Sarah McLachlan Stays Grounded

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Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan is one of the most celebrated entertainers in the business today. With more than 40 million albums sold worldwide, the Nova Scotia native is an eight-time Juno Award winner and three-time Grammy Award winner.

McLachlan is in the midst of a Cross-Canada tour. Her performance at the Moncton Coliseum on Tuesday evening is the first of three dates in Atlantic Canada. The tour is in support of Shine On, her first studio record in four years that was released in early May.

McLachlan says that in spite of the bright cover art and seemingly optimistic album title, Shine On was at least partially inspired by her father’s passing in 2010.

“I think a lot of amazing things came from witnessing the grace which my father maintained and that he in turn passed onto me,” McLachlan says. “His life in general taught me so many lessons and wonderful things. There is a sadness attached that to reverence but there is also the beauty of all things he gave me.

“I’m the one to try to look at the bright side of things. This new record has a lot of joy and hope. It is a complete juxtaposition to my last album [2010’s Laws Of Illusion] with respect to where I am today.”

Not only did McLachlan lose her father in the last four years, she also split her with long-time manager and found herself divorced from her husband with whom she has two daughters. One might have forgiven McLachlan if she had chosen to wallow in self-pity throughout Shine On as well.

“There were a lot of big changes happening all at once but by the end of Shine On, I really feel strong and whole again. Every record is ultimately a moment in time or an emotional postcard of sorts that reflect where I am at the time. I don’t feel any remorse or embarrassment when I look back on my records because I know that I have been true to myself and that I am representing myself honestly.”

In spite of the significant changes that McLachlan has endured over the course of the last four to five years, there have also been a number of constants. One of the arguably most important constant has been her continued collaboration with Canadian songwriter and producer Pierre Marchand.

Since 1991’s Solace, McLachlan and Marchand have forged a professional song writing relationship built on mutual respect and trust. Asked why she believes their friendship has endured the last 23 years, McLachlan boils it down to a number of relatively simple reasons:

“Pierre really pushes me as a songwriter and as a performer,” McLachlan shares. “Beside the fact that we are great friends, we also connect on a lot of different levels when it comes to song writing which tends to be a typically isolating and intimate thing to do. When you are writing songs with someone else, you are opening yourself up to a certain degree of trust and caring, both of which we established long ago.”

One of McLachlan’s proudest achievements to date is her Vancouver-based Sarah McLachlan School of Music. This is no vanity project for the vocalist, however.

Founded in 2002, the school is a non-profit organization that provides free after-school music education for at-risk and underserved students that may not have access to music programs otherwise. The school is based upon a model of group and private lessons, allowing them to match the diverse musical styles their instructors are called upon to teach.

“The school is definitely one of my proudest achievements. Having the opportunity to give musical education and studies to students who might not be given the chance is so very rewarding. If you take a holistic view of a child, they need different elements in their lives. Music provides a connection to the world all around us. It helps foster empathy and understanding but also creativity. I think these are some of the cornerstones that help make individuals into well-rounded adults.”

Although some might argue that McLachlan’s modesty in light of her international success is precisely what makes her a Canadian ambassador to the world that we can be proud of, she maintains that her children play perhaps the greatest role in keeping her grounded.

An amusing recent experience with her oldest child served as a reminder that despite having sold millions of records sold around the world, she too has to deal with being “uncool” in her daughter’s eyes.

“A friend of mine had sent me a pair of high top Converse platform shoes which I was really excited about receiving. I wore them to school to pick up my daughter and when she saw them, she looked at me rather disapprovingly and said ‘You’re way too old to be wearing those. Those are rock star shoes,’” she laughs, recalling the memory.

“My kids could care less about what I do. They keep me grounded every day.”

What: Sarah McLachlan
When: Tuesday, Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Moncton Coliseum, 377 Killam Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $50 plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Moncton Coliseum Box Office, by phone at (506) 857-4100 and online at tickets.moncton.ca.