With over 20 years spent performing in the music industry, Juliana Hatfield has seen just about everything. She’s seen two-inch tape decks give way to the digital recording revolution.
She’s seen record labels give way to the world of self-publishing. She’s seen her career bounce between bands and solo songwriting. But the memory that sticks out most predates her lengthy and accomplished recording career, one that she’s recorded in her recent autobiography, rather than song.
In this memory, Juliana remembers being rounded up with the rest of her siblings, including her newborn baby brother, being ushered over to their neighbors and watching as her mother left them, flying away from her family to rejoin a former lover.
She was just a child, but the memory is vivid, clear and lifelike in her written representation. As is the memory of her mother’s return from her former flame and a battle with postpartum depression. On that night, Juliana watched as her father went to the garage, hefted an axe and tore asunder a harpsichord he had built for his wife.
She tells the story unflinchingly, recounting it with a frankness that has become her signature over her 10-album solo career. Both in her songs and outside of them — such as a decision to disclose her own bout with depression in 1995 — Hatfield has always been up front with her audience. That trait has resonated from her initial work with Blake Babies, playing in now-defunct Boston bars like Rat and Green Street Station, to her solo work today.
Though that frankness has remained in her records since her early days, her songs have not been static, bouncing from genre to genre, but always carrying her sweet siren-like vocals and an ever-evolving writing style, as evidenced on her latest release, How To Walk Away.
“I think my writing has gotten a lot better. I don’t settle for the easy rhyme anymore. Before, it was just more of a cathartic spewing of my id.” Hatfield says, adding that while she feels her songwriting continues to improve, she also wonders if anyone still cares about her, 10 albums deep into her solo career.
“I worry that people will see me as irrelevant,” she says. “It’s hard to make people care when you’ve been around for such a long time.”
That won’t stop Hatfield from creating anytime soon, however. In fact, she’s already planning on a plethora of creative options, including another non-fiction book, a novel and a screenplay, while also wanting to spend more time painting. An acoustic album is also in the works, which Hatfield is recording by herself at home — a process that makes her reflect on the many changes the music industry has seen over the course of her career.
“You can be more efficient as an artist today, you don’t need a studio, but … ” she pauses, “it takes away some of the mystique and excitement of putting a record out.”
The live performances, on the other hand, have never changed. And April 7, Hatfield will perform in Alexandria, joining Bob Mould at the Birchmere. Tickets are $25 and the show starts at 7 p.m.
• For more on Juliana Hatfield, visit www.julianahatfield.com.