Photo: David Doobinin
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic: Juliana Hatfield Goes Deep On Her New Police Cover Album
The alt-rock veteran cleverly balances some of the GRAMMY-winning band's most iconic hits like "Every Breath You Take," "Roxanne" and "Can't Stand Losing You," with some of their deeper album cuts and B-sides on her latest project
"I'm starting to think I may have finally found my true calling. I think this might be my thing and I'm really enjoying it," Juliana Hatfield mused, with equal parts dry wit and keen self-awareness. This confessional observation comes from the seasoned singer/songwriter/bandleader reflecting on her newest musical endeavor—splitting up her standard album releases with cover albums entirely devoted to a single artist or band.
Following 2018's widely celebrated Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John and this year's Weird, she has once again picked an inspirational muse from her early years around which to craft a lovingly loud collection of guitar-graced tributes.
For the second edition in her newfound cover album project, she revisited her formative years' fascination with British rock trio The Police to create Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police. For this engagingly inventive 12-song set, she cleverly balances some of the GRAMMY-winning band's most iconic hits like "Every Breath You Take," "Roxanne" and "Can't Stand Losing You," with some of their lesser known (yet equally emblematic) album cuts and B-sides.
Hatfield has always shown an enthusiast's flair for reinterpretation over the last three decades with Blake Babies, The Juliana Hatfield Three and as a solo artist. Yet the ability to move beyond the single nod of recognition found in a one-off cover song to the full-on deep dive of a full album dedication has allowed the brilliant guitarist and multi-instrumentalist to dismantle and reassemble a legendary songwriting catalog (or two) through her own creative filters.
Recently, the Recording Academy spoke with the vibrant artist to find out what it was that so deeply drew her to The Police (both as a young fan and as the focus of this album) and how she picked which songs to cover. She also explained what it was like to step into each of the multi-genre musical shoes of Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland—she performed all of the vocals, guitars and keyboards on the album, as well as over half of the bass and drums.
Juliana Hatfield: Almost immediately after releasing the Olivia Newton-John album, I started thinking about who I should do next. For a while, I was actually thinking of doing Phil Collins, both his solo songs and also his time in Genesis. I had already started to make a list of his songs when one day I was listening to "Long Long Way to Go" from No Jacket Required. Sting sings background vocals on that song and as soon as I heard his voice, I was immediately struck by the thought, "Wait, I should really be doing The Police."
I have much more of a connection to The Police and was a bigger fan of them than I ever was of Phil Collins. Apart from two Genesis albums that I really love, Duke and Abacab, Phil Collins is more of a singles artist to me. But growing up, I was truly fanatical about The Police and had all their albums and knew all the deep cuts. I just switched my brain over to Police mode and that became the new concept.
Once she set her sights on The Police, it might've seemed like the possibilities of whittling down their renowned catalog to just a single LP's worth of cover songs would be a fool's errand. From 1977 to their contentious split in 1986, The Police were regularly atop the singles and albums charts, all five of their studio albums went platinum and they won six GRAMMYs. Their final, 1983 album Synchronicity even knocked Michael Jackson's Thriller out of the top spot on its way to a 17-week stay at No. 1. At the apex of their fame, The Police were often cited as being the biggest band in the world.
However, while Hatfield's song selection process could've been bloated by the riches embodied in The Police's musical successes, she actually had the reverse problem when it came to deciding on the finalized tracklist.
Juliana Hatfield: It was actually a little hard to get the track list up to 12 songs. While there are plenty of great Police songs to choose from, it's kind of intimidating trying to work with most of them. It was hard to get some of those songs to obey me. "It's Alright For You" or "Rehumanize Yourself;" those two were really tricky. The Police versions are so energized and I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to reach the same intensity.
What was created when those three specific guys played together can never be recaptured. With Olivia Newton-John, it was more about highlighting the songwriting and the melodies. With The Police, it's really more about the chemistry between those three guys and that was intimidating to feel like I was never going to capture the right energy.
Since Hatfield played all of the instruments for the majority of the album's tracks, she had a firsthand experience of the interworking of what made The Police's instrumental interplay so unique. Her approach was to sometimes stay true to the eclectic vibrancy of the individual performances and to sometimes completely strip them down to just their essential components.
Other times, as with the case of her punched up, punked out take on the lounge jazz B-side "Murder By Numbers," she reinvented the song completely. It all depended on what the song seemed to be calling for and what performance style rang the truest to her musicianship.
Juliana Hatfield: Sting's basslines are a lot of fun to play. Sometimes they can be very simple, like "Hungry For You," and sometimes they can sound really simple, like "Canary In A Coalmine," but the groove is really tricky to nail. I tried to do that one like a million times but I eventually gave up and asked Ed Valauskas to do it because he's more of a pro bass player than I am. I really love that bassline but it was just too much for me.
Also, some of Andy's guitar parts were challenging because I was playing way out of my comfort zone. Playing the reggae upbeats on "Canary In A Coalmine" or "Rehumanize Yourself"—the rhythm guitar is playing on a syncopated upbeat and that doesn't come naturally to me. Sonically, I also ended up using a cool effect on my guitar that came from a Roland Jazz Chorus amplifier because I was trying to get that signature Andy Summers chorus effect. I'm really into that effect now and I never used to be.
As recognizable as Sting's bass and Summers' guitar work can be, it was Copeland's powerfully distinctive drumming style that imprinted most fully on The Police's overall sound. Dynamic mixed-metered grooves, jazz-infused snare and hi-hat work, punk-fueled fury and syncopated polyrhythms are just a few of the hallmarks of Copeland's wide-ranging skillset that have made him one of the most memorable drummers of the modern rock era—a fact not lost on Hatfield when she was deciding how to approach the drums for each track.
Juliana Hatfield: Starting the whole album off with a drum machine on "Can't Stand Losing You" was my way of saying, "Don't worry. I'm not going to step on your heroes' toes or try to compete with their legacies." It was always weighing on my mind; "How do I interpret Stewart Copeland's beloved, iconoclastic drumming?"
I was worried about pissing off his fans. I knew I was going to have to really strip the drums down and not try to do anything even approaching his style. If you try to mimic him, you'll fail every time.
Along with assessing the notable musical elements of potential songs, she also let the lyrics and subject matter drive the decision for some inclusions. Whether it was the real world, day-to-day themes of systematic oppression and abuses of power or the way that the band dealt with existentialism and romanticism, the longtime alt-rocker picked a few of the songs based on their intense relevancy—both to the current sociopolitical atmosphere and to her individual life.
Juliana Hatfield: I was looking for songs that seemed really relevant and ones that felt current, like "Landlord" and "Murder By Numbers." Those songs spoke to my anger and sense of frustration about how the people with the power and money are totally f*ing everybody over. There are songs about the evils of the ruling elite on here that make me feel murderous and like I just want to punch someone in the face, so I tried to convey that musically.
Also, some of the songs I ended up not doing—"So Lonely' for example—were because I didn't feel like there was enough substance there. "Hole In My Life" is also about being lonely but its way more existential. It's not about missing a specific person, it's about an existential angst. I can still relate to that. The love songs, at this point in my life, I can't relate to them at all. I just don't have those inclinations anymore. I pushed all of those love songs to the side because they weren't speaking to me at this stage in my life.
For the drum and bass duties that she didn't handle herself, she called on Chris Anzalone (Roomful of Blues) and Ed Valauskas (The Gravel Pit) to help her wrangle the right grooves for her reinterpretations. Some of the songs even went through multiple iterations before she achieved exactly what she was looking to accomplish with this musical love letter to her longtime inspirations.
Luckily, after all of the instrumental elements were sorted out, Hatfield was able to focus on the fun of recording the vocal parts that she had been committing to heart-memory since her youth. She even got to whip out some of her high school French for "Hungry For You (J'aurais Toujours Faim De Toi)."
Juliana Hatfield: When I look back at the whole project, it was really fun. However, when I try to analyze the individual tracks, I realize that it was all pretty tricky. A couple of the songs I had to start over after I already had the basic tracks recorded. For "Can't Stand Losing You" and "Next to You," I already had the live drums, bass and guitar recorded and I had to scrap it all and start over with just a drum machine and my own drumming.
I redid all the bass for those as well because something just wasn't working with the original tracks. It was like a puzzle trying to get everything to fit together. Singing them was second nature though. That was the fun part. I have such an affinity for those melodies and know them all by heart. Most of them were even in the range I like singing in.
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The lady who works in the post office recently read an article about me in which I talked about my new all-Police covers album and also about wanting to cover an as-yet-undetermined American band for my next/future project (since I had done an Australian [Olivia Newton-John] and now an English band). So the postwoman and her husband made a list for me of bands that they think I should consider doing next... and here is the (awesome) list!
With an album concept like Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police, there are immediate "who will be next" questions that naturally follow. While there are always interesting contenders that easily bubble to the surface of conversations with Hatfield, flipping the question inside out—"What band would you like to record a cover album of Juliana Hatfield songs?"—prompted a wonderfully reflective pause and gleefully wishful response.
Juliana Hatfield: I think it would be R.E.M., yeah definitely them. I would want them to do it. In fact, I dare them to do it. They wouldn't, of course, but that would be an absolute dream come true. I would love to hear that in my lifetime.
Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police is currently available on CD, cassette and multiple vinyl variants from American Laundromat Records.
Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More
The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'
In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.
"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.
Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.
"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."
Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American.
"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors
Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it
Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.
McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award.
The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.
"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."
With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.
Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category
The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.
Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville
Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.
Championships – Meek Mill
In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.
i am > i was – 21 Savage
Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.
IGOR – Tyler, The Creator
The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.
The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae
Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.
Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour
El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances
Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.
El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.
"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.
Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork.
Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist.
Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.