Hour after hour bombarded by lies It’s a desecration of your mind Their deep wells of greed have no bottoms They hoard resources and no one stops them I’m living in a waking nightmare
— “Nightmary” off “Blood” by Juliana Hatfield
She may have a sweet voice, but her lyrics roar stronger than a lion. As billionaires race to space, social media spreads deathly misinformation, and our planet continues dying, Juliana Hatfield spent 2020 channeling her feelings into music for “Blood.” Her first album completed almost entirely alone, “Blood” goes deep into her thoughts, but is no “woe is me” soundtrack. In a few weeks, she will share the songs in person by joining Soul Asylum on their Back In Your Face Tour.
The Boston native has a phenomenal volume of material. HOW DOES SHE DO THAT?! Whether you know her from “My Sister,” her big hit from 1993, or her work with The Lemonheads, Some Girls, and Blake Babies, or her solo / Juliana Hatfield Three material, she has never been shy about expressing her thoughts.
She has collaborated with Paul Westerberg to create The I Don’t Cares. She has recorded cover albums based on The Police and Olivia Newton-John. She had success with “Spin the Bottle” (which appeared on the soundtrack of “Reality Bites”) and “Universal Heartbeat.” It’s not just music. Hatfield has an Etsy store where she sells her artwork and raises money for local animal shelters and adoption centers.
TO FOLLOW JULIANA HATFIELD ON ETSY
During the pandemic, she took up running, helped a friend with landscaping projects, and went out of her comfort zone to learn more technology by picking up Garage Band.
It is safe to say the past five years have been – uh – dramatic in the US. Hatfield’s lyrics show anger and anxiety about that, but when creating “Blood,” she was also “thinking about human psychology in the way that people sabotage their own well-being without meaning to by repeating self-destructive habits, repeating bad habits,” she told us. “Following impulses that lead us to the wrong places, places we don’t want to go. Just the way that human nature is a little bit screwy. That ties in with what’s been happening in the larger sense with the country. I think there’s just a way that human beings are not really the greatest protectors of themselves or anything else. Of each other, of themselves, of the planet. All that stuff, destroying things and ourselves.”
Although Hatfield admits, “I think as time goes on, there’s more and more proof that people are disappointing. Disappointing ourselves, disappointing each other, we’re destroying our habitat,” she says, “I’m resigned to it, so I’m not walking around with a sad face. I’m just trying to make the most of my time on Earth.”
Fortunately, Hatfield found solace during the pandemic with her chocolate Labrador, landscaping, and running. “I think that physical activity is really beneficial. It’s just like doing a landscaping job was really a lot of digging dirt and then hauling sand, hauling rocks…,” she told us. Hatfield also brought the outdoors in at her home. “I love plants and it’s also something that you realize when you start doing it, you realize you have to really take care of it,” she explained. “You have to nurture it. It changes every day and it might need water, might need weeding. You need to constantly watch over, and it’s a responsibility that not everyone’s up for, but it can be so rewarding and gratifying and frustrating. I like to water certain plants of mine in my apartment and so on that day, once a week; I have this nice calming ritual going around watering everything. Right now I’m looking at a big fern plant which is in the next window in my bedroom is this big, beautiful, bushy, lush fern that I love so much.” (It made me sad to know she was going to hit the road soon, but a friend will be taking care of Hatfield’s plants while she is away. “I could not, I would not let them die.”)
The landscaping projects and gardening were hard work, but Hatfield enjoyed the physical nature of it and even enjoyed running. “It was a lot of physical labor and running is like that, too. It’s beneficial to me in a way that I can turn off my brain and just exercise my vital organs, my heart, my lungs, which feels good to try to shut down my brain and shut down the worrying and just be an animal.”
But how can someone so creative shut their brain off? Surely she is writing down lyrics constantly? “I’m not always in writing down mode, but yeah, I live alone with my dog, so I’m always talking to the dog and I’m always talking to myself and I just play a lot of word games out loud and I think it’s just kind of a creative activity for me to string words along and make rhymes, make things rhyme and repeat things. It sounds like I’m a crazy lady, but I try not to talk to myself when I’m out in society. But I’m always playing word games and singing, putting words to melodies, just random words about my environment or from driving. I’ll be singing about what I’m driving past and that’s kind of fun. It’s another way it’s using my brain, but also in such a robotic way that I’m kind of not using my brain.” (She admitted that may not be the best explanation, but it works for me!)
The times where Hatfield could not shut off her brain did give us a new album, but with the pandemic, it was not the normal routine. Hatfield has admitted to not being tech savvy and using a flip phone, but found herself learning. “I learned how to record music into my laptop, into the built in Garage Band app that came with my laptop. That was a really big hump for me to get over the apprehension. I was so apprehensive about it because I do hate technology and I hate engineering and I don’t like that kind of digital technology. It’s a little too much for my brain sometimes, and I prefer simpler modes of recording, like into machines with fewer tracks that you can actually see where the faders are in front of me, and I could put my hands on them. The labyrinth of the Internet, the labyrinth of recording to the digital technology, just really overwhelms me sometimes, but I figured out how to make it work for me enough to make an album.”
A rumor of another album had been circulating online: a cover album of an American artist she admires, but she admits, “I’m trying to narrow it down and it’s kind of hard to decide.” Her previous albums include The Police and Olivia Newton-John, who we agree is amazing and has remained unproblematic over the decades. “I still love her. I have this great love for her that started in my childhood and it never went away,” Hatfield said. “She seems very gracious and just intelligent, but not too flashy about it, just down to earth, seemingly to me.”
Another artist she admires is Joni Mitchell. While she typically listens to the radio, she said she recently listened to one of her favorites: Mitchell’s “Blue” album. “I had an urge to hear that album again because, I guess I was reading about it from the anniversary, the 50th anniversary of that album. It just sounds great and I love singing along.” Hatfield also credits Mitchell with helping her find her own voice. “It helped me learn how to use my voice when I was singing along to it. It helped me to figure out how to make my voice flow into the higher register better.”
Many of us look forward to finally hearing her voice in person again, which we will during the Soul Asylum tour (keep watching for more dates!). In Hatfield’s area, the population is 70% vaccinated, so she does have some apprehension about traveling the country. She intends to be masked and careful when not on stage, but not worry about it too much. While things could change if virus numbers increase (GET YOUR VACCINE, PEOPLE!), Hatfield looks forward to performing on the road with Dave Pirner and crew. Many years ago, Hatfield made news when she defended Soul Asylum after the band received a less than favorable review, so I assumed they had a long history. Hatfield said they have met a few times and played a show together, but she doesn’t know him well, though sees him as a “kindred spirit.” She is friends with Local H, so hopefully they will have a wonderful tour together, and we will have them all “back in our face!”
Pick up Juliana Hatfield’s newest album, “Blood” and keep an eye on those tour dates. The Back in Your Face Tour kicks off August 1st in Indiana and currently runs through mid-September.