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Juliana Hatfield gives up on music, takes up painting


"People are like monkeys." Drawing by Juliana Hatfield.

In an interview with former Phoenix and Boston Globe scribe Joan Anderman, JULIANA HATFIELD does everything but confirm that she's done with music. (Given that she called one of her last albums How To Walk Away, this may not register as the most shocking news.) Hatfield tells Anderman that she's currently over at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, learning to paint. Asked if she's "completely turned [her] energy away from music," Hatfield responds:

I’m focusing on school right now. I finished up an album, which was sort of a way to help me pay for school. The plan was to get the album out and then stop with music. I can’t really, what’s the word…It’s like this really strong creative urge is taking another shape right now. There’s all this stuff around music, you know. The whole thing about rock music, pop music, is it’s really for kids. The last show that I played was in August. I was up there with a bass player and a drummer and I felt like such an idiot. I’ve outgrown this. It is really unbecoming. I don’t feel that this is right anymore. I felt ridiculous playing electric guitar and singing songs.

She adds: 

I just feel like I’ve outgrown it, the performance thing, I’m really not feeling it anymore. I think I can keep writing songs, but getting up in front of people and playing just feels so weird to me now. So silly. I’ve lost that desire to play in front of people . . . When I look back over the hundreds and hundreds of shows I’ve played I feel like maybe half a dozen, or a dozen, maybe two dozen, I’ve felt like, OK, this is really working well, I’m feeling really strong and it’s flowing and I’m at the top of my game and I’m connecting with the audience. Two dozen times of the millions of shows I’ve played . . . The  rest of the time I’m really uncomfortable. Physically hurting. Feeling anxious. Not putting on a good show, not connecting, saying stupid things between songs, awkward.

Hatfield -- who has always been blessed or cursed with the inability to spout the same old garbage that rock musicians are supposed to say -- bravely admits that her audience has shrunk, she's not making money from touring, and that the process of road-dogging it has left her in ill health, leaving her with bouts of bronchitis to "insomnia, horrible anxiety, and anorexia." 

Hatfield's battles with depression and worse have been fodder for her songwriting and also figured prominently in her 2008 memoir, When I Grow Up

As for her artwork, Hatfield says she's not ready to show paintings yet, but: "Look at my past few album covers. It’s naked parts of my body. And I’m painting stuff like that. Body parts with no heads. Fake boobs. I’ve always had these issues with my identity, anxiety about my femininity. I never felt I really expressed it the way I wanted to with music. This is just another way to work through some of the issues I have."

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