Sixteen years after her debut, Michelle Branch has returned with a new (and excellent!) album, Hopeless Romantic, released earlier this month — although the 33-year-old acknowledges that a lot of music fans will always associate her with the songs she wrote as a teenager. Before scoring hits like “All You Wanted,” “Goodbye To You” and “Are You Happy Now?,” Branch had her breakthrough smash with 2001 debut single, “Everywhere,” which features a massive, insanely bubbly sing-along hook that Billboard has named the 77th greatest chorus of the 21st century.
Branch discussed the making of the “Everywhere” chorus, what her ultra-romantic lyrics are really about, and why the timing of her debut helped her become a star:
Do you remember how the “Everywhere” chorus came together?
Oh God, I’m trying to remember — I was about 15 when I wrote it, so it’s not so fresh in my brain. I wrote it in my bedroom in Sedona, Arizona, when I was still living with my mom and dad, and I actually think I was writing the verse first, but once I got to the chorus it just naturally wanted to go higher. And I actually wrote it originally a half-step down from the recorded version, and sang the chorus a little more falsetto.
When I got the record deal, [producer] John Shanks heard it and was like, ‘It’d be really impactful if we move it up. And how high can you sing it?’ So we tried it up a half-step, and he had me belt the chorus, which I definitely wasn’t doing when I wrote it on an acoustic guitar.
What do you think it was about that first chorus that drew people into your world?
I feel like maybe when it came out in 2001, the music my peers were making was all kind of teen-pop — the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC stuff that was going on. The fact that it sounded different was maybe what drew people in initially. I don’t know! If anyone knew why a song reacts the way it does, we would all be writing songs that do, but it’s one of those things you just can’t predict.
Do you consider “Everywhere” the best chorus you’ve ever written?
To me, the song has always been something I’m enormously proud of. When I made the record, I was being told by everyone at the label, “We’re gonna go ahead with ‘Everywhere’ as the first single, but don’t get frustrated, sometimes it’ll take a while to get things going at radio, we don’t really know how it’s going to react.” I was honestly going forward with the least amount of expectations, and then it was — no pun intended — everywhere. I definitely think I’ve written better choruses, but I feel like that’s the one that I’ll forever be identified with.
The funny thing is that I get asked all the time what it’s about! I’ve tried to figure out, when I sing it, some sort of emotional component. But I feel like a lot of it was just… teenage rhyme, honestly. I was new to songwriting, so hopefully I’ve gotten better! But it’s still a lot of people’s favorite song of mine, which I’m cool with.
And it’s a big karaoke number as well! I get a lot of friends who send them late-night, drunken videos of them singing “Everywhere.”