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 artist.
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
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,
and is 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.
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 stuff.”
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.
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 it anymore.”
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
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
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.”
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
studios 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
supporting 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
with the release of Laws of Illusion comes another landmark event
in 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.
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 more
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.
summer,” Sarah promises, “is gonna be full on and fun.”
Story So Far
her signing with Arista Records nearly two decades ago, every one
of Sarah 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).
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.’
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 success.”
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).
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 knowledge.
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
Award 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.”
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 International.
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
songs. 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).
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 her
multi-platinum 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.
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.
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.”
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).
Sarah 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.
Sarah 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 1999 "I Will Remember You" – Best Female Pop
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.
Sarah has been profiled in cover stories for Rolling Stone, Time and
In 1998, Sarah McLachlan received the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Visionary
Award 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 Falls, NY.
In 2003, the singer founded the Sarah McLachlan Music Outreach Program
for the purpose of providing free music education classes to inner
city youths whose school music programs have been reduced or abolished
by budget cuts.