By Jeffrey B. Remz, November 2006
Things started souring for Branch with the release of her second Maverick disc, "Hotel Paper," in 2003. "Are You Happy Now?" went top 20 in the U.S., but follow-up singles "Breathe" and "Til I Get Over You" did not fare well on the charts.
Harp, 24, was born in Kansas City, getting the musical bug early. She released an independent album, "Preface," in 2002.
Harp and Branch have the internet, in part, to thank for getting together.
"We were indie artists trying to get record deals," says Branch. "We both had music on line. People started emailing both of us and telling us that we sounded similar, and we should listen to one another."
"We started emailing and sending each other music. I ended up getting a deal first," says Branch.
Branch landed in Kansas City during a radio promotion tour for her music. Harp was nearby and met Branch.
"A few weeks later, she came with me," says Branch. "I just invited her on the road. I was on a tour bus with 12 guys, and I was the only chick. I wanted someone to hang out with. I wanted someone to go shopping with. We ended up writing a lot."
"Eventually when she wasn't working on her music, she'd come up and sing with me. We just loved singing together so much."
Harp has been mentioned as being in Branch's back-up singer, but Branch downplays that aspect, concentrating on the friendship.
"I had a lot of friends who would come out and visit on the road - 'oh cool this is a tour bus. What do you do every day?' They were so enamored with every little detail of it. When Jess came, it was so natural. She didn't ask 100 questions about everything, and she just fit right in. We just hit it off and felt like we'd known each other forever. There was no awkwardness of 'I barely know this person'. It clicked automatically."
"When Jessica and I met seven years ago, we always told each other that we had met for some reason, and that one day we'd figure out why in the world we'd (been) put together for this life," Branch says. "We were always writing music and singing music together. When the idea first came to mind, everyone thinks it was a completely planned move. It really wasn't. We both had this set feeling that we should try it - do it now and ask questions later."
Maverick asked Branch what was up with her next record.
"One day I said (to Jess), 'you want to try before we're knee deep in solo projects?'" Branch says. "The further that we got into it, the more it became clear that it was a good move for us to make and this was something we were supposed to do together."
"It was just one of those things that we followed our instinct, and the stars were aligned."
"We thought it was going to be for Maverick, but we just wanted to make a record. We paid for the album ourselves. There wasn't just too much concern of what was going to happen once we were finished. It was more in the moment. Once it was finished, we just had a feeling it'd work out. It was definitely frustrating at first."
"With my first solo albums, I never let anybody (from Maverick) listen. Once you get them in the studio, it's 'do this, do that'. It just ruins the whole creative flow of everything. I've always worked where I finish (the CD). Unless I really know the people and I trust them, it's too many cooks in the kitchen."
"We just wanted them to be patient and hear it as a finished project."As for Maverick, the label was trying to make heads or tails out of the new Branch project. "They weren't necessarily too thrilled, but they were happy about any project they could get out of me at the time," says Branch. "No one really heard the project until it was finished. When they did, it wasn't what they had in mind. We gave them a full disclaimer. I don't think they really believed it until they heard it. I think their biggest fear was they didn't know what to do with it."
Maverick had no experience at all in the country field. "I have a feeling fortunately if Warner Nashville hadn't swooped in and taken over the project, they would have just released the record and thrown it out there and not paid too much attention to it, and it would have probably just flopped."
After the record was done, Branch was in Nashville meeting with writers. She paid a visit to Bill Bennett, head of Warner, who was president of Maverick when Branch signed there.
"I went over to play music to see what their interpretation of it was, (to see) if they thought it was anything Jess and I thought it was. They just loved it and said, 'what could we do to help out?'"
One thing led to another and instead of Maverick putting out The Wreckers, Warner Nashville did. Branch says Maverick was okay with that.
"They were. They actually were. They had something that they didn't really know what to do with. Once someone else said, it was good, they agreed. 'You know I think it might be good'. I think they were really happy to have some of the resources to help them out."