By the early nineties, singer-songwriter and former Blake Babies member Juliana Hatfield’s solo career was taking off: She was on the cover of Spin and Sassy. Ben Stiller directed the video for her song "Spin the Bottle" from the Reality Bites film soundtrack. Then, after canceling a European tour to treat severe depression and failing to produce another "hit," she spent a decade releasing well reviewed albums on indie labels and performing in ever-smaller clubs. A few years ago, she found herself reading the New Yorker on a filthy couch in the tiny dressing room of a punk club and asked, "Why am I still doing this?" By turns wryly funny and woundingly sincere, When I Grow Up takes you behind the scenes of rock life as Hatfield recounts her best and worst days, the origins of her songs, the source of her woes, and her quest to find a new purpose in life.
From her humble beginnings as a Berklee College of Music piano student to her brief critical success in the 1990s alternative rock explosion to her latest side project, Some Girls, first-time author Hatfield chronicles more than three storied decades in professional music. Alternating between a present-day cross-country tour and recollections from earlier years, the result is a mixed, overstuffed bag. Hatfield, raised, trained and tested (first as pop trio Blake Babies) in Boston, charmingly recollects her experience as a serious female musician with no desire to appear sexualized before her audience; readers will cringe alongside her as she awkwardly rejects a hotel room photo-shoot suggestion: "Why did they always want me to jump up and down on the bed? Were photographers constantly nudging Kurt Cobain to jump up and down on beds?" Hatfield makes a compelling witness to the alternative rock boom ushered in by Nirvana's success, and is both lucid and thorough explaining the bureaucratic minutiae of the music industry's new world order, dominated by the massive influence of star-maker Clear Channel. As a writer, Hatfield is humble and personable, if at times tedious; a clunky, symbolic prologue-about being unable to buy a pre-show shot of Patron with her club-issued drink tickets-is an early indicator of the book's need for further edit. Still, fans of Hatfield's bratty, bedeviled pop stylings should enjoy these glimpses into her life.