‘In a perfect world, we’ll figure out a way to make it work’

Singer-songwriter Michelle Branch is speaking to Yahoo Entertainment via Zoom from her home studio in Nashville, where she recorded her fourth studio album, Problem with fever, during the pandemic lockdown with her husband, Patrick Carney of the Black Keys. “This is where it happened,” she says softly.

Full disclosure: Branch’s Yahoo interview was scheduled to take place during the week of August 11, but was postponed when, that day, Branch shockingly accused Carney of infidelity after three years of marriage and two children. declared separation. Then, on September 13, it was reported that the music power couple had indeed called off their divorce — at least for the time being — and were working on a reconciliation.

Branch is understandably unwilling to go into the gory details of her marital troubles, particularly her arrest for domestic assault after confronting and slapping Carney “a time or two.” (The charges against him were later dropped.) But given the fact that he and Carney have had a long-standing creative partnership (he even co-produced her previous album, 2017’s Hopeless romantic), the subject of their personal and professional union is hardly off limits.

Michelle Branch and Patrick Carney in 2016.  (Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Universal Music Group)

Michelle Branch and Patrick Carney in 2016. (Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Universal Music Group)

“I mean, he’s the father of my children. I love him so much. I think in a perfect world, we’d find a way to make it work,” Branch told Yahoo Entertainment. “I don’t know. It’s still so fresh and raw. But we have a deep friendship at the core of our relationship. . So, hopefully that will still be there, no matter what happens in our marriage.”

Today, Branch seems in a good mood, though she points out with a self-deprecating smile, “That’s because I’ve been crying all morning! I got it out. Um, I’m fine. I mean , it changes by the hour, honestly. Some days I’m good and some days I’m not, so it depends. It’s good to work to distract me.”

One can imagine that what has happened in Branch’s personal life has thrown a lot Problem with fever in a new light for him, and that he may have even considered delaying/shelving the album or going back into the studio to rework it. But he is very calm and proud of the record, just as it is.

“I’ve been able to kind of split the album and what’s been going on lately. I feel that my creative working relationship with Patrick is something that I truly value. It hasn’t been damaged, and what we’ve worked on together hasn’t been damaged. He has always been a huge advocate and supporter for me in this regard. So, I have been able to separate it,” explains Branch. “I finished this record in 2020, and I’ve been sitting on it for a long time. It was going to be released, and then I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Willie. So, it has been pushed back again. So, to me it’s like a snapshot in time, and I want to get it out. I think I’m happy to let it go and focus on the future, making creative space for the next thing.

Mitchell Branch today.  (Photo: True Public Relations)

Mitchell Branch today. (Photo: True Public Relations)

While Carney has a co-producer credit Problem with fever, Branch, the album’s sole writer, had more creative control than she had since the start of her career two decades earlier. “I think, ironically, the last time I said that much on an album was Room of the Spiritmy first record, when I wrote most of those songs by myself in my teenage bedroom,” she muses. “With this record, because of what was going on in the world. [with the COVID-19 lockdown], I had no co-authors. I didn’t have a session musician. … So, that was the first time I rolled up my sleeves and was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to do it!’ Some parts took too long, and some parts opened up a whole new world where I was like, ‘Okay, here, I got it.’ But it was great to know that I could do it. I don’t know if I necessarily want to turn around and start making records now, because it’s a lot of pressure, but I know now that I can. I can’t believe it’s taken me 39 years to figure this out. “

Another realization that Branch is experiencing at age 39 is “Therapy is amazing!” She recently began to take full control of her mental health, and she says, “I find a lot of comfort in therapy and working out. And so, if there’s someone out there and a sign to talk to. Waiting, so talk to someone, because it took me 39 years to start therapy! … I find it very helpful. I feel like I’m in a better place now than if I was in my twenties. and at this time [divorce scandal] had happened, because I don’t know if I would have approached anybody else about it and besides, you know, if I would have talked to my friends or anybody else. My friends were laughing because I was like, ‘You guys, I’m obsessed with therapy now!’ And I think I could go every single day.

Songwriting has always been his form of therapy for Branch, and especially one of the emotional tracks Problem with fever “I am a man.” The song was one of the first songs written for the album, but it definitely resonates even more in 2022, given what’s happening not only in Branch’s marriage, but in the women’s rights news cycle. (The chorus says, “I’m a man, and I’m out of control/And I can’t help myself, and I can’t let it go,” and also features the standout line, “I’m so everybody Tired of being told/that I can’t make decisions about my own damn body.”)

“‘I’m a Man’ was written in March 2020,” Branch explains. “I often just kind of hum the tunes until they kind of become lyrics, and I kept coming back to ‘I’m a man, I’m a man.’ And I was like, ‘This song Why can’t move? Like, what do I know about being a man?’ And the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ was being thrown around a lot, and I started thinking about the pressure that men have to put a roof over one’s head, take care of the family, and all the different aspects of what that means. There are different responsibilities. Be a quote-unquote ‘man.’ And then I started thinking about how it feels to be a woman on the other side of that coin, and everything that we have to deal with and we’re still equal. How far to go to be.

“A lot of people were asking if I wrote it recently, because it was released with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and it wasn’t written recently,” Branch continues. “You know, this has unfortunately been going on for a long time. And here we are in 2022 and it’s still up for debate. This is shocking. It doesn’t make any sense. I’m a mother of three and I’m almost 40, and I can’t make decisions about my body – and it bothers me. So, this is the song that is written about. I remember being in the studio when I first came up with the chorus and I was singing it into the microphone, and Patrick was on board and he was like,’what What are the lyrics? what are you saying You can’t trash half the people on Earth!’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t see it as trashing people.’ I sympathize with the pressure of what it takes to be a man, but in the same sentence, like… men, come on. on the! Show for us! Like, where are you?”

Now that is Problem with fever Finally out this week, Branch is excited to get back on the road with his young daughter Willie in tow — though his touring schedule, as well as Carney’s, may prove especially challenging as he and Carney begin their marriage. They try to bring them on track.

“Being able to see Patrick on the road right now and struggling with the fact that he’s not home and not able to watch the kids has given me a new perspective on what it’s like to be a man leaving your family. How should it be? . It’s tough. I mean, there are days when my son, who just turned 4, is in tears, like: ‘I want daddy to be home! Why does daddy have to play concerts?’ It sucks sometimes. And I’m getting ready to go on tour in less than a week. And I’m going to bring my daughter with me, because she’s 7 months old and I’m still breastfeeding. I’m going to leave mine [older] The children with the nanny, and Patrick will be in and out of the tour, and the grandparents come. It takes a village. … Normalize musician motherhood!”

However, Branch is eager to hear his songs – both new and old – before moving on to the next professional and personal chapters of his life. “I feel strongly about it [tour],” she says. “The show, that’s what keeps me going. There is an excitement to get back on the road and play those shows. Hopefully I won’t lose it and start crying somewhere on stage. … Just the other day I was rehearsing [the 2002 hit] ‘Goodbye to you,’ and I was thinking about the line, ‘The last three years were just pretend,’ and that line was hitting me like a ton of bricks. It’s one of those things that musicians will just change the meaning of the lyrics here and there. And I’m sure that as I go on tour and start playing them, I’ll find new meaning in what I wrote about them.

And as for what exactly comes next, Branch admits she’s already thought about “getting through this tour” and figuring out what she’s going to pack, but her fifth album is even more personal and vulnerable. may be trouble with fever. He certainly has a lot to write about.

“I feel like I’ve got a bunch of songs in the waiting room, just waiting a minute to pay attention to me,” Branch says. “And ironically, I think I have more time to do that on tour when I’m away, when I can be away from home and away from the kids and have time to focus on that. happens I’m sure it will come out. At least that’s how I feel now. … Certainly, I think it’s time to put some of this stuff down on paper.

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