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11/21/2008 4:01 PM ET
Singer paints colors of Red Sox Nation
Juliana Hatfield opens her art to baseball
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The jangly, confessional alt-pop that Juliana Hatfield has become known for over the past two decades tends to measure lost loves and missed chances, not strikeouts and stolen bases.

But Hatfield, a native Bostonian who grew up going to games at Fenway with her dad, has a place in her heart and her art for baseball-particularly, for the Red Sox.

"I don't really think A-Rod is the devil," she said recently, speaking from her home in Boston. She was half-apologizing for the title of one of the many baseball paintings she's been working on recently. "It's just so funny how people hate the Yankees in my town."

The dark humor and biting tone Hatfield applied to the painting isn't unlike the spirit of her lyrics, which have never shied away from raw emotional truths.

Hatfield first found the spotlight during the ultimate alternative rock era of the '90s. After garnering early attention with her first trio, Blake Babies, she launched a successful solo career, becoming one of the decade's quintessential female rock singers.

In August, Hatfield, 41, released her eighth solo album, How to Walk Away. It's a brutally honest collection of intense lyrics, buoyed by pretty melodies and memorable hooks. The new disc features Richard Butler, of the Psychedelic Furs, Nada Surf's Matthew Caws and other guests, as well as a sound that's a bit different from what Hatfield's fans may expect.

"[Producer] Andy [Chase] had me do a lot of pre-production," Hatfield said. "He had me sing songs on acoustic, then listened to me do them in different keys and tempos and through that process, he came to conclusion that lot of songs sounded best in lower keys. I realized I do have tendency to write high in my range, which makes voice sound strained, so I was glad he did that."

That change comes along with another first for the guitarist and singer-songwriter. She recently completed writing her first book, "When I Grow Up: A Memoir," (Wiley) which came out in September. The engaging prose and original approach to the issue of time has garnered critical praise, and Hatfield says she's already considering a second book.

In the meantime, she uses her downtime to indulge in other artistic pursuits, like painting ball players.

"I find these photos in sports section," she said. "Poignant scenes on the field. There was this one striking photo of A-Rod walking off the field. He has his head down, he's in mid-stride and there's this shadow of him. It was a really weird, creepy dark shadow."

Being a Red Sox fan, it was hard to resist painting her own version of the player Bostonians love to hate. Of course, she paints Red Sox players, too.

"I did Kevin Youkilis diving for a base. It's a front view of him diving to make a slide into a base. Another of David Wells lying on the ground, clutching his knee...They're works in progress."

Her interest in the game started when she was a kid, but back in the '70s, she admits she was swept up more by the excitement of being at Fenway Park than by the nuances of a game she didn't completely understand.

All that changed after she became immersed in the Boston music scene many years later.

Eddy Arnold
Courtesy Juliana Hatfield

"In Boston, there's this whole contingent of rock people who know baseball," Juliana explained. She began playing with some of them, and was eventually invited to perform at an annual benefit called Hot Stove Cool Music, which paired local bands with local athletes in a show to benefit charities in the area.

In 2005, Hatfield performed at the event. Bronson Arroyo and Lenny DiNardo also participated that year, and ended up getting to know and like her music.

"Then I was on tour in Atlanta, and the Sox were on a road trip and the pitchers Lenny DiNardo and Bronson Arroyo came to a gig," she said. "I still didn't really know who they were. I was still learning about players. But I remember they were really tall and strong looking..."

Once she identified them, she became close friends with DiNardo, and began to really get into baseball.

"I started to study the game and went to games with Ed. When I had questions I would ask him. It was really fun and eye-opening, there are all these intricacies to learn."

One of those intricacies involves the parallel she saw between pitching and performing.

"When a player is playing his best and a musician is playing his best, they're both in this zone where you kind of stop thinking consciously and all your training, and your instincts come into play and your body just does what it's trained to do," she explained. "When pitchers first walk out to mound, it reminds me of me walking onstage and I wonder how nervous are they, when they have to perform."

So she asked DiNardo what was on his mind when he approached the mound.

"He said, 'I just get really angry.'

"I thought that was so interesting. That's a way to focus on getting the job done. I remembered there were gigs where I was really pissed before the gig for whatever reason and I remember those as being great gigs," she said.

"It's a good energy to work through onstage or on the mound. Putting that into music or baseball is probably a productive way to get it out of your system."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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