Innocent Words Magazine tossed me a bone recently and offered me the chance to interview Juliana Hatfield and review her new album (Peace & Love). I’ve loved her work since her Blake Babies days (in fact, Sunburn continues to be on my all-time list of favorite albums). Of course, I jumped at the opportunity … partly because I’m a fan and partly because she’s released, in my opinion, the album of her career.
The full CD review is found in the CD review section of this issue. In summary, Peace & Love is a great record from the perspective that it connects with the listener in a very personal way. I really looked forward to discussing Peace & Love with Hatfield.
At this point, let me give you a bit of back story on my approach. I’m an interviewer that thrives on the give and take of a live discussion. My questioning is not always linear, and I like to follow tangents presented during a conversation by the person on the other end of the line (or across the table, whatever the situation may be). Imagine my disappointment when I learned the interview would be by e-mail only and that Hatfield issued a request of “Please no paraphrasing – direct quotes if you don’t mind.”
Being a good IW doobie, I submitted my questions – three pages covering all aspects of her career and even a few about her personal life so all us could get a better understanding of who she is as a person and an artist. What I received in return were very short answers – some only one or two sentences long. Here are highlights:
Innocent Words: Peace & Love is a beautifully crafted album. James Parker, in the liner notes, says, “Maybe it’s your Nebraska.” I don’t hear that. Don’t get me wrong, Nebraska was/is a fine collection of character-based stories set to music. But, I seriously doubt Bruce Springsteen was ever a sergeant out of Perrineville, barracks number eight. I hear Peace & Love as a very personal record for you … and the listener, for that matter. Was it difficult making an album that could speak to others in such an intimate manner?
Juliana Hatfield: No, it wasn’t particularly difficult, comparatively speaking. Making this type of music is what I do.
IW: Where did the inspiration for the album come from?
Hatfield: All over the place.
IW: How long did it take you conceptualize the record and make it all happen?
Hatfield: I don’t remember exactly. And I never conceptualized it; I started off just writing a bunch of songs to give to my boyfriend at the time. And after we later broke up, I decided to make an album out of it and sell it to the people.
IW: Over what period of time was it recorded?
Hatfield: Maybe six months, maybe less, maybe more, not quite sure; I lose track of time.
IW: Will you be touring to support Peace & Love and, if so, when will that kick off?
Hatfield: No tour planned for this one.
IW: What was the first band you ever followed regularly (in terms of buying releases/reading music mags/etc.) and do you remember that initial attraction and, if so, what was the appeal?
Hatfield: The Police
IW: Was there any one person who was instrumental in turning you on to that first band or someone who nurtured your early musical interests?
Hatfield: Not really.
IW: In your view, how has the music/recording industry changed since you first got involved … better or worse?
Hatfield: Neither better nor worse, or rather better in some ways but worse in other ways.
IW: Do you think the various forms of social media have opened up promotional opportunities for new bands/artists or are bands/artists losing out because of too much information for people/fans to process?
Hatfield: Yes/No. Exactly.
IW: How do you kick back when you’re not writing/recording/performing/touring?
Hatfield: Eating, drinking, watching movies, skiing, trying to find the perfect lamp, etc.
There you have it … admittedly, not the most thrilling dialogue. Perhaps she’s more comfortable speaking through her music than promoting herself. Regardless, Juliana Hatfield continues to give us meaningful songs which underscore her relevance as a songwriter, even if one-on-one she remains a bit detached.
As a great singer/songwriter once warbled, “She’s opens her mouth to speak and what comes out’s a mystery. Thought about, not understood … she’s achin’ to be.”