Sixteen years ago, shortly after signing on to the staff of the university radio station, another DJ introduced me to Juliana Hatfield. Entering the studio, I was greeted by “Everybody Loves Me But You,” and left newly in love. (Thanks, Ren!)
Hey Babe was really something (poppy sound, somewhat sour lyrics), and I listened to the ex-Blake Babies singer/guitarist’s debut on my Discman for days while walking around campus. The well-selling indie effort, which featured Evan Dando (a sometime-member of Hatfield’s previous band, Blake Babies), John Wesley Harding, and Mike Watt, helped land Hatfield a major label deal.
Become What You Are followed in 1993, and Hatfield (or more accurately, the Juliana Hatfield Three) scored a #1 Modern Rock hit with “My Sister.” Another track, “Spin The Bottle,” was picked for the soundtrack of Reality Bites, though it failed to chart. Two years later, Hatfield returned with the harder-edged Only Everything. Lead single “Universal Heart-Beat” reached #5.
Another album was slated for 1997, but Hatfield and her label, Atlantic Records, couldn’t come to terms on what constituted a good single. The two eventually parted ways, and Hatfield returned to her indie roots. The years since have brought several solo releases (2004′s In Exile Deo is a recent favorite), plus a brief Blake Babies reunion and a side project, Some Girls.
Just last week, Hatfield released her eighth solo album, How To Walk Away, recorded after she took a year off from performing and songwriting. Still lyrically bruised and battered—lovers leave and lie, songs set in “ugly”/”selfish” worlds—How To Walk Away is a modern-day Hey Babe. This new set also features a lineup of guest artists, including Tracy Bonham, Matthew Caws (Nada Surf), and Richard Butler (The Psychedelic Furs), who sings on “This Lonely Love.” Hear here:
Interestingly, “This Lonely Love” is built upon a sample of an earlier Hatfield track (“It Should’ve Been You” from In Exile Deo). Another standout from How To Walk Away is the defiant “Shining On” (listen to a live version here).
Hungry for more Hatfield? Beyond the music, she’s taking fans behind it. First, peruse her ongoing (and very entertaining) blog, An Arm and A Leg, where she writes about songs from her body of work (though you might have already known she doesn’t really have a sister).
Then, in late September, Hatfield is scheduled to release her memoir, When I Grow Up, in which she shares her successes and struggles in the rock world (and how that recent sabbatical reawakened her creative passion). I, for one, am happy the girl’s still got it.