Posted June 17, 2019 by Jeff in Tunes

Juliana Hatfield’s Resilience

Photo by David Doobinin
Photo by David Doobinin

Singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield started with The Blake Babies before branching into the Juliana Hatfield Trio and then releasing albums and touring as a solo act. She released her latest solo effort, Weird, earlier this year. She spoke to us about the album via phone from her Cambridge home, where she had just returned from a short European tour with The Juliana Hatfield Three.

When we last spoke to you, you had just released Pussycat. Talk about what it was like to make a record expressing your feelings about Trump and entitled, predatory men. Was it cathartic?

Well, not really. It just felt necessary for me to say my piece. At the end of it, I didn’t feel a lot better about the situation. The situation still exists. In some ways, I feel like the arts aren’t that effective means of change. For me, I just had to say something. I guess that’s what artists do. They talk about how they feel about things and then other people can find comfort or solidarity or whatever it is. It felt good to vent a little bit. I also felt like I didn’t change anything. The one good thing is that in the song “When You’re a Star,” which is about Bill Cosby, I say “they never prosecute your kind,” but he wound up in jail. I turned out to be wrong about that.

Sometimes, they do prosecute people who do bad things. That’s a little bit of hope.

When did the songs for Weird begin to come together?

I had finished [last year’s Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John] and I had a lot of musical ideas. I went back into the studio and recorded a bunch of music. I took a month or two off to write lyrics. I don’t usually work like that. I usually have full songs written, but I just felt like I wanted to do things a little differently. What emerged was a portrait of my life right now, which is pretty solitary and slightly isolated but not unpleasantly so. I was exploring what it’s like to be alone a lot of the time. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it could be a very good thing.

It’s not a dreary album.

Yeah. My spirit is very resilient and indomitable. It can’t be killed. I should be bitter at this point, but I’m not. The music is a pure expression of my undying faith in something. The words are kind of dark sometimes. “Broken Doll” is about how bodies start breaking down and things fall apart physically, but I try to be funny about it.

In the music video, you play a Playboy bunny put out to pasture. It was shot at the same location in New Hampshire as your Beautiful Creature album. How did it come together?

My friend Rachel Lichtman is a new friend. I’m glad to be involved with her. We have similar ideas about things. When she shoots me, she totally gets it. She gets what I’m trying to convey through my music. She didn’t one for “Lost Ship” as well. She just nailed it both times. It was my idea was to go shoot on a friend’s farm . . . I just said, “I want to be a Playboy bunny on a farm, and there’s a donkey.” She said, “I got it.” And she totally made it come to life. It’s about how glamour is such a lie and so stupid and making fun of how it’s so unreal. There are other feminist ideas in there too.

Whose dog is in the video?

That’s my dog. She was just there. She likes to stay by my side so everywhere I went, she went. In one shot, she’s peeing. I thought it was great that Rachel left that in.

“Lost Ship” is really cool and trippy. What inspired it?

I was thinking about how being alone is an escape. I thought about how I can’t be myself unless I’m alone. It’s about how much I love dreaming and napping and closing my eyes. It’s about the freedom I have to do that and how my solitude is an escape.  

Is “Paid to Lie” directed at the current administration?

Of course. I didn’t name any names, but you can guess. One particular lady has that job. I think the song will age well because it’s been true since the beginning of politics. They’ve always been lying to the public they’re supposed to be serving. That will never change.

Where did you go to record and what was the experience like?

At Q Division Studios. I do a lot of stuff there. James Bridges works there. I’ve been working with him a lot. I have other good friends there. They have a new room that I feel comfortable in. The vibe is great. 

And who’d you recruit to play on the album?

It’s thrown together haphazardly. Some of the drums are played by Freda, who was in town briefly. A few drums are played by Todd Phillips from The Juliana Hatfield Three. I play a bunch of drums too. The guitar is all me. 

What will the live shows be like?

It’s going to be Dean Fisher from The Juliana Hatfield Three on bass and I have two local Boston guys who I’ve never toured with before. It’s kind of a new grouping. 

Are you looking forward to it?

I am, but I have a combination of excitement and anxiety leading up to a tour. I do think it will be really fun to do some of the new songs. 

Photo: David Doobinin


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].