April 17, 2018 Interview – Juliana Hatfield
Life is about taking chances, because if you don’t, you may never truly discover who you are. A highly accomplished singer-songwriter, Juliana Hatfield has been taking chances since a young age, boldly, not looking back ever since.
First building her path in music through her band Blake Babies, Hatfield would go onto work with Evan Dando and The Lemonheads, establish a strong solo career, but most of all, fulfill her own personal standards within music. Taking the time relive the roads she has travelled, Hatfield sat down to talk about music, her latest album Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John, plans for the future, her love for obscure cinema, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved with music professionally for over 3 decades now. From your band Blake Babies, to your solo career, to the Juliana Hatfield Three, and your time with The Lemonheads, you have certainly accomplished a great deal. How would you describe your journey in music?
Juliana Hatfield – That is a large question. It’s been ultimately pretty rewarding, at least creatively. I feel creatively fulfilled and I feel like I really have done a lot of good work. I am really proud of most of the music I’ve made. I just feel good about the musical legacy I have created. The career part of it, there has been ups and downs and career disappointments. For me, the most important thing is that I feel like I did good work and I never compromised my integrity. I can hold my head high and have a lot to show for those 3 decades; a lot of music was written and recorded.
CrypticRock.com – You certainly have done a lot over the past 3 decades. You actually embarked on a solo career in the early 1990s. Looking back, what was it like for you to dive into that portion of your career?
Juliana Hatfield – It was pretty terrifying. It was really scary leaving the comfort and security of the Blake Babies. Just going out into the world a very shy, insecure person, socially. Socially, just not very equip to deal with anything. I knew I had the potential to make some good music. I just gritted my teeth and tried to plow forward, even though it was difficult for me, as someone who is not very adept at navigating publicity and such.
I’ve always put myself in frightening situations, not dangerous ones, but when I was in high school, all 4 years, I was on the gymnastics team. When we would have meets, I would compete on the balance beam, so we would go to this gymnasium in another town, have these night time meets. The balance beam would be in the middle of this huge room, and I would go up and get on this 4 inch wide balance beam way off the ground. It’s so scary competing on the balance beam, it’s terrifying, but I did it. It’s like I enjoy torturing myself or something. I like to put myself in frightening situations just to see if I can withstand the torture, it is like a way to always have be challenging myself. It was that way going solo after being in a band, it was like getting up on the balance beam and doing a routine in front of an audience and trying not to fall.
CrypticRock.com – That is a good comparison. It all seems to have worked out well. Sometimes you have to face your fears or challenge insecurities, otherwise you really do not know what you are capable of, right?
Juliana Hatfield – Yea. Some people like to have a safe and secure lifestyle, and that’s fine, I understand it. I guess I like to put myself out there more, I didn’t want my life to pass me by without trying things that I was afraid to try. I didn’t want to have regrets about things I never did.
CrypticRock.com – Very understandable. You are actually celebrating the 25th anniversary of your 1992 debut solo album, Hey Babe, with a re-release via American Laundromat Records. A really wonderful album, what are your memories of the writing and recording of it?
Juliana Hatfield – I remember having a lot of friends drop by and contribute to the album. In the studio, Evan Dando played and sang some, John Wesley Harding, Clay Tarver from Bullet LaVolta, and Mike Watt from Minutemen/Firehose played bass on a song. It was really nice to have friends and acquaintances drop in and contribute for the record. It made me feel less terrified and more protected, I guess.
CrypticRock.com – Having the comfort of friends always helps and Hey Babe was a wonderful start to a long solo career. Beyond that, you also recently released a 14-track tribute album of Olivia Newton-John songs. As someone who grew up listening to Olivia Newton-John, was this something you always knew you wanted to do someday?
Juliana Hatfield – No, I never thought about it, until less than a year ago. Right before I started recording the album, last year, that is when the idea popped into my head. It really never occurred to me before that. It seemed like a very strong, persistent idea. I have tons of ideas everyday and most of them are not great ideas, but this was a good idea. I followed through and I am glad I did.
CrypticRock.com – It is great that you followed through because you do a sensational job with the songs. Tracks like “Hopelessly Devoted to You” remain practically untouched, sustaining the magic of the original cut, but other renditions certainly have a unique touch to them. What is a challenge figuring out how you wanted to approach these songs?
Juliana Hatfield – Some of them were really difficult. “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was really tricky because everyone knows the original version so well and it’s so perfect. When I was recording it, I really couldn’t figure out how to change it all, it just seemed like everything was in place. I almost abandoned it, just because I felt I wasn’t contributing anything, so what was the point of even recording it? Then I changed a couple of things from the original and it really made it work for me. I added a distorted guitar in the chorus mimicking the melody that I was singing. Also, I added background vocals in the chorus that is not on the original. Those two little things really made my version work for me.
Other songs, I really felt the urge to rework them a lot. For example, “Dancin’ ‘Round and ‘Round,” we really changed the feeling of that one. A lot of them worked pretty naturally, it didn’t involve a whole lot of conceptualizing. Once I learned the song, started playing it, it became clear what to do with each song.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, the songs come across quite naturally. You have this new album, and you have continued to keep yourself busy through the years. Just in 2017 you released Pussycat, which was another really wonderful selection of original songs balancing youth and maturity. You mentioned you always have new ideas popping up, that in mind, are you working on any new music?
Juliana Hatfield – I am. I have already recorded some tracks with drums. I started work on my next album, I am writing it, recording it, and going to go back to the studio in early May to keep working on it. It’s all originals.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent! That is a very quick turn over between album. Is it safe to say creative inspiration is flowing freely for you?
Juliana Hatfield – Yea, I feel good about the creative part of me, it’s in really healthy shape. If I want to be a working musician, I have to work, like anyone else. That’s how I survive, that is how I make a living. I have to keep working; just because I had a record come out recently, doesn’t mean I should just sit around and toss myself with champagne. I have to keep working, that’s what people do.
CrypticRock.com – It is true. Some of us would go stir crazy if we were not working all the time.
Juliana Hatfield – Exactly! I am the same way. I can’t not work.
CrypticRock.com – Completely understandable. Music aside, you also have other creative muses such as drawing and painting. What inspires your artistic vision for your artwork?
Juliana Hatfield – It’s just another creative outlet for me. I have a lot of nervous energy, I need to be doing something. It helps me to relax if I am working on a drawing. If I am working on an abstract drawing or painting, it is like meditation for me. It’s really a self-soothing activity particularly. It think I am a little OCD maybe, I like to have activities going on for my hands. I like to be doing something, and drawing is good for my brain. Music activates a different part of my brain than drawing does. Somehow, it makes me feel complete if I do it all.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool, and you have an Etsy store for your drawings/paintings, yes?
Juliana Hatfield – Yea, I recently started doing that just because I have so many drawings around. I figured I should try and get rid of some of them. I don’t like to hoard things, but I don’t want throw anything away either. If I sell some of the artwork, I can give some of the money to animal rescue shelters. That makes me feel good that I can use some of the artwork money to help shelters that take care of abandoned and abused dogs and cats.
CrypticRock.com – That is a wonderful cause to put the funds toward. There are quite a few animals out there that need homes.
Juliana Hatfield – I have volunteered in 2 different shelters. I have known, seen, and worked with these dogs first hand. I have also had a couple of rescue dogs. I just love dogs and I like to help them if I can.
CrypticRock.com – People should check out your artwork and help the cause! As someone who has collaborated with so many other, and been a part of so many records, what do you think are some of the most important things you have learned as a musician?
Juliana Hatfield – You learn different things from different people. I have learned little different things along the way. I have learned I write most productively when I am alone, some of us are just solitary writers. I don’t work so well when I’m in a room with a person trying to write together at the same time. It’s easier for me to just go off by myself and write. If another songwriter gives me some things to work with, I can take those home and work on them alone, but it’s hard for me to get in a writing brain space when there is anyone else is in the room with me.
CrypticRock.com – Everyone has a different creative way. That is something that you learns as time goes on, it is all about what works best for you. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock specializes in music as well as Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of these genres, what films are some of your favorites?
Juliana Hatfield – I watch a lot of movies, a lot of obscure movies too. I do like Horror, Giallo, and Science Fiction, yes! This one isn’t really Science Fiction, but I recently watched a movie called Black Moon (1975) from Louis Malle. I also watched this Swedish movie from 1974 about sex trafficking, it’s called They Call Her One Eye, but it’s also called Thriller. It has some graphic sex scenes, that I don’t like. I also like Jean Rollin, the French director who did The Shiver of the Vampires (1971) and The Grapes of Death (1978). I like those a lot.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting, you appear to have a very acute taste in film! You have probably seen 1977’s Suspiria then.
Juliana Hatfield – Yea! I’ve seen all those Dario Argento movies. I love the Italian Horror movies from the ’70s, I’ve seen them all. Of recent movies, I liked It Follows (2014). It was so good, it really had a vibe and presence, it was really well done.
CrypticRock.com – It Follows was excellent! Another more recent genre film worth checking out, 2016’s The Neon Demon.
Juliana Hatfield – That was great too! I enjoyed it a lot. I love seeing Keanu Reeves in a really evil role because it really played against his typecasting.
CrypticRock.com – Indeed, it is the type of film that may have not known what to think of it at first. In fact, you may feel you did not like it, but after it settles, you realize you do.
Juliana Hatfield – I think I had kind of the same experience. I remember feeling that way when watching it, but now when I am thinking and talking about, I have really fond memories of it. I just love when a movie is really bold and kills off the lead character in a harsh way. That is a bold move for a movie with stars in it.