Juliana Hatfield Biography
The daughter of Philip M. Hatfield (a radiologist) and The Boston Globe fashion critic Julie Hatfield, Juliana was born in Maine and grew up in the Boston suburb of Duxbury. She is a descendent of the Hatfield family from the Hatfield-McCoy feud. She acquired a love of rock music during the 1970s, having been introduced by a babysitter to the music of the Los Angeles punk rock band X, which proved a life-changing experience. She was also attracted to the music of more mainstream artists like Olivia Newton-John and The Police, perhaps explaining the contrast in her later music between sweet, melodic "pop" songs and more hard rock oriented material. Visualizing herself as a singer since her high school years, Hatfield sang in school choirs and briefly played in a cover band called The Squids, which played Rush songs.
Following her graduation from Duxbury High School, where she was voted "Most Individual," Hatfield attended Boston University for a semester. She then transferred as a piano student to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, in the hope of finding a band with which to sing. There she soon met Freda Boner (now Freda Love) and John Strohm, forming the Blake Babies with them in 1986, at the age of 19. The band, with which she sang and played bass guitar (as well as some guitar and piano), was signed to North Carolina's Mammoth Records and received a fair amount of airplay on college radio through the early 1990s. The group toured the United States several times, performed in Europe, and made several music videos. Hatfield eventually earned a degree in songwriting from Berklee.
Although Hatfield shared vocal duties with Strohm in the group, she quickly stood out due to her unique vocal quality; her somewhat thin, girlish voice gave the group a youthful, innocent sound that was nevertheless belied by often-caustic lyrics and a vocal delivery punctuated frequently by harsh, distorted screams (in live performances more so than on recordings). Although the group's early work was essentially punk-oriented, they quickly settled into a sunny, melodic, and slightly jangly pop style reminiscent in style of early R.E.M. and Neil Young. Hatfield and Strohm shared songwriting credits and often sang together in harmony or octaves, creating a memorable "boy-girl" sound rarely encountered in rock (except in the work of X and a few later indie bands such as Velocity Girl, Hazel, Quasi, Low, Mates of State, and Rainer Maria).
The group formally disbanded in 1991 but, largely due to the persistent efforts of Freda, reunited briefly in late 1999, performing a few shows in 1999 and 2000 and embarking on one last U.S. tour in 2001. Coinciding with the tour, the Blake Babies recorded and released a new album titled God Bless The Blake Babies which received strong reviews. The album featured new original songs as well as renditions of songs by Ben Lee and Madder Rose. Frequent collaborator Evan Dando also made a guest appearance on the album. After the tour, Hatfield released a Blake Babies EP titled Epilogue at her live shows featuring the band covering Fleetwood Mac, The Ramones and MC5.
Hatfield began her solo career following the Blake Babies' breakup in 1991, releasing her first solo album (Hey Babe) in 1992. The album was one of the highest selling independent albums of 1992. Hatfield recruited a rhythm section consisting of former Moving Targets and Bullet LaVolta drummer Todd Phillips, and Thudpucker bassist Dean Fisher, and thus becoming The Juliana Hatfield Three.
Hatfield achieved alterna-rock stardom with the release of 1993's Become What You Are (recorded under the group name The Juliana Hatfield Three). Several songs from the album received regular airplay on major North American rock stations, with Hatfield's song "My Sister" becoming the biggest hit of her career, with a #1 placing on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and the video becoming an MTV staple. Another one of her songs ("Spin the Bottle") was used in the soundtrack of the Hollywood film Reality Bites (1994). Hatfield also made the cover of Spin magazine. Hatfield's popularity coincided with the success, in the mid-1990s, of many other female alternative rock musicians. Although she has always maintained that her gender is of only incidental importance to her music, Hatfield was pleased to have been invited, in 1997, to tour with the first Lilith Fair, a prominent all-female rock festival founded by singer Sarah McLachlan. Hatfield was profiled in a number of girls' magazines at this time and was embraced by many pre-teen and teenage girls as a role model due to the positive way she addressed serious issues faced by young women in her songs and interviews. About this period she says: "I was never comfortable with the attention. I thought it had come too soon. I hadn’t earned it yet." She gained notoriety in 1992 for saying that she was still a virgin in her mid-twenties in Interview magazine. In a 1994 interview for the magazine Vox, she said she was surprised by the effect 'outing' herself had: "I think there are a lot of people out there who don't care about sex, but who you never hear from, so I thought I should say it. The magazine I did the interview for is full of beef-cake hunky guys and scantily-clad models, so I thought it would be really funny to say that I didn't care about sex in a magazine that's full of sex and beauty - but no one really got the joke."
In 1995, following the success of Become What You Are she released her followup album, Only Everything, in which she "turned up the volume and the distortion and had a lot of fun". One reviewer describes it as "a fun, engaging pop album". The album spawned another alternative radio hit for Hatfield in "Universal Heart-Beat". The video featured Hatfield as an overly demanding aerobics instructor. Prior to the tour for Only Everything, Hatfield released Phillips and brought on Jason Sutter (American Hi-Fi, Chris Cornell, Jack Drag), as well as Ed Slanker (Thudpucker, Tinsel) on 2nd guitar, and Lisa Mednick on keyboards. Two weeks into the tour, Hatfield canceled the tour, which her publicist explained as due to "nervous exhaustion,"[cite this quote] and took a month long break. In her memoir, Hatfield writes that in truth she was suffering from depression severe enough to the point of being suicidal. Hatfield disagreed with the decision not to be upfront about her depression. The drummer was, once again, replaced, this time by Phillips, and touring resumed with Jeff Buckley as the opening act.
In 1996, she traveled to Woodstock, New York where she recorded tracks for God's Foot, which was to be her fourth solo album (third if not counting Become What You Are, which was recorded with the Juliana Hatfield Three), intended for 1997 release. After three failed attempts to satisfy requests from Atlantic Records to come up with a "single" that the label could release, Juliana requested she be released from her contract. The label obliged, but kept the rights to the songs produced during these sessions (Atlantic had reportedly paid $180,000 to that point on the recordings). Two tracks – "Mountains of Love" and "Fade Away" – were eventually released on a greatest hits collection entitled Gold Stars, while still another, "Can't Kill Myself," was available for download from Hatfield's official website. The remaining tracks have surfaced only as substandard bootleg versions (which do not meet Hatfield's approval) and she has rarely featured them in her subsequent live performances.
Following the traumatic experiences surrounding God's Foot, and now freed from her major label obligations, Hatfield recorded a six-song EP for indie label Bar/None in 1997 titled Please Do Not Disturb. Produced by Hatfield herself, the album featured several different musicians, including drummer Todd Phillips, guitarists Ed Slanker and Mike Leahy, and new bass player Mikey Welsh (Weezer) among others. The EP features a particularly tender song, "Trying Not To Think About It," which is a tribute to the deceased musician Jeff Buckley, who was a friend of Hatfield's.
Almost as a reaction to the seemingly endless studio sessions surrounding God's Foot, Hatfield recorded the album Bed in 1998 in six days, about which she says on her website: "It sounds as raw as I felt. It has no pretty sheen. The mistakes and unattractive parts were left in, not erased. Just like my career. Just like life."
In 2000, she released Beautiful Creature, an album which was among the most critically well-received of her career. This album left the rockier side of Hatfield's musical personality unexpressed, however, so at the same time she also recorded Juliana's Pony: Total System Failure with Zephan Courtney and Mikey Welsh, which she describes as "a loud release of tension", with "lots of long sloppy guitar solos. And no love songs...a not-at-all attractive reaction to the ugly side of humanity, specifically American culture." The two albums were initially released in a set as a pair; however, Juliana's Pony: Total System Failure was received badly by the critics, who preferred the acoustic songwriting on Beautiful Creature. On Beautiful Creature, Hatfield worked with Austin-based musician Davíd Garza who co-produced much of the album. Wally Gagel, a producer for Sebadoh and Tanya Donelly, helped Hatfield record her most electronica-influenced songs, "Cool Rock Boy" and "Don't Rush Me", which added texture to the otherwise acoustic album.
2002 saw the release of Hatfield's first "best-of" album. The album, titled Gold Stars 1992-2002: The Juliana Hatfield Collection, featured the singles from her solo albums. It also contained two of the songs from the previously unreleased God's Foot, a cover of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", as well as four new recordings.
In 2004, Hatfield released In Exile Deo, which was arguably an attempt at a more commercial sound, with input from producers and engineers who'd worked with Pink and Avril Lavigne. Hatfield did, however, produce the album herself with David Leonard, receiving co-production credits on "Jamie's In Town" and the bright rocker "Sunshine." The critics loved it, with a couple calling it her best work since the start of her solo career.
By contrast, the 2005 album Made in China was released on her own new record label, Ye Olde Records, and has a much rawer feel. John Doe of the band X described the disc as "A frighteningly dark & beautiful record filled w/ stark, angular, truly brutal songs & guitars. This is surely a 'Woman Under the Influence', though I'm not sure of what." Reviews were mixed, with some liking the lo-fi sound, but others seeing it as slackness.
In December 2005, Hatfield toured the United States with the band X, whom she idolized during her teenage years.
In 2006, Hatfield released her first live album. Titled The White Broken Line: Live Recordings, the album featured performances from her tour with X. This was Hatfield's third release for her record label.
Hatfield's 10th studio album, How To Walk Away, was released on August 19, 2008 on Ye Olde Records.
Hatfield's latest album, Peace & Love was released on Ye Olde Records, February 16, 2010. The album's composition, arrangement, performance, production, engineering and mixing is solely credited to Hatfield.
From her work with the Blake Babies to the present, Hatfield's output has been characterized by an alternation between heavy, rocking tunes and songs written in a gentler, more melodic or folk-oriented style. Hatfield has stated that in the 1990s she tried smoking cigarettes for a short time in the hope of giving her voice a rougher quality, but eventually reconciled herself with her distinctive vocal instrument. A survey of her releases shows her voice to be remarkably agile, with little vibrato but capable of both forcefulness and sensitivity, making it well suited to the multitracked vocal harmonies that feature prominently on most of her albums. Christina Kelly wrote in Sassy Magazine that Hatfield's frail girlish voice "gives hope to everyone trying to sing."[cite this quote]
Hatfield's musical influences are diverse, ranging from punk groups like X, The Stooges, the MC5, and The Replacements to more folk-oriented rock artists like Neil Young, whose songs the Blake Babies frequently covered in live shows. Her work has also cross-fertilized with some other contemporaneous indie rock bands such as Dinosaur Jr and Lemonheads, whose musicians are also friends of Hatfield's. From an early age, she has also had a special love for pretty-sounding pop music. In a 1998 interview, she stated, "I just always liked pop music and really good melodies and major chords. That's just the type of music that comes naturally to me". In a 1993 interview in Melody Maker magazine, Hatfield stated that her enthusiasm for the music of the pop group Wilson Phillips apparently led, at least in part, to the breakup of the Blake Babies.
Hatfield has been based in the northeastern United States for most of her life, although she tried living for a short time (1999) in Los Angeles, an experience that left her disenchanted with that city's scene, which she found artificial and soulless.
Although Hatfield's lyrics are often autobiographical, some listeners have sometimes mistakenly interpreted fictional songs as representing her own experience. Her "My Sister"—one of her best known songs—is not about a real sister; Hatfield does not have one. The song, however, comes across as convincing because other details (including the mention of her first rock concert, featuring the Violent Femmes and the The Del Fuegos) are real events from her life. A recurrent theme in her songs has been a skewering of figures in society that she finds ridiculous: self-important men ("I'm Not Your Mother"), groupies ("Rider"), fashion models ("Supermodel"), and men who make tragic fashion choices ("Leather Pants"). Other songs have dealt with more serious issues such as body image ("Ugly" and "Feed Me") as well as the failure to connect fully with other people or achieve meaningful and lasting relationships ("How Would You Know" and "Perfection"). Some of her songs deal more or less explicitly with her anger towards people she sees as not taking responsibility for their actions ("Stay Awake ", several of the songs from the album "Total System Failure", notably "The Victim"). A few songs ("Let's Blow it All," "Give Me Some of That") are more lighthearted in tone. Her quieter, more acoustic songs often deal with relationships ("When You Loved Me") and particular places ("Trying Not To Think About It"). Sometimes they have a wistful melancholy, a sense of struggling to carry on, trying to find some meaning in life ("Backseat", "Feelin' Massachusetts"). Since the mid-1990s songs such as "Sellout" have dealt in a more or less overtly sarcastic way with the demands the music industry places on artists (particularly female ones) in order to ensure their "success."
Although much of Hatfield's output is exuberant and hard-rocking, Hatfield nonetheless describes herself as very shy and somewhat of a loner, and has said that "happy lyrics don't come naturally to me." She has also described her music and songwriting as a form of therapy, an outlet that helps her to overcome rough periods and depression.
The guitar (both electric and acoustic) is Hatfield's primary instrument, and she is a highly proficient technician, her work often featuring alternate tunings and intricate, unusual voicings executed high on the neck. She has not received as much acknowledgement for her imaginative bass playing, which can be best heard on the Blake Babies albums Earwig and Sunburn as well as throughout the Lemonheads' It's A Shame About Ray. Unusually for the instrument, she plays melodically and harmonically rather than simply holding down a bass line. She often plays on two strings simultaneously, using expressive sliding tones on the upper string to add another melodic voice to the group's sound. Since her work with the Blake Babies she has gravitated more towards the guitar and has largely lost interest in the bass, generally assigning parts for the instrument to other band members, and not playing as melodically when overdubbing with it in recordings. She has periodically also played piano, electric piano, and organ on her releases, and on her album Made in China (2005) she played drums for the first time.
Hatfield has also performed with The Lemonheads, living for a time with Evan Dando in the college student ghetto neighborhood of Allston in Boston, and contributed backing vocals to recordings by Belly, Giant Sand, Susanna Hoffs, Aimee Mann, and Mary Lou Lord. She teamed up with Dando in 1999 to record Gram Parsons's song "$1,000 Wedding" on the compilation, Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons.
In 2001, she joined with Freda Love and Heidi Gluck (of The Pieces and The Only Children) to form the trio Some Girls, with which she performs in addition to her solo work; the group has toured the United States twice and has released two albums. The trio is another outlet for Hatfield's more lighthearted material. Their first album, entitled Feel It, was released by Koch Records in 2003. The lead single "Necessito" is a funky affirmation of the power of music, sung in a mixture of English and Spanish. Some Girls' second album, Crushing Love, was released in July 2006.
In 2007 Hatfield signed the Boston (now Austin)-based band Frank Smith to her record label, Ye Olde Records. Along with releasing their 2007 album Heavy Handed Peace and Love Hatfield also recorded an EP with the band titled Sittin' In A Tree. The EP, produced by Frank Smith's Aaron Sinclair, features banjos, pedal steel, and other instruments normally associated with country music.
Beyond her musical accomplishments, Hatfield has also guest-starred on several television shows, including The Adventures of Pete & Pete as a lunch lady and on the cult classic My So-Called Life's Christmas episode as the ghost of a deceased homeless girl. During the mid-1990s she was a staple on MTV's 120 Minutes alternative music program, and she performed on The Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 1995.
On March 25, 2008, Hatfield began her own blog through her website titled An Arm and A Leg. Each week she reveals the influences behind one of her songs.
Hatfield briefly appeared on an episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast named "Surprise," which aired on June 19, 1996. Instead of being interviewed, she simply said "uhh" and then was zapped by Zorak.
Hatfield released the book When I Grow up: A Memoir on September 22, 2008.