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The New Achievers

from:Harper's BAZAAR

by Deborah Kirk

Sarah Mclachlan

has put her foot down: she wants- no, demands- a little break, a brief hiatus before hitting the road with her brainchild, the summer-long girlapalooza known as the Lilith Fair. She's hoping to have the month of May to herself (it's April when I meet her, in her adopted hometown of Vancouver), to hang around with her husband, Ash Sood, who's also the drummer in her band, before the chaos begins in earnest."Hey," says McLachlan brightly, her light Canadian accent making itself known. "Don't get me wrong. I love being busy; I feed off of it. In all o flast year, I spent fewer than nine weeks at home. My touring schedule is booked in a year in advance. So I'm allowing myself a little time off. Because if I didn't, I'd be going into Lilith like one cranky-assed bitch. And, " she adds with mock schoolmarmishness, "we don't want that, now do we kids?"

    If it's hard to believe that Mclachlan- with her big doe eyes and beatific smile- could ever be cranky, well that may be because the singer is never exactly what she seems. On the one hand, she's the mystical high priestess of her own cult, a laid-back figurehead for the burgeoning women's singer-songwriter movement. On the other she's an astonishingly powerful entrepreneur, a highly intuitive businesswoman who jabbers a mile a minute and dows 10 things at once. At times she comes across as a serene, new age-y waifl alternatively she's known for her public burping and profanities. ("I can talk like a truckdriver," she confides, "but I am trying hard to tone it down.") 

    In the 10 years since she recorder her first album, Touch (Arista), Mclachlan has transformed herself from an insecure self-doubting cult figure to the confident overseer of a small empire. She has released five goregous albums of soaring folk-tinged love songs, founded her own record label, Tyde, and perhaps most signifcantly, created Lilith. The festival which last year grossed more than $15 million, has spawned a book, a live album and, of course, Lilith '98, which runs through the end of August and features such big-name talent as Paula Cole, Queen Latifah, and Sinead O'Conner. "It was me saying,'Let's put a bunch of women onstage and won't that be fun.' I had no idea it would turn into this."

    "This" is now a highly succussful if logistically hellish operation, helmed by Mclachlan and three partners (Her two managers and her agent) out of their Vancouver office. "I sit there staring at the grid day after day," she says.  "I try to get the right mix of talent for each show. And though I hate the finacial stuff, I always know the bottom line. I've always had creative control over everything I do, but I can't do everything anymore."

    Despite Lilith's phenomenal growth- it now consists of 57 corporate-sponsored shows over two and a half months, with Mclachlan headling each and every one of them- she insists that the vibe remain fun, egoless and mellow. "It's like a bunch of old college girlfriends hanging out together," she says of the convivial atmosphere. "And there's no bullshit, no assholes, no divas. We've made it a real comfortable, safe enviroment. No one's out there trying to rip your undies off."

    For now though, the priorityis to conserve her energy for the upcoming shows. Apart from the one project she's agreed to take on during her so-called free month, the writing of a "healthy nouveau" cookbook with her chef, Jaime Laurita , she is firm about keeping her private time private. Life with Sood, whom she calls her best friend is her top prioity, and the two are eager to have children. "Kids," musies Mclachlan dreamily, "that's a big thing, the biggest thing."

    Then, jolting herself out of her reverie, Mclachlan snaps back to business, to schedules, to the grid of her life. "Problem is, I don't have time to even think about having a kid until the fall of '99.  Because after we finish this summer's shows, we go to India, then Australia, then there's the live album, and then there's Lilith '99, so maybe I can get pregnant in October 1999. . .," she trails off momentarily lost in the big grid. "But who knows?" she add with a smile. "The best-laid plans, right?" - Deborah Kirk