In the early '90s, you couldn't turn around without being smacked in the face with a hit song from singer/songwriter Juliana Hatfield. Her witty and vulnerable lyrics coupled with her waif-like good looks made Hatfield a reticent media darling due to her intense discomfort with fame. Away from the public eye, Hatfield was suffering from depression, an eating disorder and a series of failed relationships.
Six years ago, Hatfield began writing her memoir When I Grow Up, out September 29th, which parallels her songwriting in its frankness. Hatfield takes you through both the ups and downs of touring and the emotional roller coaster of dealing with fame and seeking to establish her own personal identity. Currently, the 41-year-old is touring her latest record, How to Walk Away, and will stop in Los Angeles for a live performance at Largo on Saturday night.
Over the phone from her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the notoriously shy Hatfield was surprisingly talkative and candid about anything and everything, including her feelings about Los Angeles, aging and going back out on the road.
L.A. Weekly: How do you feel now that you've written a book?
Juliana Hatfield: I feel proud that I finished it. I had a goal and completed it and I reached my goal regardless of what anyone's going to think about the writing. I have to be proud of the fact that I finished. I set out to do this thing and it's difficult, arduous and time consuming. I got this line between my eyebrows [while] writing the book and my hair almost turned gray. It was so difficult to me. It took me six years.
L.A. Weekly: Do you think there were any misconceptions about you which you cleared up in your book?
Juliana Hatfield: I hope I did. Part of my motivation was wanting to clear up misconceptions and to make people question their assumptions. Not only about me, but anyone in the public eye or anyone who makes music or art. I just wanted to dispel any mystery about me. I'm not interested in being mysterious. I don't want people to have fantasies about me or to daydream about me as some kind of fantasy object. I want people to know the real truth and the ugly parts, the unattractive parts, the insecurities... the anxieties... the immaturity. I have some real compulsion to tell people the truth.
L.A. Weekly: Though you live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, you did spend time living in the limelight-driven Los Angeles. From what I understand, you didn't like it.
Juliana Hatfield: I lived [in L.A.] for almost a year. Not quite a year... around '99, maybe. They say the first year is the hardest and that if you make it past the first year, you will be okay. Otherwise, you will have left. I didn't stick it out. I didn't like it. I was always leaving and thinking, “If I could just stick it out a little longer, I could make it work there,” but I couldn't hack it at the time. I was not happy and I didn't have anything going on, so I just left.
L.A. Weekly: What didn't you like about Los Angeles?
Juliana Hatfield: One big thing was the weather. I find the constant sun to be really oppressive. It was really starting to drive me crazy. I just don't love the sun and it was so hot and so ever present. I thought I was going to lose my mind. I need some rain and some variety. People in L.A. don't have to brace themselves against the cold; they slack off permanently and their brains turn to mush. It felt scary. I was scared in L.A. like I wasn't safe and I felt very antagonized from all angles. I felt like it wasn't a welcoming or friendly atmosphere. Maybe it has to do with people being locked up in their cars... everyone's armored in their cars protected from the outside world with their air conditioning on. I felt like it was a forbidding environment. Also, it's just not good for my soul... all the plastic surgery walking around really got me down. It really had an effect on me seeing all these women who would mutilate themselves with huge boobs in my face all the time, which is so confrontational.
L.A. Weekly: Though you discuss a lot of the hardships of touring in your book, you are back on tour, once again. How do you feel about that?
Juliana Hatfield:: I have a love/hate relationship with the road. I've done so much touring that I've gotten to the point where it's like a necessary evil. I'm really sick of boring highways but I do really look forward to playing the music. Playing the new songs with loud guitars and getting the energy from the audience, I'm really looking forward to getting out and doing that. It's an abbreviated tour. I'm going to do it in a few legs.
L.A. Weekly: How do you feel being a woman in her early 40s?
Juliana Hatfield: I don't feel bad or scared about getting older in terms of my looks or anything like that. I'm not afraid of my face changing. I enjoy seeing my face change. I think it's really interesting. I wouldn't want to have same face for my whole life. It would be boring to look at the same face in the mirror for 80 years. But I have fears about being alone as I get older. I've always been a loner and I've spent most of my life as a single person. It just feels natural to be single, but I do worry about being old and alone. I think a lot of people wonder about that.
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L.A. Weekly: What are your plans after this tour?
Juliana Hatfield: The future is blank or open, depending on how you look at it. I'm not really good at planning long term. I'm going to let the book and album come out and see what happens and decide what to do with my life after that.
By Pamela Chelin
Juliana Hatfield performs at Largo on Saturday night, September 27.