It was a dark cold night in the early 90’s at the Middle East in Cambridge when I had first learned of the essence of the Boston music scene. A friend of mine took me to see an all star cast of local musicians but it was Juliana Hatfield that stood out from the line-up and her performance would on that night change the way I would view local music forever. It was obvious she was battling her inner demons at the time but she used her issues to channel an amazing performance that would hook me for two more decades to come. Juliana is a rare talent and special performer, she can captivate an audience with a guitar note or singing one of her powerful melancholy ballads such as “Choose Drugs.”
Juliana doesn’t follow the rules, she tours when she wants and releases what she wants never falling into the pitfalls a true artist usually does fall into, which is the pressure to make everyone happy. She does this for herself and if you like it then so be it and if you don’t you know where you can go. Over the last two decades I have seen her perform in some unusual places such as the Planetarium in the Museum of Science, Q Division Studios, Newbury Comics in Faneuil Hall, the BU Bookstore among others always choosing a different venue each time she is to showcase new material. With age her new material gets better challenging herself to write better music and songs she always comes out on top releasing one incredible album after another.
With over 15 albums to her name not including her time with the Blake Babies, Juliana recently used Pledge Music to fund a self titled album of cover songs and she is the only artist I know that I have contributed to and has truly delivered quality product and quality material. Although I have spoke with Juliana several times over the last two decades I donated $10 to Juliana to answer 20 questions regarding her career and fan base… This is what came from those questions…
1. Mark Kaye: When do you decide that you are going to write or record a new record?
Juliana Hatfield: I get a feeling–it’s hard to describe but it’s an urge–a creative urge—stuff needs to come out..plus, I do need to be mindful of making a living–I have to keep working like other people have to keep working, or the money will run out. thankfully, I am still very much loving my work and feeling a strong drive and desire to do it.
2. Where does the inspiration for your art come from? Will you be having any exhibits?
The inspiration for painting comes from the same place as songwriting–from inside of me. an urge that I mentioned above. it’s something that I was born with, this desire to draw and paint and sing and write and give shape and expression to my embarrassing emotional life. but if you mean specifically what inspires a specific piece, I guess it’s kind of all over the place–I am inspired by books, movies, television, magazines, nature, dreams, daydreams, memories, my childhood, friends, family, moods, things that happen to me, things that happen to other people, things I overhear on the street, history, technology—basically, everything and anything can give me ideas and get me going. I think painting is maybe a little harder for me to explain or even understand–there are no words, usually, unlike my songs which are saying something with words (and music). There are no art exhibits planned. I am not ready for that yet. I am not confident that I am good enough or that I have a cohesive body of work, yet. maybe someday it will happen.
3. What inspired you to write your last three records? (which I love)
See answer to #1… but also I would say that “there’s always another girl” was kind of conceptually modeled around the idea of failure.. an album all about failure, sort of. that’s how I was thinking of it. thinking of the ways I sometimes feel I have failed–in work, career, relationships, behavior, bad habits, maturity, etc.– and how other people fail. I don’t feel like a failure today or most of the time–it’s just one way of looking at things. How to walk away was exploring the idea of trying to correct bad patterns of behavior and living. trying to grow up and be a mature adult.
4. After 20+ years in the business you are writing some of your best material. Why do you think that is?
I think I am much less miserable than I was when I was younger so I am able to get out of my own miserable depressed head and have a wider perspective on the world and to have more interest in other people and what goes on. I am less self-absorbed. I think that can only help my work in terms of its growth and development. I am continually evolving as a person and I think this comes through in the music.
5. You have said in the past that you will stop recording. Is this still the case and if so why
I don’t remember ever having said that. I may have. but sometimes I change my mind. I do remember saying that I wanted to quit touring. and I have , pretty much, stopped doing the long tours. I may do the odd show here and there but I can’t really handle the full-on tours anymore. it is too hard on me, physically and otherwise, to do the van tours with little or no crew to take up the slack of all the stuff that needs to be done every day and night.
6. What do your die-hard fans mean to you?
They mean so much; I would be in a terrible position if they all disappeared. I wouldn’t be able to make a living doing what I love and also I would feel that I had no purpose because when the songs reach people and affect people, it gives my whole existence real meaning and a sense that I have accomplished something good in my time on earth.
7. Why don’t you like playing live?
I don’t think I am a consistently good performer. I may be too cynical to believe anymore that playing live rock music is anything but a rehashing of all the thousands of bands and artist who have already done it as good as it will ever be done. it just doesn’t feel necessary anymore. there are too many people doing it. and most of them are not bringing anything new.
8. How did the recent Evan Dando duo shows come about?
Evan and I were hanging out after many years of not seeing much of each other and the idea came up. I can’t remember whose idea it was–mine or his. seemed like a good idea, something we’d never done before. it’s hard to come up with new ideas.
9. Will there be more of the Evan Dando Duo shows or anymore recordings?
Possibly a few more shows in the fall/winter but no plans for any recordings. I will be recording, but not with him, unless something changes.
10. Each new tour you seem to pick a unique place to play in your hometown such as the planetarium, the brattle, Q Division. Is this by design and do you plan on continuing this tradition?
I like to try new things, especially in this town where I have played so many times. if there is an opportunity to play at a cool/weird/unknown venue, I’ll take it over doing the same old grungy, smelly, crappy-sounding rock clubs.
11. Have you ever been approached by a label to re-release any of your older records?
The old ones are still owned by my old label (atlantic) so no other label would be able to re-release them. and all the rest are owned by me and my label and I like having control over them. and I don’t know why another label would want to re-release any of them as most of them are still out there, available already.
12. Will Some Girls ever see the light of day again? Will they play live or record a new record?
I doubt if we will ever record or play again. we’re all just too busy with other stuff and living in different parts of the country.
13. Who are you listening to today?
I like that new frank ocean record. and I always love nada surf–I’ve been listening to “lucky” (the album) lately.
14. What do you think of the local music scene?
I have no idea what the scene is. I don’t go see bands and I don’t keep up on that stuff.
15. What direction do you think the music industry is heading?
Well, more and more people are doing this fan-funding thing. I just logged on to my pledge music account and saw that bb king is doing something on pledge music! that was sort of astonishing and really tells you that record labels are sort of really fading out of the picture. because few people are actually paying for music. and so the labels can’t sell records and can’t make their money back. so the artists have to offer incentives to fans (like these 20 questions[answers] ) to get them to spend money so the artists can afford to produce and promote and distribute the music (which the labels used to do). but this is all already happening. I guess it will happen more and more until all the fans of the world are all tapped out and have no more money to spend on anyone/any artists or the artists have nothing left to offer fans–it used to be that the music was enough; that was all an artist needed to offer. not anymore. we have to keep thinking of ways to interest people in us that have nothing to do with the music. it’s complicated and we spend more time now on things that are not the music. I don’t know where it will all go. right now fan-funding is obviously really big. big names on kickstarter, etc.
You’re living all over me by dinosaur jr. it’s thick and beefy but delicious and beautiful–it is many-layered– and it was so satisfying to me for so many years–it fed my deepest desires and longings and sadness’s over and over again.
17. What kind of advice would you give to a new band just starting out?
Be honest. and don’t sign anything before you’ve read and understood and agreed to every word — after a lawyer has gone through it.
18. What do you attribute your longevity with the music business to?
I don’t feel like I am in the business anymore–I feel like I got out of the business a long time ago and that now I am just a little boat sailing alone around the room, doing my own thing, and I am lucky enough to have a small but devoted group of followers who keep me afloat.
19. When will your next book come out?
I have no plans for a second book. maybe in the future I will try again but I have no good ideas for books right now.
20. Can I share these questions on a blog ?
Thanks and great show at Q-Division.
Un-carefully Unedited by Mark Kaye