to hear. So I think the most I had lived, I mean, all my experiences that inspired my writing happened between making the first and second record.

Mike: Youve performed and worked with some legendary musicians Carlos Santana, Sheryl Crow, David Navarro. How was that? Did you ever think you would ever do that in your entire life?

Michelle: Oh never. I mean, to work with people whose albums I have at home and listen toits a trip. Its funny because at first you thinkespecially with the Santana thing, before I met him, it was kind of built up and I had this expectation of how it was going to be. And it turned out total opposite. Once you get around these people, you dont want to be a dweeby fan. You dont want to be sitting there asking them questions, so you just end up hanging out with them, trying to be cool. And it's just, they think of me as one of their peers. Its very flattering.

Mike: You spent your early years, you grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona. I actually grew up in Tucson so I know the area well. Thats a huge change from there to where you are now - to traveling the world, literally. Can you tell us about that transition?

Michelle: It's funny, growing up in a small town [although] I had family in Phoenix...when I went to L.A. I was 16, and there was no way to get me to go back after that. I pretty much lived in L.A., in hotels, from 16 on. My parents were saying, "Come back to Arizona." "I said, "nope. I was this little country mouse you know, it was really exciting. I guess, one of the reasons why I loved Los Angeles so much is coming from a small town, everything was so exciting there was a million things going on. But then I go to a city like New York, and it was just too much overload. And so I think L.A. is a perfect balance. Everything closes at 10, you can drive to the beach, you can drive to the desert, you can drive to the mountains. Its still kind of laid back, but it has stuff going on.

Mike: So would you move back home, or do you plan to stay in Los Angeles?

Michelle: Im not going to stay in L.A. forever. Its a great place to be now, but maybe at some point when Im older, maybe Ill move back to Arizona its a beautiful state.

Mike: When you write your songs, where do you normally get your inspiration from? From real life events?

Michelle: This album, all of it is mostly from real life events. Stuff I went through mostly - friendships, relationships, any experiences that set it off.

Mike: I learned that your dad is Irish, and your mom is Dutch Indonesian and French. Being part Dutch Indonesian, can you tell me about that?

Michelle: Yes, Im third generation. My grandmother was born in East Java, on my mothers side. She was actually held in a Japanese concentration camp in World War II, and after the war she moved to Holland, where she had my mom, and they moved out to Arizona when she was five.

Mike: Did your mom's [Eurasian background] have a profound influence on your life?

Michelle: Actually not as much. Its funny because my mom spoke Dutch and doesnt know too much Indonesian. And besides the Indonesian food and stuff like that, I really knew nothing about it growing up. I guess its part of the beauty of being American. All these different people with different backgrounds, and so I never felt like I really stood out or anything. I felt more like I had something that was special compared to other kids. I never really knew anything about it.

Mike: Have you traveled back to Indonesia?

Michelle: I had the opportunity. I was in Jakarta last year. I was there for just a day. But unfortunately at the time, everyone was urging Americans not to go to Indonesia, so my trip was shortened. But I hope I have an opportunity to go back there - not for work, but for vacation.

Mike: Thanks for the chat and congratulations on your album debut!

Michelle: Thanks, Mike.

Viist Michelle's Official Website
for more information on her personal appearances and concert schedule.

AsianConnections' Steven Joe produced this feature. Thanks to Michelle Branch, Maverick Records and Colleen Quill for this exclusive interview and providing the CD's and autographed posters for the contest giveaway!