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Bedside Manners: Catching Up With Juliana Hatfield

Juliana Hatfield adds a dash of wisdom to her alt-rock formula

August 11, 1998 12:00 AM ET

Hopeless crushes. Eating disorders. Low confidence. Sweet vulnerability maskedin angst and sung to simple melodies was the formula exclusive to JulianaHatfield, the indie-rock virgin, whom girls longed to emulate and guys longedto deflower.

With both a new record company and sense of self, Hatfield's set to releaseher latest effort, Bed, an album that factors another variable into herequation: maturity. "I think it's more adult ... I don't mean adultcontemporary sounding, but I think it's a little more grown-up lyrically," sheexplains, her flawless face betraying no expression.

Despite the current trend toward production-heavy, layered recording, Hatfieldopted for a purer, more stripped-down sound. "I had just been listening tothings that were very raw and dry, the kind of things where you can reallyhear all the instruments very close to your ear when you have headphones on,"she says. "I guess I was feeling raw, and I didn't want to pretty it up or putanything on top of it."

Bed, as the title implies, finds Hatfield treading on unexploredterrain. "I'm sick of sneaking around/When am I gonna meet your kids?" sheshocks us with her childlike soprano on "Sneaking Around." Perhaps it's herway of letting us know that it's time, at long last, to banish the "Like aVirgin" headline that followed her up the college charts and onto the cover ofSpin magazine a half decade ago. "I was just writing about what wasgoing on in my life," she says. "Whatever I write, it's reflecting that."

Apparently then, there's quite a bit going on in her life, although she won'tlet on. "My life's so boring," she complains unconvincingly. But given thatshe was once tagged Evan Dando's "friend and sometimes girlfriend" (in theHead Lemon's own words, in fact), it's difficult to believe that the existenceof this stalwart indie-rocker is anything short of, well, at leastinteresting. When conversation turns to Dando, Hatfield becomes surprisinglyreceptive. "Evan also got himself out of Atlantic," she says. "He's trying tofind a new label and make some good demos."

The two recently recorded together again for a Gram Parsons tribute album."When I was hanging out with Evan, that's all he listened to," Hatfield says.The record, scheduled for a January release, includes the likes of ElvisCostello, Wilco and Beck, who duets with Emmylou Harris.

Hatfield is not without her own label travails: She recently split fromMammoth Records, the label that helped put her on the musical map. "When[Mammoth] left Atlantic, they had to let me go and I wanted to leave," shesays. "They didn't really care about me anymore or get what I was doing. And Ijust don't want to make music where I'm not appreciated, so I wanted to gosomewhere I was."

Her new album is the first to be released on Zoe, a new subsidiary of Mercury.However, she has not signed a contract with them. "I'm free to go where I wantafter this," she says. "I'm very hesitant to commit to a long-term thingbecause of what happened. I realize everything can go bad so quickly and Ijust want to wait until I find something that seems really good."

Until then, Juliana plans to take her newfound, somewhat wavering self-esteemon the road this fall. "This stuff is more confident and laid back ... Ithink."

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