Rocker Juliana Hatfield reveals her drawn-out battle with depression

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
October 12, 2008

During the 1990s, Juliana Hatfield was the It Girl for alternative rock. More accessible and cooler than Courtney Love, Hatfield had a knack for penning clever songs with her group Blake Babies. She was an indie sensation that girls wanted to emulate and boys wanted to date. What her fans didn’t know was that Hatfield was battling both an eating disorder and depression. She contemplated jumping out a window — not, she says, to commit suicide, but so that she could escape her depression.

With her telling memoir When I Grow Up, Hatfield describes her life as a rock star. She also writes about the self-doubt with which she was filled. Some passages are difficult to read, especially when she talks candidly about anorexia. At one point, the 5-foot-7 singer weighed barely 100 pounds.

“There was a moment when I thought I would cut some of those bits out from the book,” says Hatfield, 41, phoning from her home in Cambridge, Mass. “But once I started, I knew that if I was going to write my story, I had to tell it truthfully.”

Hatfield also has a new CD out called “How to Walk Away.”

Q. Why was it the right time to write your memoir now?
A. Actually I started writing this about six or seven years ago. It started as a tour diary, and I took really detailed notes with the intention of turning it into a book. It morphed from that into this memoir. I did weave some of the tours and history of my career with my life and music, so it has a lot of different elements. I’ve felt this pressing need to write a book for a while now .

Q. What do you say to people who assume that because you’re such a prolific songwriter, writing a book would come naturally to you?
A. Oh God, no. It was really difficult. I’ve always read a lot — fiction, nonfiction, historical books, high art, low art — everything I could get my hands on. I would think, “Oh, I can do that.” Then when I started I realized how difficult it was and how much work and time you had to devote to it. There were moments when I didn’t know how I was going to get to the end of it. Honestly, I didn’t know how to write a book or structure it. I kind of learned by doing it. I think that’s why it took me so long. I was making records and touring for six years and I’d go home and work on the book. It was a slow process and dragged on for longer than I would’ve liked.

Q. Were there any fears you had in putting it all out there?
A. I’m pretty honest with my writing and just want to tell the truth. There are times where I hope that I didn’t give too much away. But I think I needed to do that to make the book authentic. That’s just the type of book it had to be for me.

Q. You put a lot of yourself into your songs. Did that help alleviate some of those fears you had?
A. To a certain extent, yes. People are used to hearing about my insecurities in my music, so I think that kind of set them up for my book. Writing the book in that sense was kind of an extension of my songwriting.

Q. Are you thinking at all about starting a family?
A. I’ve never wanted to be married. I’m torn about the baby thing. If I met someone who I really connected with, I could conceivably want to have children. But I’m a late bloomer. I don’t know. It may be too late.

Q. Will you write another book?
A. I’m excited about the idea, but I’m not sure what I would write yet. I want to eventually write a novel, but part of me isn’t sure I could do it. But that’s what I thought about writing this initially, too.

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