In the ’90s, one of the biggest names in popular music was Sarah McLachlan. Her albums “Fumbling Toward Ecstasy” and “Surfacing” blew up the charts. She produced several radio hits and toured extensively.
McLachlan, 46, is known for turning pop music on its head lyrically and musically and, as a result, has amassed loyal fans. On May 6, she released a new album, “Shine On,” her first in three years.
McLachlan has been through the changing paces of the music industry, including the advent of streaming music, meaning the staggering album sales she enjoyed in the ’90s are difficult to replicate today. However, her passion to make music that matters has not just survived but flourished.
I spoke with the artist about music, life and her commitment to her craft.
I’m very proud of it and I’m proud that I finished under my deadline, which nearly killed me, as deadlines usually do. I love it. I think it’s a really strong record.
It’s had to change because I have kids now. It used to be to get myself to focus for any period of time, I would have to sequester myself away in a cabin in the woods and do nothing but write. And obviously I can’t afford that luxury of that time anymore, so that’s part and parcel of why it took four years to write this record and why it typically takes that long to write music anymore for me. Every day is punctuated by constant distraction.
The pressure remains the same, that internal drive to create something better than you’ve created before in the past.
It’s a little bit of both. In my darkest hour, I’m always trying to find the silver lining, the recognition of what has taken place, whether it’s emotional or things that have happened. I don’t tend to write about them right away. I need some space and some objectivity first. So certainly in the scrum I think, “Oh yeah, this experience, if I survive this, it’s gonna make a great song.” It’s that recognition that we all have to rub up against hard things. And when times are tough and you’re struggling and you come out on the other side, that’s when you discover what you’re made of and that’s when the most growth happens.
As far as an artist profiting from my art, the fact that I put out a record and hope to sell it to make my income, that has changed dramatically. And I think the biggest change is not only based on the Internet – well I guess it is – but it’s the fact that there’s no sense of urgency anymore to run out and buy a record because you can just stream it and listen to it that way.
I think it’s 1 cent per 100 plays or something like that. I could get pissed off, but it’s pointless to be angry about it, because it is here and you have to figure out a way to work with it. For me, I’m lucky because I’ve always had a good live show and a good audience that comes to see me, and that’s how I’ve made most of my money anyway. Albums these days are an expensive promotional tool to sell the tour. I hate saying it that way because it’s much more than that to me.
I haven’t experienced that for a while. There’s a feeling of exhilaration, but also a calmness like, “I’ve got this. I know this.” This is where I shine. And those people out there are excited about this, I’m excited about this. It’s the initial connection of like, “OK. This is gonna be fun. This is gonna feel good. I’m gonna feel connected.” Because really, for me, playing live is the ultimate, foremost connectedness as an artist, as a musician.
It’s one of the best drugs in the world. It really is. You get to feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself and I’ve always been drawn to those kinds of things. I don’t go to church, I don’t have that kind of experience, but I can understand how that can be powerful, and I’ve experienced it at rock concerts, too. It’s spiritual. It’s spreading joy. It’s spreading love. It’s spreading connectedness.
It’s gonna be heavily weighted in the new record, but I’m hopefully playing all the songs that people have come to know and love. Obviously, I wanna keep my fans happy. They’re coming to see me. They’re coming to hear the songs that they wanna hear, so it’s gonna be close to 30 songs. It’s two sets, and I’m also working on this living room concept where basically I’m bringing my living room on stage and I’m breaking the fourth wall, I’m inviting people from the audience up on stage to experience what it’s like on stage.
WHERE: Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, 1 Railroad St., Bangor
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
HOW MUCH: $22.75 to $68.75