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THE FAIR-EST OF THEM ALL

Sarah McLachlan is a muse with a message

Jump Magazine, July 1998

Sure, her voice could make a grown man cry like a baby and her sweet face has been on the cover of practically every magazine in the universe, but Sarah McLachlan didn't always have it so good. Before she was a folk-rock goddess and the brain behind the mother of all music festivals (that would be Lilith Fair), she was an awkward, frizzy-headed, crooked-toothed kid struggling with her own growing pains. Through it all, she found the courage and confidence to stay true to herself and her music, which is totally obvious if you've given the Grammy-winning songs on her latest album, Surfacing (Arista), a listen. Find out what else this Lilith flower is all about.

A LOT OF WOMEN LOOK UP TO YOU BECAUSE YOUR MUSIC INSPIRES THEM. WHO'S YOUR INSPIRATION?

"I admire anybody who has a lot of respect for themselves, a lot of humility and the power to basically do good things. On a personal level, the person I look up to most is my mom. She gave up her career for us kids. It was a different world back then. Women weren't expected to have careers; they were expected to stay home."

SOME PEOPLE THINK CREATING THE ALL-FEMALE LILITH FAIR WAS SORT OF AN "UP YOURS" TO GUY-DOMINATED FESTIVALS LIKE LOLLAPALOOZA. WHAT'S THE REAL STORY?

"I would hate to say I organized Lilith Fair for reactionary reasons [like because other festivals excluded women artists], although it certainly did come into play. Mostly it stemmed from a desire to put on a great music festival, and there are so many women out there making great music. I wanted to celebrate that the music world is finally opening up to women."

FINALLY IS RIGHT. YOU'VE BEEN SIGNING AND WRITING FOR 13 YEARS. A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD'VE GIVEN UP OR BURNED OUT AFTER SUCH A LONG HAUL. WHAT'S YOUR SECRET?

"I have a lot of confidence in who I am, because a large part of my songwriting is figuring out who the hell I am. There are so many perceptions and expectations placed on you in the music industry, and unless you're really strong and believe in yourself, you can get pulled in directions that aren't necessarily true to who you are."

THAT'S HARD TO DO, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU'RE GROWING UP AND EVERYONE IS TRYING TO FIT IN WITH WHAT'S COOL. HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN SO SELF-ASSURED?

"No way. I had pretty low self-esteem. My own lack of self-worth and self-confidence was the biggest obstacle I had to overcome. I finally realized that I was good at something--art and music. That really fueled me."

SPEAKING OF ENDURANCE, YOU'RE THE ONLY PERFORMER IN LILITH FAIR WHO HEADLINES EVERY SHOW ON THE TOUR. HOW DO YOU DEAL?

"I'm a big believer in having time to myself. When you're out on the road, you have no privacy. I've finally gotten to a point where I can say, 'I'm going to take two hours in the afternoon that are just for me.' When I'm home it's a really different thing. People ask me 'Where are you going on vacation?' and it's like, 'I'm going home [to Vancouver, BC, Canada].' It's my sanctuary."

SO WHAT DO YOU DO DURING YOUR "ME TIME"?

"I work out pretty much every day. It's really great for my energy level. I bought a Stair Master and a stationary bike, and I had cases built for them so I could take them on the road when I'm touring. They're set up in one of the dressing rooms every day. It's amazing. It's great meditation, because I do nothing but push myself and get really mindless. It's good therapy."

WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN YOU FINALLY STOP TOURING?

"I'm going to float--I have absolutely no plans at all."