Interview with Sarah McLachlan


It’s been seven long years since Sarah McLachlan released Afterglow, her last full-length studio album of original material and 11 years since Lilith Fair closed up shop.

But all that is changing this summer as both McLachlan and Lilith Fair mark their triumphant return. Laws of Illusion, McLachlan’s sixth all-original album, bows June 15 — and the singer-songwriter who founded the "celebration of women" hits the road with Lilith Fair 2.0 less than two weeks later to support the record with artists including Brandi Carlile, Kelly Clarkson, Queen Latifah, Rihanna, Tegan and Sara and the Indigo Girls, among others. caught up with McLachlan to talk about Lilith Fair, Laws of Illusion and why sexual orientation "doesn’t matter." It’s been seven-plus years since you’ve recorded an album of all original material, and you’ve historically taken a few years off between albums. Is there a specific reason for that?

Sarah McLachlan: Yeah. Mostly it’s because I had kids. I wasn’t a prolific writer by any stretch of the imagination before that and having children really slows down the process because, well, they’re the most exquisite distraction there is. I was really lucky that I got to take big chunks of time off to be a mom.

AE: How is Laws of Illusion different than Afterglow?

SM: I don’t know; I haven’t really thought about comparing the two. There’s a lot of light and darkness on this record, and there’s a sort of real raw energy to this record that I haven’t felt before. The process in which we recorded it was a lot quicker. We recorded it live off-the-floor stuff, which is sort of a bunch of musicians in a room, here are the songs, here are the chords, go, record.

We did six songs in five days that way; the bulk of the songs. That was really exciting and fun and just kept it fresh with a different kind of energy. The past couple records have been a week in Montreal and then my producer coming to Vancouver. So lots of slowly building up songs a lot quicker.

AE: Where does the album title come from?

I was thinking about illusions and loss, which are a lot of the themes of the record, but it just seemed a little too depressing! (Laughs.) When I told it to my producer, he was like, "Did you say ‘loss’ or ‘laws’ of illusion?" And I was like, "Oh, I like that!" And then I was thinking about laws of illusion.

I like the fact that it doesn’t make any sense — it’s all about the fantasies that a lot of us buy into about how your life is going to play out and you’re going to meet that person and get married and have kids or what ever your path is. Then all of the sudden, it’s no longer in front of you. That whole big chunk of your life that you sort of had checked that off and went, "OK, that’s settled." It defines you. It defined me to a large degree and I sort of had to go and pick up the pieces and figure out who I was at that point. The process of figuring that out was making this record.