Sarah McLachlan celebrates new beginnings with ‘Shine On’
BY SELENA FRAGASSi For Sun-Times Media July 2, 2014 1:44PM
Sarah McLachlan | PHOTO BY KHAREN HILL
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Updated: July 4, 2014 2:14AM
‘I started to write breakup songs again, but this time it felt boring to me.” Sarah McLachlan is throwing us all for a loop on her latest album.
Since the beginning, the Canadian singer-songwriter behind such tearjerkers as “Angel” and “I Will Remember You” has built a 25-year career on pulling at listener’s heartstrings with her vulnerable ballads and that ethereal voice (not to mention the inescapable ASPCA commercials). Yet her own emotional struggles during the past four years started to shake the Canadian singer-songwriter’s foundation.
Within a matter of months in 2010 she lost her father, ended her marriage, broke up with her long-time manager and saw the demise of the attempted Lilith Fair revival (an event she famously created in 1996 that would go on to become the most successful all-female festival in history). But it wasn’t enough to sit there and write about it helplessly. No, if McLachlan has a message for anyone listening to her latest album, it’s that there comes a time to just pick up the pieces and “Shine On.”
“For the first time I feel really whole and free,” she admits, saying her age (now 46) has also caused her to re-evaluate everything. “It’s a time when you start to assess your life and ask, ‘Is this as good as it gets and am I happy or am I just being complacent?’”
It was a question that didn’t escape her when it came time to start the recording process of her latest release, for the first time recruiting lauded producer Bob Rock (Metallica, The Cult, Motley Crue) to hone in on an amplified perspective we rarely hear from McLachlan.
“I really wanted to try and push the rock songs out on this album, and I knew he’d be the guy to get me to go back to electric [guitar] again.” Guitar, after all, was McLachlan’s first instrument.
“When I was four, I wanted to be Joan Baez,” she says, laughing, also recalling her high school rock band. So that solo on “Turn the Lights Down Low” doesn’t feel so out of place and the strutting rhythms of “Flesh and Blood” earnestly go back to the beginning, recalling the bravado of her early single “Possession” that dominated radio (and mix tapes) in the early ’90s.
Interestingly, “Shine On” was released in the same two weeks as new material from her old cohorts Tori Amos and Natalie Merchant, not that it was planned or anything. Rather, “Shine On,” in some ways, pays tribute to a new generation of girls she hopes to inspire or have inspired her, writing the single “In Her Shoes” for student activist Malala Yousafzai, and “Beautiful Girl” for her two young daughters and girls like them living in the age of image overload often brought on by the overt pop stars who now climb the charts.
“I don’t let [my daughters] watch music videos,” McLachlan admits, although she does make exceptions for Top 40 radio. “But there are the times mom gets to choose and they get a taste of Joni Mitchell and Peter Gabriel and Tom Waits. … It’s my job to give them a good musical education.”
It’s something the singer feels so strong about, she has extended the opportunity to more than 700 Vancouver kids enrolled in the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, which she has operated past 13 years (proceeds from VIP ticket sales on her current tour will go towards funding programming).
“If I’ve learned anything in the past four years it’s to appreciate what you have and pass it down before it’s too late.”