Whatever Happened To…. The Wreckers
In 2004, pop singer-songwriter Michelle Branch put her solo career on hold to form a country duo with then-backup-singer-and-best-friend Jessica Harp. The pair began to write music together and made their debut performance as The Wreckers on One Tree Hill. They joined the month-long One Tree Hill tour before their first album together was even released. In 2006, they exploded on to the country scene with their gold album “Stand Still, Look Pretty.” The two singers with perfect harmony and pretty lyrics quickly found their way up the charts with a song they didn’t even write: “Leave The Pieces.” Still one of my favorite songs, the first single introduced Jessica Harp to the music world, and Michelle Branch to country.
The girls were one of my favorite duos. I quickly went out and bought their CD, and played it to death in 2006. I was sure that they were going to have a good career in country music as a duo, and I still feel they were at their creative best with each other instead of their later solo efforts. The best friends merged Branch’s pop-rock background with Harp’s country background to create “Stand Still, Look Pretty”. Their name came from Branch’s husband, Teddy Landau, who nicknamed the girls the “Cass County Homewreckers.” They were signed to Maverick Records, and were on their way to take over the industry.
In 2005, the girls recorded a duet with Santana. “I’m Feeling You” was credited as Santana with Michelle Branch and the Wreckers, however, it was both of the girls in the video and performances.
“The Good Kind” was the first song as a duo to be released to the public. The song, originally done solo by the girls, was performed on the tv series “One Tree Hill” in February 2005. Against the band’s wishes, they promoted themselves without a record out on a cross-country tour with The One Tree Hill tour. While it got the girls exposure, it was hard to really break out without something to sell to the crowds.
Their debut single to country radio, “Leave The Pieces” stayed at number one for two weeks on the country singles chart when they finally released “Stand Still, Look Pretty” in May 2006. While the song had some minor cross-over success thanks to Branch’s name, the girls had said that they had planned to stay country. Branch’s songwriting was already close to the country music style, and she seemed to feel like she was right at home beside Harp. The girls were quickly thrown into a heavy promotional circuit, and their album debuted at number five on the United States country albums chart, number one on the United Kingdom Country chart, and the top twenty on the Billboard 200.
The girls went on to support Rascal Flatts, The Dixie Chicks and even Dierks Bentley. They quickly made the talk show circuit, getting spots on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno, ABC’s The View, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and CBS’ The Early Show while on tour. They started to headline in small venues, which is where the songwriters shined. The girls quickly started gaining celebrity fans, as Kelly Clarkson even surprised fans when she joined them on-stage in 2007 for “Cigarettes.” Keith Urban called himself a “fan, professionally and personally” of The Wreckers and chose them to open for his “Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing” tour in 2007.
“I love their record. There’s a spirit there that just appeals to me. I met Jessica and Michelle a while back, and I just like their attitude. I like their vivaciousness and the fact that when they get up and perform they’re very focused on giving the audience a great show and playing with the audience, not playing at them.”
The “home wrecker” and “heart wrecker” as they nicknamed each other, released a follow-up single in September 2006, this time with writing credit to the duo. “My Oh My” was a mid-tempo song about how things have changed so fast over the years, and had the pair reminiscing about what they used to have and what used to be where new stores and parking lots are. It was the only song on the album that had the duo performing the entire song as a duet, instead of having them break off the song in parts or singing backing vocals to each other. The music video was a fun, Wild West theme which had the girls involved in a bank robbery and how they escaped in the end. It was, unfortunately, the last Wreckers-backed music video released for Branch and Harp. “My Oh My” didn’t have as strong of a performance as their lead-off single, however, it made it to #9 on the U.S. Billboard Country singles chart, and even charted on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #87.
In December 2006, the Wreckers were nominated for a Grammy for “Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals” for “Leave The Pieces.” This was the only Grammy they were nominated for as a duo, as they announced they were putting the project on hold a few months later to follow their solo career dreams. Branch had been nominated before for her solo work before the partnership. The girls were also nominated for a Country Music Association (CMA) award for “Vocal Duo of the Year” but lost to Brooks & Dunn.
In 2007, The Wreckers released a live DVD which included two brand new songs that were at the time promised to appear on their sophomore album as a duo. Filmed in New York City, “The Wreckers: Way Back Home Live From New York City” was a CD/DVD set that was, unfortunately, their last release as the group. The DVD included thirteen tracks, eleven from “Stand Still, Look Pretty,” and two brand new yet-to-be-recorded tracks: “Different Truck, Same Loser” and “Damn That Radio.” Filmed in 2007, the pair also announced Harp’s engagement to one of their band members.
The beautiful, and heartbreaking “Tennessee” was the third single released by the duo. The song, where Harp sings lead, is still one of my favorite country ballads to date. It showcased the writing of Harp, and how country her voice really was. Unfortunately, this is where things started to unravel for the group. They had filmed a music video for the single, but it was later released against their consent with a message that they weren’t comfortable with. Branch and Harp had the music video immediately taken down from iTunes, where the two girls were singing to an empty crowd with yellow ribbons taped to each chair. They released a contest for fans to get themselves in the music video instead, but it never surfaced. The single unfortunately only made it to #33 on the US country singles chart before it quickly died off.
Harp then later told fans that “Cigarettes” would be the next single released from the album, but it was going to renamed to “Old Dirt Road” for airplay sakes. The use of “cigarettes” with female singers was seen as controversial, but the single never made it to radio. There was never an explanation given why, but it was another beautiful Harp write.
The girls announced that the project was taking a break in 2007 but would reunite someday for a second album. They both went on to focus on their solo careers, with Harp releasing “A Woman Needs” on Warner Brothers. The lead single, “Boy Like Me,” wasn’t a song written by Harp but debuted in 2009, even though she had begun recording for her album in 2008. It was a top 30 hit for the Kansas City native, who had fought behind the scenes to get her album released. “A Woman Needs” didn’t get out until a year later, in 2010. Her follow up single, which was the title track of the album, was released in January 2010 but the music video was filmed way back in November 2009. The single didn’t do well on the charts, as the album it was from never had a solid release date scheduled, and, unfortunately Harp was forgotten by the radio which was hard enough to break as a new artist as it was. In March 2010, she announced that she was retiring as a musician and would concentrate on writing songs for other artists. Warner Brothers finally sold her album, in digital format only, on March 16th, 2010. “A Woman Needs” had guest appearances by Vince Gill and Keith Urban.
Branch released a 6-song EP titled “Everything Comes and Goes” in July 2010. She had written a few songs for soundtracks since the split of the group, including a track for the “Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants 2.” Her sister, Nicole, started singing backing vocals for Branch in 2008 at her shows instead of Harp who had done so for years. “Sooner or Later,” the first single from the 6-song extended play, was released on June 28th, 2009. The single still had a country feel to it, and could have very well been something off of the Wreckers album. Just like Harp, Branch had struggled to get the album release time close enough to the single. She also released “This Way” on her official YouTube channel, but the song never charted. She also ended up collaborating with Timbaland on “Getaway” which had a music video released.
Last December Branch announced that she was returning to her pop-rock roots with a brand new album again on Warner Brothers Records, but on her own vanity label “Sticks n’ Stones Recordings Ltd.” Her new album, titled “West Coast Time,” is expected to be released later this year. Throughout the beginning of 2011, Branch had given out free downloads of unreleased tracks from her EP, including a track with Dwight Yoakam. The first single from her return to pop, “Loud Music,” went to iTunes in June.
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