GOLDMINE: Welcome back to Goldmine for our third time. Thank you for Blood. I am enjoying it, along with your online concert, where you played some of my favorite songs from this American Laundromat Records album.
JULIANA HATFIELD: You’re welcome.
GM: Let’s go back for a moment to the Mammoth label in the 1990s, with a pair of songs, “Universal Heart-Beat” and “Where Would I Be Without You.” “Universal Heart-Beat” has a bouncy keyboard sound offsetting your lyrics about a heart that hurts.
JH: At that point, Mammoth had sold my contract to Atlantic, so I began working with the Atlantic people. I think that was Mammoth’s plan all along, to build an independent company and then sell it to one of the big labels. After The Blake Babies broke up, I was shuffled over to Atlantic, and that helped to promote my songs. They were sending me on promotional tours, as they had the budget to get this newish name out there supporting my third album, Only Everything, although with Mammoth and my first and second albums, Hey Babe and Become What You Are, we had established a fan base, plus with The Blake Babies before that, we had done a lot of touring without label support. The CD single for “Universal Heart-Beat” included “Where Would I Be Without You” with Mike Levesque on drums, who was a pro and easy to work with. The songs were recorded in New York.
Flip side: Where Would I Be Without You (CD single extra song)
A side: Universal Heart-Beat
Top 100 debut: April 22, 1995
Peak position: No. 84
GM: When we met in 2018, in Massachusetts, you had just recorded your Olivia Newton-John covers album. Late in the following year, you returned to that format with songs from The Police, of which my favorite was “Can’t Stand Losing You,” which you sing so sweetly.
JH: I guess I have a sweet voice and I can’t help it, ha ha. I love singing Sting songs. His melodies are easier for me than Olivia’s, which were challenging. Sting’s voice is within my range, so singing along with Police songs I can get right in the groove, and I have such an affinity for his phrasing, like putting a hand in a glove, it fits me.
GM: Yet it doesn’t sound like The Police.
JH: You are right. When I take over a song, I try to get inside it, and it becomes an organic process, where the song becomes mine. When a song feels like me, that is when I know that it is a good cover to do. If I can’t inject myself into its DNA, that is when I throw it away. It is like an exchange of blood, when it becomes my own, then it feels biological.
GM: Well, speaking of blood, let’s talk about your new album Blood. On “Splinter” you sing, “I’m ready to finally pop this bubble. Get myself in some kind of trouble.” You also sing about a plan to win the lottery. It is a fun song and I like the synthesizer a lot.
JH: I did win $500 on an inexpensive scratch ticket here in Massachusetts, which was kind of exciting. With “Splinter,” there is a feeling of stagnation and inertia which I think was partially inspired by everyone being on lockdown for a long time, but also feeling that life becomes routine and you get to a place in your life where you think that you have to actively shake your life up versus slowly fading away in a rut. It is a call to action without exactly knowing how to achieve it.
GM: “Suck it Up” has a double bridge that really stands out as my favorite part of the song.
JH: Thank you. I guess that is what bridges are for, to throw something new at you, and shake it up a little bit, before bringing you back to the main part again. It is truly a bridge from and to the main part of the song. This was one of two songs that I co-wrote with Jed Davis and I think he wrote the bridge chords, so you have him to thank for that.
GM: “Mouthful of Blood” is the first song I heard from your new album. My wife Donna really enjoys Modern English’s “I Melt with You” and I am reminded a little bit of that song.
JH: I love “I Melt with You.” Sonically, “I Melt with You” really gets in your brain, but I wasn’t thinking of it when writing this song. “Mouthful of Blood” is metaphorical about biting your tongue and feeling afraid to speak or you are going to get into trouble. I feel constantly conflicted.
GM: In “Dead Weight,” you ask, “Why do you love me?” over a T. Rex-like tone.
JH: I think music is the best part of certain people, and I think it is the best part of me, I am more comfortable being an artist than a person in a relationship, and it is hard to reconcile those two parts of myself. It has been a hard year and I am happy that I have my music.
GM: I think your music style expands on the finale, with a slight bossa nova sound on the gentle and tender song, ironically named “Torture.”
JH: The music came first on this one, with the lyrics being almost an afterthought. I think the music drives it, rather than the lyrical content.
GM: The album art is interesting to me because here in Daytona Beach, Florida there was the Jantzen Diving Girl in the sky, attached to a swimwear shop by the Atlantic Ocean for decades, then the manikin was taken down, which caused an uproar.
JH: Did they bring it back?
GM: Finally, not to the beach, but across from the Daytona International Speedway in an area of new shops.
JH: I drew this female in a bikini with a black pen and Jed Davis colored it, including the blood bubbles coming off the hands in the background. I drew it from a photograph where the woman was actually in the sky with buildings in the background, so I don’t know if it was a circus or what the event was. She looks like a warrior, going through harsh times, but emerging victoriously, flying, and who needed those hands anyway?
GM: It is an interesting contrast, just like your music.
JH: Also, the pose she is in seems really joyful and playful as she soars. It has been nice talking with you again. Thanks a lot for always supporting my music.
Read John Curley’s review of Juliana Hatfield’s Blood in the Goldmine June 2021 issue.