Sarah McLachlan Biography
( 1968 – )
Singer, songwriter, musician, and social activist.
Born on January 28, 1968, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Known
for such folk-rock
ballads as "I Will Remember You" and "Building a Mystery," Sarah
McLachlan has been a popular fixture on the music scene for decades.
She is also one of the organizers behind the successful musical tour
known as Lilith Fair.
daughter of a marine biologist, McLachlan chose music over science
at an early age. She began singing around the age of 4, and spent
her youth immersed in the study of voice, guitar, and piano.
For a time, McLachlan played in a new wave band called October
Game. She was only 17 years old when the group was offered a
recording contract with Nettwork Records. This deal fell through,
but McLachlan signed with Nettwork two years later as a solo
1988, McLachlan released her first album, Touch, in her native
Canada. She scored a hit with the song "Vox," an up-tempo
yet mystical-sounding single that examined the end of a relationship.
McLachlan then had a career breakthrough in the United States
in 1994 with the album Fumbling Toward Ecstasy, which made it
onto the contemporary charts. One of the album's most popular
and haunting tracks, "Possession," was reportedly inspired
by the singer's experience of being stalked by a fan. With her
next release, 1997's Surfacing, McLachlan enjoyed even greater
success. It sold more than 7 million copies, buoyed by the popularity
of such songs as "Building a Mystery" and "Adia."
same year, McLachlan co-founded Lilith Fair, a summer concert
series that showcased the talents of female artists and promoted
awareness about women's issues. The tour was a big success. Over
three summers, Lilith Fair was attended by 2 million people and
raised more than $7 million for charity. McLachlan revived the
tour in 2010.
1998, McLachlan won two Grammy Awards—for the instrumental "Last
Dance" and the other for "Building a Mystery." She
took home another Grammy Award the following year for the touching
ballad "I Will Remember You," which was featured on
the soundtrack on The Brothers McMullen.
she continued to tour and to release live recordings and compilations,
McLachlan did not put out another studio album until 2003, after
she and husband Ashwin Sood welcomed their daughter, India. Her
next album, Afterglow, reflected a greater maturity for McLachlan
as an artist.
someone who usually explored personal emotions, McLachlan tackled
larger themes on the album with the song "World on Fire." She
chose not to use a slick production style for the song's accompanying
music video. Instead, the video contrasted the costs of making
a video to the costs associated with food and medical supplies
in poorer nations. The director, Sophie Muller, and the rest
of the crew donated their fees from the project—roughly
$150,000—to 11 charities.
explored the holidays with Wintersong in 2006, covering seasonal hits
and traditional standards. The timing of her next studio album, 2010's
Laws of Illusion, coincided with a difficult period in her life. The
news of her impending divorce from her husband broke just as the album
was set to be released. By this time, the couple had two daughters
together. Their youngest, Taja, was born in 2007.
personal struggles served as inspiration for her latest work,
which featured songs about "the strength of hard-earned
independence; the trials of love won, lost, and found anew;
and the infinite joys of living," according to her website.
To support the album, McLachlan toured extensively, including
a summer revival of Lilith Fair in 2010.
her lengthy career, McLachlan has sold more than 40 million records
worldwide. And if her past triumphs are any indication, she will
continue to enjoy great success as a singer-songwriter.
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June 15, 2010, the Grammy Award–winning singer and songwriter
Sarah McLachlan will release of Laws of Illusion. This is Sarah’s
first studio album of new material in seven years, since the double–platinum
Afterglow in 2003, and its twelve songs rank with the most compelling
work ever cre¬ated by this gifted artist.
the years between these two releases, Sarah has married, separated,
raising two young daughters. These crucial life experiences
have en¬riched her artistry and infused her new songs with the
full range and complexity of adult emotions. In listening to Laws
of Illusion, we can hear the strength of hard–earned independence;
the trials of love won, lost, and found anew; and the infinite joys
Sarah’s voice is so intimately familiar to so many
of us, the experience of Laws of Illusion is a singular and special
one. It’s like meeting an old friend again after long separation – and
discovering that the passage of time and the accumulation of experience
have only deepened rather than diminished that friendship.
Sarah herself, this period was a time of profound change and renewed
discovery. “I think when you go into a dark place for
a while and you come out of it, the lightness you feel is…euphoric,” she
told an Advocate.com interviewer in May 2010.
“My marriage collapsed a couple of years ago, and it was a
long, dark road…Finally coming through that knowing that life
is going to be okay, life will go on, and that there’s actually
a possibility of love happening again is…just deliriously heady
Laws of Illusion, Sarah looks at love “from both sides
now.” The opening track, “Awakenings,” moves on
a subdued electronic pulse underpinning ethereal guitar lines and – as
the singer soars into her upper register – demonstrates her
ability to craft an unforgettable “hook” without hitting
the listener over the head with it.
“Loving You Is Easy,” the first single from the album,
is an upbeat, almost jaunty piano–based song, with a musical
atmosphere perfectly matched to lyrics that describe the heady thrill
of new love: “I’m alive and I’m on fire/Shot like
a starburst into the sky…”
many listeners, “Forgiveness” will be the centerpiece
of Laws of Illusion. There is a wonderful subtlety in the arrangement,
which builds inexorably from unaccompanied vocal–and–piano
showcase to the layers of near–ambient guitar parts and finally
a powerful coda completed by bass and drums. “Forgiveness,” says
Sarah, “is about the loss of a relationship and drawing a line
in the sand, saying: This is not good for me and I can’t do
Through the years, we had it all
The midnight whispers, the midday calls
This house of cards, it had to fall
You ask for forgiveness but you’re asking too much
Cos I’ve sheltered my heart in a place you can’t touch...
of Illusion is produced by Sarah’s long-time creative
collaborator Pierre Marchand, and together they co–wrote a
number of the compositions. The sole outside number, “Bring
On The Wonder,” was written by English singer/songwriter Susan
Enan. (In 2008, Sarah was featured on Susan’s recording of
this song for the television soundtrack Bones.)
“Pierre and I have worked together for over twenty years,” says
Sarah with a trace of awe. “I co-wrote a lot with him on this
record, more so than in the past.”
“It’s an intimate thing to write [songs] with somebody,
to reveal oneself like that. But I feel in¬credibly comfortable
with him – there are no judgments. Pierre really contributed
a lot to the lyrics of some of these songs. He could come up with
just the right choice of words – simple but meaningful – to
fit the story we were trying to tell.”
and Pierre worked quickly and efficiently at their respective home
in Vancouver and Montreal, cutting all the basic tracks
for six songs in just five days. “We were able to record ‘live
on the floor,’ with myself and the musicians all right there
in the room,” Sarah explains. “It was quick and exciting,
and really a first for me to work that way.”
addition to some familiar names from past McLachlan sessions, the
cast for Laws of Illusion includes the much–traveled
drummer Matt Chamberlain, who’s played with everyone from Pearl
Jam to John Mayer; and guitarist Colin Cripps, best known for his
work with Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards. Laws of Illusion
will be available both as a standard 12–track compact disc
and in a deluxe version including a five–song bonus DVD of
live in-studio performances.
with the release of Laws of Illusion comes another landmark event
Sarah McLachlan’s career: her return to Lilith Fair,
the all–female concert tour she founded in 1997 and where once
again she’ll headline the main stage.
“Being a part of Lilith Fair was inspiring on so many levels,” says
Sarah. “Besides discovering new music everyday and sharing
the stage with an incredible array of talented women, it was wonderful
to see established and new artists alike have the opportunity to
play in front of much larger or more diverse audiences than usual.”
1997 and 1999, Lilith Fair drew over two million fans and raised
than $7 million for charitable causes. Now, after an
eleven–year hiatus, Lilith Fair is back. The 2010 edition commences
June 27 in Calgary, Alberta with dates running through August 16
in Dallas, Texas. Beth Orton, Brandi Carlile, Carly Simon, Cat Power,
the Go-Gos, Loretta Lynn, Jill Scott, and Mary J. Blige are just
some of the artists who will join Sarah McLachlan for Lilith 2010.
“This summer,” Sarah promises, “is
gonna be full on and fun.”
The Story So Far
her signing with Arista Records nearly two decades ago, every one
McLachlan’s studio and live albums has been certified
gold, platinum, or multi-platinum by the RIAA. Touch (1988) and Solace
(1991) were both gold sellers. Her 1994 breakthrough, the 3X-platinum
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, was followed by the digitally enhanced
multimedia version of The Freedom Sessions (1995, gold).
“I remember being $400,000 in debt and thinking, halfway through
that record (laughs), ‘Okay, the record company is going to
send me home because I’m just costing them so much money.’
“But I toured for 22 months on Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, going
back over and over to all these cities. And every time it would be,
y’know, 100 people, then 300 people, then 600 people. It was
just a gentle growing thing—it didn’t happen overnight,
and I’m so grateful that it wasn’t this big overnight
Sarah’s landmark fifth album, the 10X-platinum Surfacing (1997),
contained two Grammy Award-winning tracks: “Building a Mystery” won
for Best Female Pop Vocal and “Last Dance” was voted
Best Pop Instrumental. In 1998, the soundtrack of the Wim Wenders
film City of Angels reached Number One on the Billboard chart. Featuring
the Sarah McLachlan track “Angel,” the City of Angels
soundtrack achieved 4X platinum sales status.
1999 Lilith Fair tour gave rise to Sarah’s 4X-platinum
album Mirrorball and its platinum long-form video counterpart. “I
Will Remember You,” a track from Mirrorball, earned Sarah her
third career Grammy Award, for Best Female Pop Vocal (1999).
“Up until that point, I had managed to live my career rather
quietly. I wasn’t in the tabloids—I still am not for
the most part, thankfully. It was Lilith Fair that catapulted me
into a different stratosphere as far as the media frenzy and public
“And really, at the time, it seemed like ‘Okay, this
feels right, I can manage this now’—whereas if that had
happened six or seven years previous, I don’t think I would
have been anywhere near ready. But because I was able to live my
career quietly and have small successes and get used to things in
that way, I think I was kind of ready for it.”
released in 2003, reached 2X-platinum status and received two Grammy
nomina¬tions: Best Pop Vocal Album and (for
the opening track “Fallen”) Best Female Pop Vocal.
September 2004, Sarah McLachlan released the socially charged video "World On Fire," directed by Sophie Muller. The video
made what Jon Pareles, writing in the New York Times, called “a
modestly brilliant gesture: it stacks up budget items for a typical
clip against what the same $150,000 budget would buy as relief efforts—cattle,
bicycles, housing, education, medicine…The contrast between
show-business splurges and practical aid is startling.”
“World On Fire,” a Grammy nominee for Best Short Form
Music Video, cost only $15 to make—the price of a Sony mini
DV tape. The remainder of the $150,000 video budget was distributed
among eleven charitable organizations around the world including
CARE, Engineers Without Borders, Help The Aged, Warchild, and Heifer
McLachlan’s Afterglow tour opened March 12, 2005 in
Wellington, New Zealand and continued with dates throughout Australia,
Canada, and the US—including a May 24 concert at New York’s
Madison Square Garden The tour concluded June 12, 2005 with a gala
perform¬ance in Sarah’s hometown of Vancouver, BC.
October 2006, Sarah released Wintersong, her first album of holiday-themed
Among the highlights of this twelve-song set: “Happy
Xmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon & Yoko Ono, “Song
For A Winter's Night” by Gordon Lightfoot, “River” by
Joni Mitchell, and the all-time seasonal favorites “I'll Be
Home For Christmas” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little
Christmas.” Produced, engineered, and mixed by Pierre Marchand,
the platinum-selling Wintersong reached No. 7 on the Billboard chart.
The disc was nominated for both a Grammy Award (for Best Tradi¬tional
Pop Vocal Album) and a Juno Award (for Pop Album of the Year).
Sarah’s many cover songs and collaborations formed the repertoire
for Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff Volume 2, released April 29,
2008. The album includes her soulful interpretations of the pop classic “Unchained
Melody” and Lennon/McCartney’s “Blackbird” (from
the I Am Sam soundtrack), as well as powerful live renditions of
her own compositions “Angel” and “Pills.”
October 7, 2008, the artist celebrated the 20th anniversary of
record¬ing career with the release of Closer:
The Best Of Sarah McLachlan. For her first career anthology, Closer
Sarah personally selected thirteen classic tracks from her award-winning
catalog and also included two newly recorded and previ¬ously
unreleased songs, “You Want Me” and “Don't Give
Up.” Closer entered the Billboard chart at No. 11, Sarah’s
fifth album to reach the Billboard Top 15.
“I never have set goals, in the sense that I expected to be
successful or get to a certain place. My idea of success has always
been, does it feel right? Does it feel good to me? Do I enjoy doing
it? And somehow miraculously, I’ve been able to follow that
path and have a great success at it.
“So this whole career, the life that I have, the opportunities
that I’ve been given—it all comes as unexpected. Every
day I pinch myself, you know? I can’t believe all this has
happened to me.”
Sarah McLachlan married Ashwin Sood in 1997; the couple separated
eleven years later. They have two daughters, India Ann (born April
6, 2002) and Taja (born June 22, 2008).
McLachlan has sold over 40 million recordings worldwide since her
recording career began in 1988 with her debut album Touch.
Five of her albums have reached the Billboard Top 15.
has received a career total of 21 Juno Award nominations. She is
an eight-time Juno Award winner (Canada) and a three-time
Grammy Award winner:
Award 1999 "I Will Remember You" – Best Female
Pop Vocal Performance
Grammy Award 1998 "Last Dance" – Best Pop Instrumental
Grammy Award 1998 "Building a Mystery" – Best Female
Pop Vocal Performance
• The touring festival called Lilith Fair, founded by Sarah
McLachlan, brought together two mil¬lion people over its three–year
history (1997-1999) and raised more than $7 million for charities.
Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, Nelly Furtado, Queen Latifah, Emmylou
Harris, and Christina Aguilera were among the many artists who participated
in Lilith Fair.
has been profiled in cover stories for Rolling Stone, Time and
1998, Sarah McLachlan received the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Visionary
for advancing the careers of women in music. New
York Governor George Pataki presented Sarah with the award on the
150th anniversary of the first women's rights convention in Seneca
2003, the singer founded the Sarah McLachlan Music Outreach Program
the purpose of providing free music education classes
to inner city youths whose school music programs have been reduced
or abolished by budget cuts.