Songwriter puts it all on the line 

In New Age terminology, it’s said the universe rewards those brave enough to step off into the risk-taking void. Juliana Hatfield couldn’t agree more.

“The universe has rewarded me for putting everything on the line, without any guarantees,” says the Boston-based tunesmith, who tracked her 10th foray, “How to Walk Away,” not knowing if anybody would ever hear it. “I just did it for the sheer joy of it.”

The major-label vet formed her own indie imprint, Ye Olde Records, to get the music to the masses. She also signed with John Wiley & Sons to publish her upcoming autobiography, “When I Grow Up.”

Hatfield reached the decision by swearing off touring and composing. Her self-imposed exile lasted for more than one year.

“Familiarity breeds contempt,” says the 41-year-old, who plays at Café Du Nord on Thursday.

“I was feeling burned out, sick of the grind of traveling in the same van, staying in the same hotels and playing the same songs in the same smelly clubs with the same stopped-up toilets,” she said. “So I simply chose to not write a song for that long, really stick to it and just see what happened. And exactly what I hoped would happen happened — the songs started popping out of me, until it almost felt like going on a drug binge.”

Two decades ago, Hatfield started out in the same pattern, via her initially self-released combo the Blake Babies. She later flew solo on Atlantic Records, and landed such 1990s alterna-hits as “Universal Heartbeat” and “Spin the Bottle.”

Her renaissance is long overdue. 

“How To” — led by the single “This Lonely Love,” with a cameo from the Psychedelic Furs’ Richard Butler — is a how-to for young songwriters, the sound of a seasoned pro at the top of her game.

In her book, Hatfield documents the gradual collapse of the music industry from an insider’s perspective. And in her year away, she studied its reinvention through MySpace and Facebook and took heart.

“There are just so many options for me now that I didn’t have before,” she says, although she hates owning a cell phone and reading newspapers online. “I don’t want to hold technology in my hands unless I absolutely have to, and I don’t want to walk around with all these gadgets I just don’t need. I don’t like the modern world all that much.”

In her year off, Hatfield laid low and went for long walks with her Labrador retriever, Betty.

Sacrificing her art was worth it, she says.

“I stepped away from it because I didn’t want to lose my love for what I do. And nothing had changed — it all came back.  I write songs and I play them for people — this is what I do.”

If you go

Juliana Hatfield
Where: Café Du Nord, 2170 Market St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Tickets: $15
Contact: www.ticketweb.com

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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