I am sure you know her. She is 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. AsianConnections’ Mike Kai chatted with Michelle about her life and skyrocketing career.
Mike: You spent your early years, you grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona. I actually grew up in Tucson so I know the area well. That’s 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. It’s 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: I’m not going to stay in L.A. forever. It’s a great place to be now, but maybe at some point when I’m older, maybe I’ll move back to Arizona – it’s 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, I’m third generation. My grandmother was born in East Java, Indonesia, on my mother’s 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 doesn’t 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.
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Posted on April 6th, 2010 at 8:00 am by Arroisi