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Juliana Hatfield: “Boston (Cambridge Actually) In Her Blood”

by Keith Valcourt

It’s funny how an artist can often be linked to a city or regional area.  For Juliana Hatfield that area is Boston, Massachusetts or more specifically the neighboring Cambridge, Mass.  It seems appropriate that the woman who started her career in the “College Rock” band The Blake Babies would be identified with a town known for two of the world’s most well-known institutes of higher learning Harvard and M.I.T.  After going solo Juliana released a slew of cool records.  She also spent time as a part time member of Boston’s favorite sons: The Lemonheads playing bass and singing backup on their breakthrough album, “It’s a Shame About Ray.”  Juliana and her own band the “Juliana Hatfield 3” went on to have a few MTV/radio hits with the songs “Spin The Bottle” and “My Sister.”  The later name checked another one of Boston’s most beloved bands The Del Fuegos.

All those connections make you wonder if you cut her would she bleed Charles River water? And in 2021 Hatfield shows no signs of slowing down. Her latest album, Blood was just released on May 14th. It’s her 19th release. Away from her own original records Hatfield also recently released an album of Olivia Newton-John covers and an album of her take on songs by The Police. You should check those out. I called Juliana at her apartment in Cambridge (of course) for this Alchemical Records interview.

Q: Where are you living these days?

A: I’m in Cambridge (Mass.)

Q: You have lived in and around Boston your whole life. Do you think the city ingrained in how you are as an artist? 

A: I have to distinguish between Boston and Cambridge. I know that Cambridge is just right across the river but it’s a really different vibe than Boston. I like Cambridge more than I like Boston. It’s a little bit mellower and has a more integrated vibe. I don’t know if I have an identity that is connected to the city or this area. I do feel like I do keep being drawn back to New England. To the Atlantic Ocean. There is something about it that is kind of low key. People are smart but mellow. There’s not a lot of style here but there are other things that make it a nice place to live. I tried living in L.A. for a while and I found the weather out there to be oppressive. It was driving me crazy. The sun everyday beating down. I thought I was going to lose my mind. There wasn’t enough variation.

Q: But in California you don’t have to shovel snow.

A: I love the snow. There is something so peaceful about it. After a fresh snow there is a quiet that comes over everything. You can’t really match that feeling with any other phenomenon that happens in nature. And I don’t even mind shoveling snow. It’s good exercise. Like a good workout. There is a sense of accomplishment when you’ve been shoveling for an hour. You get your car out and you can drive away feeling like you’ve accomplished something.

Q: It seems like you never stop making music and putting out records.

A: It’s my job. I make music. I can’t afford to take a year off. It’s my work. My work not only sustains me financially, but it also sustains me emotionally. It gives my days a focus. I need that kind of structure and routine to stay sane.

Q: Do you miss touring?

A: Yeah. The live streams are cool but nothing over the computer is ever going to sound as good as a live show. The energy you get when d the audience in the same room.
With touring I have to rent equipment and vans. Hire people. Find a place to rehearse. Load everything in. All that stuff that totally stressed me out from trying to get to gigs on time to learning songs and practicing. Doing the live steams has been fun and easy compared to touring. All I have to do is go down to the next town to Q Division Studios where I’ve been doing them. I sit down with my guitar and everything is set up and ready to go. It’s really a relief from touring. But I do look forward to getting back out on the road. I’m trying not to think about the future. I’m just focusing on what I am able to do now. What that means is doing these live stream performances.

Q: Why did you decide to do a whole album of Olivia Newton John covers?

A: I loved Olivia Newton John when I was a kid and I still love her. I wanted to dive into the songs and her voice to escape for a while. Plus show my appreciation for the artistry. We donated a dollar from every album sold to her charity for Cancer Research. It was nice to have that connection.

Q: Then you did an album of covers of The Police.

A: Before I did The Police, I was thinking about Phil Collins for a while. But I changed my mind to The Police. I had more of a connection with The Police. I was a bigger Police fan.

Q: Do you plan on doing more albums like that and who are you considering covering next?

A: Yes, I want to do more of it. It is hard to decide on the next thing though. I have a few ideas. I’m thinking and album of Duran Duran songs might be good.

Q: The new album “Blood” deals with some dark things. Do you have a dark side?

A: Everyone does. If you try to repress your dark side that is when you end up doing violence in real life because that’s when it explodes out of you. If you can use art, meaning music, as an outlet for your thought and feeling then I think that’s healthy. I’m just exploring the darkness that is inside of everyone. I’m just confronting that darkness. Some people are afraid to confront that darkness. But I’m not afraid of it.

Q: You have a knack for combing the sinister with the sweet in your songs.  

A:  I think it’s just the punk in me who wants to mess with people’s heads.  When I started making records people would comment that my voice sounded like a little girl.  That I sounded so innocent and coy.  But I didn’t feel like that as a person. I didn’t feel like the sound of my voice was an expression of who I really was. I didn’t think of myself as innocent or coy or sweet.  I needed to counteract the girlish sound of my voice with another part of my personality which is this more negative, pessimistic, and nihilistic attitude.

Juliana Hatfield’s New Album: Blood became available on all major platforms. Below is the second track from the album, “Gorgon”, and you can also find it on our Alchemical Weekly Spotify Playlist. Check it out!

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Keith Valcourt

Keith Valcourt is a Los Angeles based music and entertainment writer. He has interviewed thousands of celebrities in the worlds of music, film, TV and comedy for dozens of outlets including: L.A. Times, Washington Times, LFP Publishing, ChelseaCommunityNews.com, RetroRoadMap.com LaArtsOnline and more. Much More

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