Michelle Branch Talks Divorce, Her Daughter and Dating the Black Keys' Patrick Carney: 'It's Like Modern Family'
The singer's split and blossoming relationship inspired her new album, Hopeless Romantic, out now
The singer-songwriter — who rose to fame in 2001 with her pop-rock hit “Everywhere” and achieved crossover fame with her country duo The Wreckers in 2006 — returned to the spotlight this spring with her new album Hopeless Romantic. While writing the indie rock LP, her first solo venture in 14 years, Branch, 33, had plenty of material to mine from.
In addition to record label drama — Branch had both a Wreckers album and a solo pop album shelved by Warner Bros. Records before leaving the group — the star in 2015 weathered a public divorce from her bassist husband Teddy Landau, the father of her 11-year-old daughter Owen.
“I luckily have a very wonderful ex-husband, and I can say that, and I know a lot of people in my shoes can’t,” Branch says. “He’s 19 years my senior. Everyone enters a relationship with the best of intentions, and we grew apart. Having our daughter together was really the balancing factor when everything was kind of coming to a close,” she says. “It was easy to focus on her and worry about how she felt and making it normal for her; it allowed us not to get too caught up in our own s—.”
As amicable as they are today, the split did inspire some breakup tunes on the new record. Case in point: “Not a Love Song,” on which she sings, “Remember when you said ‘together forever’? / Whatever … You’re just somebody that I wasted my youth on.”
“I got divorced, and I finally got off of my label, and it was as if someone had turned the page: It was terrifying and exciting at the same time,” says Branch. “I had a lot to write about: an 11-year relationship coming to a close … and I started dating, and that was bizarre and fun.”
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Indeed, in February 2015, Branch met the Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney at a Grammys party in L.A. They soon began writing and recording together — they coproduced Hopeless Romantic — and fell in love along the way.
“There’s songs on the record from the moment I realized I was gonna get divorced to the moment I fell in love with Patrick,” she says. “It runs the gamut.”
Still, actually getting the album released was a feat in itself. After signing to a new label, Verve Records, the company’s former head didn’t like the indie rock direction Branch and Carney, 37, were taking — and Carney “stuck his neck out” for Branch.
“Patrick was like, ‘You’ve been in this situation, and emotionally you need to do this. You need to get this record out and move on with your life,'” Branch recalls of Carney, who offered to finance the record if the label wouldn’t. “I’d never had someone who was that supportive. He’s an amazing, amazing human. We both just jumped in with both feet.”
With a new regime in place at her new label by the time she delivered Hopeless Romantic, Verve greenlit the album—and Branch and Carney have only gotten closer. In June, she and daughter Owen moved in with the rocker in Nashville — and her blended brood with ex Landau is as peaceful as ever.
“[Landau] flew to Nashville and was at our house watching [Owen] when Patrick and I were working,” Branch says. “It’s like Modern Family.”
Up next, Branch and Carney will hit the road together on tour.
“He’s gonna be touring with me all summer long, which is wild because I feel like I’m the only person who’s never seen the Black Keys live — I’ve always been touring or traveling or can’t get tickets or whatever,” she says. “It’s like, ‘How is it that I’ve never seen you play, but I’ve seen you all summer play ‘Are You Happy Now’ and ‘Everywhere.’ So it’s cool. We’re lucky we get to spend time together on the road together because I know once Black Keys ramps up again, I’ll take him while I’ve got him!”