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Juliana was born in Maine and grew up in the Boston suburb of Duxbury, Massachusetts. She acquired a love of rock music during the 1970s, having been introduced by a babysitter to the music of the Los Angeles punk rock band X, which proved a life-changing experience.
She was also attracted to the music of more mainstream artists like Olivia Newton-John, The Police, perhaps explaining the contrast in her later music between sweet, melodic “pop” songs and more hard rock oriented material. Visualizing herself as a singer since her high school years, Hatfield sang in school choirs and briefly played in a cover band called The Squids, which played Rush songs.
Hatfield began her solo career following the Blake Babies’ breakup in 1991, releasing her first solo album Hey Babe in 1992. The album was one of the highest selling independent albums of 1992. Hatfield recruited a rhythm section consisting of former Moving Targets and Bullet LaVolta drummer Todd Phillips, and Thudpucker bassist Dean Fisher, and thus becoming The Juliana Hatfield Three.
Hatfield achieved alterna-rock stardom with the release of 1993’s Become What You Are (recorded under the group name The Juliana Hatfield Three). Several songs from the album received regular airplay on major North American rock stations, with Hatfield’s song “My Sister” becoming the biggest hit of her career, with a #1 placing on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and the video becoming an MTV staple. Another one of her songs (“Spin the Bottle”) was used in the soundtrack of the Hollywood film Reality Bites (1994).
Hatfield also made the cover of Spin magazine. Hatfield’s popularity coincided with the success, in the mid-1990s, of many other female alternative rock musicians. Although she has always maintained that her gender is of only incidental importance to her music, Hatfield was pleased to have been invited, in 1997, to tour with the first Lilith Fair, a prominent all-female rock festival founded by singer Sarah McLachlan.
Hatfield was profiled in a number of girls’ magazines at this time and was embraced by many pre-teen and teenage girls as a role model due to the positive way she addressed serious issues faced by young women in her songs and interviews. About this period she says: “I was never comfortable with the attention. I thought it had come too soon. I hadn’t earned it yet.”She gained notoriety in 1992 for saying that she was still a virgin in her mid-twenties in Interview magazine.
In a 1994 interview for the magazine Vox, she said she was surprised by the effect ‘outing’ herself had: “I think there are a lot of people out there who don’t care about sex, but who you never hear from, so I thought I should say it. The magazine I did the interview for is full of beef-cake hunky guys and scantily-clad models, so I thought it would be really funny to say that I didn’t care about sex in a magazine that’s full of sex and beauty – but no one really got the joke.”
In 1995, following the success of Become What You Are, she released her followup album, Only Everything, in which she “turned up the volume and the distortion and had a lot of fun”. One reviewer describes it as “a fun, engaging pop album”.The album spawned another alternative radio hit for Hatfield in Universal Heartbeat. The video featured Hatfield as an overly demanding aerobics instructor.
Prior to the tour for Only Everything, Hatfield released Phillips and brought on Jason Sutter (American Hi-Fi, Chris Cornell, Jack Drag), as well as Ed Slanker (Thudpucker, Tinsel) on 2nd guitar, and Lisa Mednick on keyboards. Two weeks into the tour, Hatfield canceled the tour, which her publicist explained as due to “nervous exhaustion,” and took a month long break.
In her memoir, Hatfield writes that in truth she was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder” depression severe enough to the point of being suicidal. Hatfield disagreed with the decision not to be upfront about her depression.The drummer was, once again, replaced, this time by Phillips, and touring resumed with Jeff Buckley as the opening act.