Skip to main content
Select Source:

McLachlan, Sarah

Sarah McLachlan

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

Sarah McLachlan knows where the best music comes from: "Sonically," she told Cover magazine's KK Kozik, "moving water is perhaps my all-time favorite sound." Water has both aural and thematic relevance for McLachlan. "Being around any kind of water is one of the most important things in my life," she commented. "I find it soothing and it's a very female thing, too." Indeed, McLachlan herself has a fluid quality; her voice is noted for its liquidity and her lyrics and production values for their tempest and storm.

McLachlan comes by her turbulent personality honestly. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, McLachlan led a relatively sequestered life while growing up. David Thigpen of Time reported that McLachlan was "a shy, awkward child who never fell in with the crowd." He described her as a teenager who "would kill time on long, frozen winter nights writing songs." Billboard's Timothy White provided a more complex portrayal of McLachlan's youthful existence. Her mother, Dorice, sacrificed her educational pursuits in order to support her husband, Jack, an American marine biologist, and then acquainted her little girl "with the isolation that regret places in the path of personal fulfillment." But according to White, the results were worth celebrating. "McLachlan was able to fuse her mother's depth of pathos and her father's detached analysis into a calm grasp of our culture's callous objectification of women," he concluded.

From the start of her career at age 19, McLachlan was compared to other female songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Sinead O'Connor, and Tori Amos, comparisons one might ascribe to what Elysa Gardner of Rolling Stone called a voice of "astonishing strength and clarity [that] may drift at any given time from a siren-like middle range to a ghostly soprano." Her songs tended toward lyrics which explored the relationships between women and men.

During her childhood McLachlan sought out the serenading voices and sentiments of folk-rock singers Joan Baez, Cat Stevens, and Simon and Garfunkel. She had 12 years of training on guitar, six on piano, and five years of voice lessons, all of which contributed to what White referred to as "the wit, literate grace, and unfussy intricacy of her material." As a teenager McLachlan worked at restaurant counters and as a dishwasher in Halifax.

A New Maturity

Critics generally agree that with McLachlan's third album, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (1994), she revealed new maturity as a singer, songwriter, and woman. Her first album, Touch (1988), suggested a waif-like quality to Gardner, while her second album, Solace (1991), revealed a sturdier woman, one less "ethereal."

McLachlan said of Solace, "There's a lot more of myself in my writing [there]—more the way I think, more the way I talk." Fumbling Towards Ecstasy revealed a woman with broader sensibility, and her self-awareness and melancholy have merged with a political consciousness.

McLachlan has referred to the relevance of her increased self-respect and gender appreciation. She told Billboard, "It took me six years to learn how not to edit myself, to remain open in my music so that I touched greater levels of darkness as well as some positive areas of escape."

While the bulk of critical response to McLachlan's music was admiring, some criticism contained a disparaging tone. Dave Jennings of Melody Maker was dismayed by the excess of "vulnerability" he found in Solace. He felt that while it was couched in nature imagery, it did not add up to "New Age consciousness, but really … just old-school singer-songwriter preciousness." Similarly, Spin's Joy Press found the lyrics of Fumbling "mature with a capital M, to the point of sophomoric pseudo-profundity." Sardonically, she concluded that McLachlan "obviously places herself in the category of the self-defined, strong, female songwriter," and that ultimately Fumbling provided only "an easy-listening portrait of a woman—a perfectly graceful, confident, and smart woman—but it's not the portrait of an artist."

Other critics, however, found in that album both an artist and a portrait of that artist. Thigpen attempted to remove the debate from the gender-biased charge of confessionalism: "Far from indulging in simple emotional bloodletting," he wrote, "McLachlan creates exquisitely poised songs that resist anger or pathos."

A trip to Southeast Asia in 1993, in which she represented her Canadian peer group, afforded McLachlan both disillusionment and wisdom. She admitted that she sang less about self-pity as a result of that mission, one that focused on AIDS, prostitution, and poverty, and one where she encountered thousands of men, women and children who were real victims of disease and poverty.

Though McLachlan did not address the Southeast Asian journey directly in her songs, its impact could be felt. Critics implied that her experiences there enriched her lyrics and music, even while she remained devoted to songs about interpersonal relationships. Thigpen identified McLachlan's audience as "the desperately troubled," to whom she offered the suggestion "that the answers to life's emotional earthquakes can come through perseverance and compassion." Terry McBride, the president of Nettwerk Records, remarked, "There's more soul in her singing on this album. [This] record finally makes you believe that she means what she says."

For the Record …

Born on January 28, 1968, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; daughter of Jack (a marine biologist) and Dorice McLachlan; married Ashwin Sood (a drummer), 1997; children: India (daughter).

Trained in classical guitar, piano, and voice; discovered by Nettwerk Records while performing with a New Wave band in Halifax; signed contract with Nettwerk at age 19, released debut album, Touch, 1988; contributed "Hold On" to No Alternative compilation, 1993; featured on American Public Radio's "E-Town," 1994; released Surfacing, 1997; released live album Mirrorball, 1999; released Afterglow, 2003; Afterglow Live, 2004; Mirrorball: The Complete Concert, 2004, and Wintersong, 2006.

Awards: Grammy Awards, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, for "Building a Mystery," and Best Pop Instrumental Performance, for "Last Dance," 1998; Elizabeth Cady Stanton Visionary Award from New York Gov. George E. Pataki, 1998; Juno Awards, Album of the Year, for Surfacing, and Female Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year, all for "Building a Mystery," 1998; Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), award for Most Performed Pop Songs, for "Adia" and "Sweet Surrender," 1998; Billboard Award, Adult Contemporary Track, for "Angel," 1999; Grammy Award, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, for "I Will Remember You," 1999; Grammy Award, Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, for "When She Loved Me," from Toy Story 2, 2000; Juno Award for International Achievement, 2000; Juno Awards, Songwriter of the Year and Pop Album of the Year, 2004.

Addresses: Record company—Arista Records, 6 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019. Website—Sarah McLachlan Official Website: http://www.sarahmclachlan.com.

Though still inspired to look outward, McLachlan explained that her strengths as a singer and songwriter were nurtured in solitude. With Rainer Maria Rilke's self-searching philosophies at the core, in 1994 McLachlan was focused on how to reach her artistic potential. With expressed gratitude toward her producer and sometime-collaborator, Pierre Marchand, and all the talking and thinking he required of her, she still remarked, "I find that to open up myself as much as I have to get at what I need, I need to be by myself." McLachlan conjured images of herself walking the moors of Nova Scotia, out in the country where "everything just seemed so huge and so much bigger than I'd ever known it to be before."

Fumbling lingered on the music charts for well over one year and attained multiplatinum sales. The album's hit single, "Possession," reached number 14. Likewise "Good Enough" reached number 16. McLachlan released an alternate version of Fumbling, called The Freedom Sessions, in 1995.

Lilita Fair Music Festival

In 1997 she released Surfacing, which made its debut at number two. The album scored two hit singles, two Grammys, four Juno (Canadian) Awards, and earned multiplatinum sales certification. McLachlan used the momentum from the success of Surfacing to inaugurate the first Lilith Fair music festival that toured in the summer of 1997 to honor the advances of women in music. Lilith Fair met with success, and earned a reprise in 1998 and again in 1999. Also in 1999, McLachlan released a live album, Mirrorball, which made its debut at number three, igniting the largest sales surge of her career. The album was recorded during McLachlan's tour in support of Surfacing in 1998.

In February of 1997 McLachlan announced that she had eloped with drummer Ashwin Sood in Negril, Jamaica. The couple set up residence in Canada in the Dunbar District of Vancouver, British Columbia. McLachlan won a Grammy Award for her 2000 song "When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2, and she was also featured among the all-star lineup of "Music Without Borders," which aired on Canadian television and radio stations on September 29, 2001, to benefit the victims of the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States.

McLachlan's ensuing release, Remixed, made its debut at the top of the Billboard Top Electronic Albums chart in 2001. That same year, after giving birth to a daughter, India, McLachlan turned to the peaceful retreat of a cabin in the woods. There, while caring for her new baby, she completed an all-new album. The recording, Afterglow, won Juno Awards for Songwriter of the Year and for Pop Album of the Year. One year later she released a live version of the album, recorded on tour following the release of the original disc.

In 2003, in collaboration with director Sophie Muller, McLachlan created a video from Afterglow's "World on Fire." The video compared the expense of making a music video with the cost of badly needed medical and food supplies for many poor nations, juxtaposing footage of the film crew with footage of third world hardship. To underline the video's message, Muller and her film crew donated funds from their work—$150,000—to 11 charities. "When Sophia Muller and I made ‘World on Fire,’" McLachlan told Media That Matters Film Festival, "our hope was to show how easy it can be to use your wealth to help make immeasurable improvements in peoples lives."

McLachlan embarked on a lengthy tour in 2004-05 through Canada, Britain, and the United States, her first since 1999. "At the center," Steven Mirkin wrote of one performance in Variety, "is McLachlan's dusty, discursive voice, which in the high end of her range can achieve the dewy vulnerability of Joni Mitchell." In 2004 McLachlan released Afterglow Live, a CD collection drawn from her 2004 tour and featuring songs from Surfacing and Afterglow. As a bonus to fans, the collection included a DVD with backstage footage and the politically-tinged video for "World on Fire." "It's a great set of music with some new tweaks to such favorites as ‘Possession’ and ‘Ice Cream,’ wrote Victor Smith in Star Pulse.

In 2006 McLachlan surprised fans by releasing two albums, Mirrorball: The Complete Concert and Wintersong. Mirrorball: The Complete Concert returned to previous material that had produced Mirrorball and issued the complete contents of the last date on her 1998 tour. "It's a strong set," wrote Marisa Brown of All Music Guide, "presenting the best of what chick-rock was in the late '90s." In the fall, McLachlan followed with her first-ever holiday album, Wintersong. "Recorded at home in a relaxed Canadian setting," wrote PR Newswire, "Wintersong combines traditional and standard Christmas tunes with several contemporary classics that are close to Sarah's heart."

Selected discography

Touch, Nettwerk, 1988.

Solace, Arista, 1991.

(Contributor) No Alternative, Arista, 1993.

Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Arista, 1994.

The Freedom Sessions (multimedia CD-ROM), Nettwerk, 1994; reissued, BMG/Arista, 1995.

Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff, Nettwerk, 1996.

Surfacing, BMG/Arista, 1997.

Mirrorball, BMG/Arista, 1999.

Remixed, Nettwerk, 2001; reissued, Arista, 2003.

Afterglow, Arista, 2003.

Afterglow Live, Arista, 2004.

Mirrorball: The Complete Concert, BMG/Arista, 2006.

Wintersong, BMG/Arista, 2006.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, January 8, 1994; March 19, 1994.

Cover, March 1994.

Melody Maker, June 13, 1992.

People, November 10, 2003, p. 56.

PR Newswire, December 6, 2006.

Rolling Stone, February 6, 1992; June 16, 1994.

Spin, March 1994.

Stereo Review, August 1989.

Time, March 21, 1994.

Variety, July 26, 2004.

Online

"Sarah McLachlan," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (September 26, 2001; July 20, 2007).

Sarah McLachlan Official Website, http://www.sarahmclachlan.com (September 26, 2001).

"Sarah McLachlan Reviews," Star Pulse,http://www.starpulse.com (July 20, 2007).

"Star! to Air ‘Music Without Borders,’" Star!, http://www.startv.com/news/index.asp?thisArticle=252 (September 26, 2001).

"World on Fire," Media That Matters Film Festival,http://www.mediathatmattersfest.org (July 20, 2007).

Additional information for this essay was obtained from Arista publicity materials, 1994.

—Diane Moroff and Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"McLachlan, Sarah." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"McLachlan, Sarah." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mclachlan-sarah-1

"McLachlan, Sarah." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mclachlan-sarah-1

McLachlan, Sarah

Sarah McLachlan

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Sarah McLachlan knows where the best music comes from: Sonically, she told Cover magazines KK Kozik, moving water is perhaps my all-time favorite sound. Water has both its aural and thematic relevance for McLachlan. Being around any kind of water is one of the most important things in my life, she averred. I find it soothing and its a very female thing, too. The ocean is like the womb and Im fascinated, drawn in. Indeed, McLachlan herself has a fluid quality; her voice is noted for its liquidity, and her lyrics and production values, for their tempest and storm.

McLachlan comes by her turbulent personality honestly. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, McLachlan led a relatively sequestered life while growing up. David Thigpen of Time reported that McLachlan was a shy, awkward child who never fell in with the crowd. He described her as a teenager who would kill time on long, frozen winter nights writing songs. Billboards Timothy White provided a more complex portrayal of McLachlans youthful existence. Her mother, Dorice, sacrificed her own academic aspirations in order to support her husband, Jack, an American marine biologist, and then acquainted her little girl with the isolation that regret places in the path of personal fulfillment. But for White, the results were worth celebrating. McLachlan was able to fuse her mothers depth of pathos and her fathers detached analysis into a calm grasp of our cultures callous objectification of women, he concluded.

From the start of her career at age 19, McLachlan was compared to other female songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Sinead OConnor, and Tori Amos, comparisons one might ascribe to what Elysa Gardner of Rolling Stone called a voice of astonishing strength and clarity [that] may drift at any given time from a siren-like middle range to a ghostly soprano. She has remarkable range and tends toward lyrics which explore relationships between women and men.

During her childhood, McLachlan sought out the serenading voices and sentiments of folk-rock singers Joan Baez, Cat Stevens, and Simon and Garfunkel. She had 12 years of training on guitar, six on piano, and five years of voice lessons, all of which surely contributed to what White referred to as the wit, literate grace, and unfussy intricacy of her material. As a teenager, McLachlan worked at restaurant counters and as a dishwasher in Halifax.

Critics generally agree that with McLachlans third album, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, released in 1994, she revealed a new maturity as a singer, songwriter, and woman. Her first album, Touch, released in 1988, suggested a waif-like quality to Gardner. But her second album, Solace, in 1991, revealed a sturdier woman, one less ethereal, one trying to come down to earth a bit. McLachlan said of Solace, Theres a lot more of myself in my writing [there]more the way I

For the Record

Born on January 28, 1968, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; daughter of Jack (a marine biologist) and Dorice McLachlan; married Ashwin Sood (a drummer), February 1997.

Trained in classical guitar, piano, and voice; discovered by Nettwerk Records while performing with a New Wave band in Halifax; signed a contract with Nettwerk at age 19; moved to Vancouver; released debut album, Touch, Nettwerk, 1988; contributed Hold On to No Alternative compilation, 1993; featured on American Public Radios E-Town, 1994; released Surfacing, 1997; released live album Mirrorball, 1999.

Awards: Grammy Awards, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Building a Mystery and Best Pop Instrumental Performance for Last Dance, 1998; Elizabeth Cady Stanton Visionary Award from New York Governor George E. Pataki, 1998; Juno Awards, Album of the Year for Surfacing and Female Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year for Building a Mystery, 1998; Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) Award for Most Performed Pop Songs for Adia and Sweet Surrender, 1998; Billboard Award, Adult Contemporary Track for Angel, 1999; Grammy Award, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for I Will Remember You, 1999; Grammy Award, Best Song Written for a Motion Picture for When She Loved Me from Toy Story 2, 2000; Juno Award for International Achievement, 2000.

Addresses: Record company Arista Records, 6 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019. Website Sarah McLachlan Official Website: http://www.sarahmclachlan.com.

think, more the way I talk. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy reveals a woman with a more broad sensibility; her self-awareness and her melancholy meet a political consciousness.

McLachlan has referred to the relevance here of her increased self-respect and gender appreciation. She told Billboard, It took me six years to learn how not to edit myself, to remain open in my music so that I touched greater levels of darkness as well as some positive areas of escape. When Kozik noted the femininity of Fumbling, McLachlan succinctly replied, I love women. Im fascinated by them. Im definitely starting to realize more of my responsibility as a woman.

While the bulk of critical response to McLachlans music has been admiring, some criticism contained a disparaging tone. Dave Jennings of Melody Maker was dismayed by the excess of vulnerability he found in Solace, which while couched in nature imagery did not add up to New Age consciousness, but really just old-school singer-songwriter preciousness. Similarly, Spins Joy Press found the lyrics of Fumbling mature with a capital M, to the point of sophomoric pseudo-profundity. Press criticism ventured into the realm of gender. Sardonically, she concluded that McLachlan obviously places herself in the category of the self-defined, strong, female song-writer, and that ultimately Fumbling provided only an easy-listening portrait of a womana perfectly graceful, confident, and smart womanbut its not the portrait of an artist.

Other critics, however, found in that album both an artist and a portrait of that artist. Thigpen attempted to remove the debate from the gender-biased charge of confessionalism: Far from indulging in simple emotional bloodletting, he wrote, McLachlan creates exquisitely poised songs that resist anger or pathos.

In Fumbling, Kozik appreciated McLachlans newfound desire and capacity to understand more than just herself, a departure from the concerns of Touch and Solace. McLachlan agreed. A trip to Southeast Asia in 1993, for which she represented her Canadian peer group, afforded her both disillusionment and wisdom. She admitted that she sang less about victimization and self-pity as a result of that mission, one that focused on AIDS, prostitution, and poverty, and where McLachlan saw rooms full of photographs of thousands and thousands of victims, men, women, and children looking at the camera and they all died immediately thereafter. There are all these souls trapped in this building such intense oppression. I all of a sudden got so horrified with humanity and so disillusioned. How can people be so cruel. Do we learn nothing from history? But the aftermath of that is, I feel so blessed.

Though McLachlan does not address the Cambodian situation directly in her songs, its impact can be felt. Critics imply that the garnered knowledge enriched her lyrics and music, even while both remained devoted to interpersonal relationships. Thigpen identified McLachlans audience as the desperately troubled, to whom she offers the suggestion that the answers to lifes emotional earthquakes can come through perseverance and compassion. Terry McBride, the president of Nettwerk Records, remarked, Theres more soul in her singing on this album. [This] record finally makes you believe that she means what she says.

Though still inspired to look outward, McLachlan insisted that her strengths as a singer and songwriter are nurtured in solitude. With Rainer Maria Rilkes self-searching philosophies at the core, in 1994 McLachlan was focused on how to reach the most of her artistic potential. With expressed gratitude toward her producer and sometime-collaborator, Pierre Marchand, and all the talking and thinking he required of her, she still remarked, I find that to open up myself as much as I have to to get at what I need, I need to be by myself. Like the true romantic she is, McLachlan conjured images of herself walking the moors of Nova Scotia, out in the country where everything just seemed so huge and so much bigger than Id ever known it to be before and I got really high about how overwhelmingly beautiful everything was.

Fumbling lingered on the music charts for well over one year and attained multiplatinum sales. The albums hit single, Possession, reached number 14. Likewise Good Enough reached number 16. McLachlan released an alternate version of Fumbling, called The Freedom Sessions, in 1995.

In 1997 she released Surfacing, which made its debut at number two. The album scored two hit singles, two Grammys, four Juno (Canadian) Awards, and earned multiplatinum sales certification. McLachlan used the momentum from the success of Surfacing to inaugurate the first Lilith Fair music festival and tour in the summer of 1997 to honor the advances of women in music. Lilith Fair met with success and earned a reprise in 1998 and again in 1999. Also in 1999, McLachlan released a live album, Mirrorball, which made its debut at number three, igniting the largest sales surge of her career. The album was recorded during McLachlans tour in support of Surfacing in 1998.

In February of 1997 McLachlan announced that she had eloped with drummer Ashwin Sood in Negril, Jamaica. The couple set up residence in Canada in the Dunbar District of Vancouver, British Columbia. McLachlan, who won a Grammy Award for her 2000 song, When She Loved Me from Toy Story 2, was featured among the all-star lineup of Music Without Borders, which aired on Canadian television and radio stations on September 29, 2001, to benefit the victims of the September 11th terrorist attack on the United States.

Selected discography

Touch, Nettwerk, 1988.

Solace, Arista, 1991.

(Contributor) No Alternative, Arista, 1993.

Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Arista, 1994.

The Freedom Sessions (multimedia CD-ROM), Nettwerk, 1994; BMG/Arista, 1995.

Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff, Nettwerk, 1996.

Surfacing (includes Building a Mystery and Sweet Surrender), BMG/Arista, 1997.

Mirrorball, BMG/Arista, 1999.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, January 8, 1994; March 19, 1994.

Cover, March 1994.

Melody Maker, June 13, 1992.

Rolling Stone, February 6, 1992; June 16, 1994.

Spin, March 1994.

Stereo Review, August 1989.

Time, March 21, 1994.

Online

Sarah McLachlan, All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 26, 2001).

Sarah McLachlan Official Website, http://www.sarahmclachlan.com (September 26, 2001).

Star! to Air Music Without Borders, Star! to Air Music Without Borders, Star!,http://www.startv.com/news/index.asp?thisArticle=252 (September 26, 2001).

Additional information was obtained from Arista publicity materials, 1994.

Diane Moroff

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"McLachlan, Sarah." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"McLachlan, Sarah." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mclachlan-sarah-0

"McLachlan, Sarah." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mclachlan-sarah-0

McLachlan, Sarah

Sarah McLachlan

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Sarah McLachlan knows where the best music comes from: Sonically, she told Cover magazines KK Kozik, moving water is perhaps my all-time favorite sound. Water has both its aural and thematic relevance for McLachlan. Being around any kind of water is one of the most important things in my life, she averred. I find it soothing and its a very female thing, too. The ocean is like the womb and Im fascinated, drawn in. Indeed, McLachlan herself has a fluid quality; her voice is noted for its liquidity, and her lyrics and production values, for their tempest and storm.

McLachlan comes by her turbulent personality honestly. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, McLachlan led a relatively sequestered life while growing up. David Thigpen of Time reported that McLachlan was a shy, awkward child who never fell in with the crowd. He described her as a teenager who would kill time on long, frozen winter nights writing songs. Billboards Timothy White provided a more complex portrayal of McLachlans youthful existence. Her mother, Dorice, sacrificed her own academic aspirations in order to support her husband, Jack, an American marine biologist, and then acquainted her little girl with the isolation that regret places in the path of personal fulfillment. But for White, the results were worth celebrating. McLachlan was able to fuse her mothers depth of pathos and her fathers detached analysis into a calm grasp of our cultures callous objectification of women, he concluded.

From the start of her career at age 19, McLachlan was compared to other female song-writers such as Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Sinead OConnor, and Tori Amos, comparisons one might ascribe to what Elysa Gardner of Rolling Stone called a voice of astonishing strength and clarity [that] may drift at any given time from a sirenlike middle range to a ghostly soprano. She has remarkable range and tends toward lyrics which explore relationships between women and men.

During her childhood, McLachlan sought out the serenading voices and sentiments of folk-rock singers Joan Baez, Cat Stevens, and Simon and Garfunkel. She had twelve years of training on guitar, six on piano, and five years of voice lessons, all of which surely contributed to what Billboards Timothy White referred to as the wit, literate grace, and unfussy intricacy of her material. As a teenager, McLachlan worked at restaurant counters and as a dishwasher in Halifax, riding out the calm before her musical storm.

Critics generally agree that with McLachlans third album, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, released in 1994, she revealed a new maturity as singer, songwriter, and woman. Her first album, Touch, released in 1988,

For the Record

Born January 28, 1968, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; daughter of Jack (a marine biologist) and Dorice (a student) McLachlan.

Trained in classical guitar, piano, and voice; worked as dishwasher and counter person in Halifax; discovered by Nettwerk Records while performing with a new wave band in Halifax; signed a contract with Nettwerk at age 19; moved to Vancouver; released debut album, Touch, Nettwerk, 1988; contributed Hold On to No Alternative compilation, Arista, 1993; featured on American Public Radios E-Town, February 27, 1994.

Addresses: Home Montreal, Canada. Record company Arista Records, 6 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

suggested a waif-like quality to Elysa Gardner. But her second album, Solace, in 1991, revealed a sturdier woman, one less ethereal, one trying to come down to earth a bit. McLachlan said of Solace, Theres a lot more of myself in my writing [there]more the way I think, more the way I talk. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy reveals a woman with a more broad sensibility; her self-awareness and her melancholy meet a political consciousness.

McLachlan has referred to the relevance here of her increased self-respect and gender appreciation. She told Billboard, It took me six years to learn how not to edit myself, to remain open in my music so that I touched greater levels of darkness as well as some positive areas of escape. When KK Kozik noted the femininity of Fumbling, McLachlan succinctly replied, I love women. Im fascinated by them.... Im definitely starting to realize more of my responsibility as a woman.

While the bulk of critical response to McLachlans music has been admiring, some criticism contained a disparaging tone. Dave Jennings of Melody Maker was dismayed by the excess of vulnerability he found in Solace, which while couched in nature imagery did not add up to New Age consciousness, but really ... just old-school singer-songwriter preciousness. Similarly, Spins Joy Press found the lyrics of Fumbling mature with a capital M, to the point of sophomoric pseudo-profundity. Presss criticism ventured into the realm of gender. Sardonically, she concluded that McLachlan obviously places herself in the category of the self-defined, strong, female song-writer, and that ultimately Fumbling provided only an easy-listening portrait of a womana perfectly graceful, confident, and smart womanbut its not the portrait of an artist.

Other critics, however, found in that album both an artist and a portrait of that artist. Times Thigpen attempted to remove the debate from the gender-biased charge of confessionalism: Far from indulging in simple emotional bloodletting, he wrote, McLachlan creates exquisitely poised songs that resist anger or pathos.

In Fumbling, KK Kozik appreciated McLachlans newfound desire and capacity to understand more than just herself, a departure from the concerns of Touch and Solace. McLachlan agreed. A trip to Southeast Asia in 1993, for which she represented her Canadian peer group, afforded her both disillusionment and wisdom. She admitted that she sang less about victimization and self-pity as a result of that mission whose focus was AIDS, prostitution, and poverty, and where McLachlan saw rooms full of photographs of thousands and thousands ... of victims, men, women, and children looking at the camera and they all died immediately thereafter.... There are all these souls trapped in this building ... such intense oppression.... I all of a sudden got so horrified with humanity and so disillusioned. How can people be so cruel.... Do we learn nothing from history? But the aftermath of that is, I feel so blessed.

Though McLachlan does not address the Cambodian situation directly in her songs, its impact can be felt. Critics imply that the garnered knowledge enriched her lyrics and music, even while both remained devoted to interpersonal relationships. Thigpen identified McLachlans audience as the desperately troubled, to whom she offers the suggestion that the answers to lifes emotional earthquakes can come through perseverance and compassion. Terry McBride, the president of Nettwerk Records, remarked, Theres more soul in her singing on this album. [This] record finally makes you believe that she means what she says.

Though still inspired to look outward, McLachlan insisted that her strengths as a singer and songwriter are nurtured in solitude. With Rainer Maria Rilkes self-searching philosophies at the core, in 1994 McLachlan was focused on how to reach the most of her artistic potential. With expressed gratitude toward her producer and sometime-collaborator, Pierre Marchand, and all the talking and thinking he required of her, she still remarked, I find that to open up myself as much as I have to to get at what I need, I need to be by myself. Like the true Romantic she is, McLachlan conjured images of herself walking the moors of Nova Scotia, out in the country where everything just seemed so huge and so much bigger than Id ever known it to be before and I got really ... high about how overwhelmingly beautiful everything was.

Selected discography

Touch, Nettwerk, 1988.
Solace, Arista, 1991.
(Contributor) Hold On, on No Alternative, Arista, 1993.
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Arista, 1994.

Sources

Billboard, January 8, 1994; March 19, 1994.

Cover, March 1994.

Melody Maker, June 13, 1992.

Rolling Stone, February 6, 1992; June 16, 1994.

Spin, March 1994.

Stereo Review, August 1989.

Time, March 21, 1994.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Arista publicity materials, 1994.

Diane Moroff

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"McLachlan, Sarah." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"McLachlan, Sarah." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mclachlan-sarah

"McLachlan, Sarah." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mclachlan-sarah

McLachlan, Sarah

SARAH McLACHLAN

Born: Halifax, Nova Scotia, 28 January 1968

Genre: Rock

Best-selling album since 1990: Surfacing (1997)

Hit songs since 1990: "Possession," "Building a Mystery," "Angel"


Sarah McLachlan is a Canadian singer and songwriter with an ethereal soprano that can go from a whisper to a soar in a split second. McLachlan gained a foothold in the pop music landscape in the early 1990s with her breakthrough third album, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, thanks to the success of the radio hit "Possession." McLachlan used her success to help pave the way for other female singer/songwriters when she formed an all-female touring group in 1997, which she dubbed Lilith Fair. McLachlan, who plays piano and guitar, writes songs that are honest, emotional, confessional, and other-worldlyqualities that struck a chord with thousands of young female singers and songwriters.

McLachlan's childhood in Halifax was sheltered and solitary. The daughter of Doris and Jack, an American marine biologist, she spent much of her youth writing songs. From the outset of her career at the age of nineteen, with the debut album Touch (1988), critics compared McLachlan's superb vocal range to other singer/songwriters, namely Tori Amos for her frankness, Joni Mitchell for her honesty, and Kate Bush for her tone.

Most critics regard her third album, Fumbling Toward Ecstasy (1993), as her watershed achievement. It is a mature, feminine, ethereal collection. The lyrics explore male-female relationships from the perspective of an empathetic woman who has grown to accept herself and what she may expect from others. Ironically, "Possession," a song she wrote about her experience with someone who stalked her through correspondence, became a hit single. "Possession" is a beautiful yet obsessive ode to love. It is a classic Sarah McLachlan song that remains in mid-tempo while building a tension that simmers through the surface. On the chorus McLachlan shows her range, nearly quaking on the high notes toward the end of the lyric: "I will be the one / To hold you down / Kiss you so hard / I'll take your breath away."

Following the success of Fumbling, which remained on the charts for more than a year and became a multi-platinum hit, McLachlan toured. In February 1997 she eloped with Ashwin Sood, who plays drums and percussion in her band. That year she released Surfacing, which debuted on the Billboard chart in the number two slot and brought her two hit songs and two Grammys: Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Building a Mystery" and Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Last Dance." The ballads, "Adia" and "Angel," are lovely and ethereal offerings that enjoyed steady airplay.

Spot Light: Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music

The Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan is responsible for launching the sold-out and acclaimed Lilith Fair, a summer touring group of all-female performers from around the world. A tour with a conscience and an agenda, Lilith grossed more than $28 million, with more than $2 million going to local and national charities and nonprofit organizations such as Planned Parenthood, RAINN, and the Breast Cancer Fund. At each performance a dollar from each ticket sale was donated to a local women's shelter. McLachlan brought along heavyweight talents such as Sheryl Crow, Indigo Girls, the Dixie Chicks, the Pretenders, Natalie Merchant, Shawn Colvin, Queen Latifah, and Missy Elliott; critical favorites such as Juliana Hatfield, Me'shell Ndegéocello, and Aimee Mann; and rising stars such as Beth Orton and Nelly Furtado. Many of the women involved in Lilith Fair saw a considerable boost in their careers and record sales thanks to their involvement. Lilith Fair lasted for three years, from 1997 through 1999. Rather than push it beyond its natural course, McLachlan called it quits after 139 dates and the participation of more than 100 artists. The tour not only inspired good will and good deeds but also led to several compilation albums and a documentary, Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music (2002).


Perhaps the most significant event in 1997 for McLachlan was the launching of the heralded Lilith Fair, an all-female summer tour. In its three years Lilith Fair grossed more than $20 million, some of which was donated to national and local charities in the United States and Canada. After Lilith Fair ended in 1999, McLachlan released Mirrorball, a live album that chronicles her 1998 tour. It bought her some time as she went on hiatus and took a break to start a family. McLachlan gave birth to a daughter, India Ann Sushil Sood, in April 2002.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Fumbling Toward Ecstasy (Arista, 1993); The Freedom Sessions (Arista, 1995); Surfacing (Arista, 1997); Mirrorball (Arista, 1999).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

B. Childerhorse, From Lilith to Lilith Fair: The Authorized Story (New York, 1998); J. Fitzgerald, Building a Mystery: The Story of Sarah McLachlan and Lilith Fair (Kingston, Ontario, 2000).

carrie havranek

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"McLachlan, Sarah." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"McLachlan, Sarah." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mclachlan-sarah

"McLachlan, Sarah." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mclachlan-sarah