By Jeffrey B. Remz, November 2006
The majority of "Stand Still, Look Pretty" was recorded in New York two years ago.
The goal was to initially release it in June 2005. But Branch and husband Teddy Landau, who plays bass for Branch, were expecting their first child.
"The more pregnant I became, plans kept changing. I have my daughter to thank actually. If we had gone ahead with the plan, I don't think this record would have ever been heard. Everything really happens for a reason. Jessica and I have really learned that."
"We kept pushing and pushing, kept irritating a lot of people. I hate to dwell on that, but it is such a big part of the story of how the project came to be. It was a struggle, but fortunately Jessica and I had to get through it. It wasn't just a solo project. We (found) shelter in each other, and it was great."
An early break was getting "The Good Kind," which is on their debut, featured on television's "One Tree Hill."
"Stand Still, Look Pretty," produced mainly by John Leventhal, who has produced wife Rosanne Cash, finally came out in May.
The most traditional country sounding song on the disc is the twangy current single "My, Oh My," which Harp and Branch penned with Wayne Kirkpatrick and Josh Leo in Nashville.
"That is our favorite song for sure. I really think if we hadn't been so paranoid about the label's reaction in making a record, we would have more 'My, Oh My' moments on the record. Our second record will be more 'My, Oh My'...If you heard the original version, you'd chuckle because it was such a straightforward bluegrass thing. We were playing it live, and people kept going crazy over this song."
"We love the recorded version. We cut it live to tape, which no one really ever does or at least I haven't ever done."
"My, Oh My" happened once Warner Nashville was involved. "The label was pulling on the reins a little bit and (said we) know the girls want to make a country record, but try to make it accessible for everybody. "We had to find a place to make everybody happy without interrupting the integrity of the project."
'I think our next record will probably be more up that alley. It really captures (something) that Jess and I hadn't been able to do before. We write a lot of love songs and what not, so it was great to have that element shown."
The song recalls life gone by of a "concrete road used to just be dirt" with Walgreens taking over where a field once had been. "My oh my/Look how time flies/Look how the world changes/In the blink of an eye."
"When we were writing that song, it was actually the day all the label people had found I'd been knocked up. I remember such a relief. I didn't want to disrupt the project at all and lose the momentum. When we were talking about how quickly things change. It was really emotional for Jess and I, but especially for me. Here I was starting a duo and about to have a child, which is a huge life change."
"It was a huge moment in the studio about not letting life pass you by. Everybody's guilty of brushing teeth, turning on the TV, going to bed and just not taking the time to look at your life and what's going on around you. It's so appropriate for the moment for Jess and I. I think that was the best way to convey it to take a minute every day and a step back and look at your life and don't take it for granted."
While Branch says that she and Harp have to have lived the songs, one sure hopes that was not entirely true for the closing "Crazy People" with the lines "Only crazy people/Fall in love with me/They come from all over/To be with me/Bank robbers and killers/Drunk and drug dealers."
It ends with the woman killing her lover's wife only to kill the abusive, alcoholic lover. "So I buried that man/And they won't find a trace," the song concludes.
But with the tape rolling, listeners will hear Branch and Harp laughing.
"It's somewhat true," says Branch. "We didn't murder anybody. It came from a real life experience. Jess was staying at my house in LA when we were writing songs for the album. She said, 'only crazy people fall in love with me. I was kind of laughing. I had my guitar. I was singing "only crazy people fall in love with me'. I sat down and wrote...We're all a little bit crazy, and I think everybody can identify with that one kind of crazy relationship. We both definitely had had our share."
"Jessica and I cut most of our vocals live at the same time. It was really hard to cut our parts separately because we rely on each other. 'Crazy People,' we all cut live, and we were in the same room. We were facing each other and singing to each other, and we just could not stop laughing. Here we were singing this song about murdering people and what not, and we just could not stop laughing."
Branch says she was not overly concerned that her fan base would be put off by a foray into country. "I wasn't concerned. I wasn't going to base (the) decision based on what people think. This is what I knew would make me happy. I really had faith if fans understood what I had worked on in the past, that this was the right thing to do. The only thing that's really changed is the production, and as an artist, it's the kind of (music) I've been wanting to make for a long time. A lot of people stuck with it and were patient. It wasn't really that big of a deal that I was not going to a make a solo record."
"It was hard. But it's just so sad when it is that difficult for a musician to be creative. (Some) would only want to explore in one genre forever for the rest of their life. I'm inspired by all different music. Music is one of those things. It should be an open relationship. I hope there's more room for other artists to explore things like that, other facets of themselves that they haven't been able."
With one well-received album and a hit single and opening for the likes of Rascal Flatts under their belts, is Branch prepared to go full steam ahead with The Wreckers or go back to a solo career and consider The Wreckers a one-off project?
"We're going to continue with the record as long as we can. There are no plans for a solo record on my end any time soon. I know Jessica is dying to do a solo record because she hasn't yet."
"I don't know if I'll make a record on my own. I don't think it'll stray too far from what we're doing now."
"It's so weird," Branch says. "I don't think of it as my solo record. I think of it as my next record. To me, it just seems like a natural next step, and it seems it's doing so well, and it feels so right, and it feels valid, and I'm enjoying myself so much."