She likes to keep busy, and lately, singer/songwriter Juliana Hatfield has been just that.
Her new album, How to Walk Away, arrived in stores this month on her own Ye Olde Records label, which she started in 2005. Produced by Ivy‘s Andy Chase and recorded at his Stratosphere Sound facility in Manhattan, the 10-song album features guest spots by Psychedelic Furs singer Richard Butler and Nada Surf‘s Matthew Caws.
In addition, Hatfield has written an autobiography, which is due to be published next year by Wiley and Sons.
Hatfield recently discussed her recent projects, as well as the impact running her own label has had on her both personally and professionally.
Medleyville.us: In the press materials for the new album, there’s a quote from you about how your voice has “grown into itself” and that you’re not struggling against its “little girl-ness.” Did that come naturally or through lessons or something else?
Juliana Hatfield: “I think it’s from the passage of time. I took voice lessons starting in my teens, and I went to community college and studied voice, so it was never a question of not trying. I was always trying to make my voice stronger, but I always had this young-sounding quality that drove me crazy for a long time.
“If you listen to my records back to back, chronologically, you can hear my voice slowly lowering a little bit. It’s finally gotten a little bit richer and less childlike.”
Given their personal and candid nature, did the songs on the new album go through more or less editing than previous efforts?
Hatfield: “I think probably more. I spent a lot of time writing the songs; I did a lot of work putting the lyrics together. It wasn’’ a very quick process, the writing – or even choosing the songs. Me and [Chase] were very careful and meticulous about choosing the write songs for the album.”
Did you have a lot to choose from that you had written and recorded?
Hatfield: “Yeah, I had more than ever. Usually when I make an album, I just have enough songs to make an album. But this time I wrote more than I needed. [Chase] wanted me to keep writing because he wanted to have a choice — he wanted to have 10 really good songs, and because of him I wrote maybe 20, 25 songs.”
Did a lot happen in your life where you were able to come up with those 20, or did you find yourself between 11 and 20 maybe struggling a little bit?
Hatfield: “I think maybe with the last five songs I was scraping the bottom of the barrel (laughs). But then again, those kind of songs can be kind of cool – the ones that maybe aren’t so deep, but they’re more odd. I really like some of the weirder ones, but we really didn’t end up using any of those.”
What led you to record at Stratosphere Sound?
Hatfield: “I went there because [Chase] is one of the co-owners, and he’s very comfortable in that studio. … we met eight or 10 years ago and did some demos back then. We recorded a couple of songs in his home studio, and for this record we did pre-production in his home studio and then we moved to Stratosphere.”
How do you like running your own record label?
Hatfield: “It depends on the day. It’s a lot of work. It’s basically me doing everything that needs to be done. I hire people to do certain jobs, but on a day-to-day basis, it’s just me. So some days it wears me out, but it’s really great to be on top of it and to know everything that’s going on, to know how many records are being manufactured and sold. To just have control over everything is really great, but at the same time, it’s a ton of work.”
How has running your own label impacted your artistically? Has it made you a different artist or a better artist?
Hatfield: “I’m not sure. I don’t know if it’s really affected me at all as an artist. . . . I used to get really restless and depressed when I wasn’t working – when I wasn’t making an album or writing an album or touring, I would kind of go crazy. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had all this energy, and I didn’t know where to direct it. So now I have this label to run, and it’s a place to direct my other energies. In that sense, it’s probably calmed me down a little bit and given my downtime more of a focus, which is really good, I think.”
How far along are you with writing your autobiography?
Hatfield: “The whole thing’s written – we’re at the end of the editing process. . . . I’ve always wanted to write a book. Before I was a musician, I wanted to be a writer. But when I started doing music, I put writing prose on the back burner. But it was always this thing in the back of my mind — ‘Oh, I want to write a book someday.’
“And then I had an idea to write a tour diary. So on this tour I did about six years ago, I took very detailed notes with the intention of making it into a book. So it started out as a tour diary but became a memoir, so it goes between this tour and my life in music.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Juliana Hatfield on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Sept. 9: Iota Club and Cafe — Arlington, Va.
* Sept. 10: World Cafe Live — Philadelphia
* Sept. 12: Bowery Ballroom — New York
* Sept. 14: Brattle Theater — Cambridge, Mass.
* Sept. 23: The Triple Door — Seattle
* Sept. 24: Aladdin Theater — Portland, Ore.
* Sept. 25: Cafe du Nord — San Francisco
* Sept. 27: Largo — Los Angeles