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Sarah Smiles


"I'm all alone, I'm all alone," lamented Sarah McLachlan on "Sad Clown," a poor-pitiful-me tune from 1988. That was 11 years, five albums, and a lifetime ago. Today McLachlan hardly seems sad, and certainly, in light of the incredible success of Lilith Fair, she's far from lonely. In the three years since Lilith began, McLachlan has witnessed her festival play to more than a million people, donated nearly $2 million to charity, and watched herself rise from a nationally loved Canadian hero to an international superstar. In defiance of all naysayers, Lilith Fair has continued to sell out stadiums all over North America, while McLachlan maintains a perpetual hold on the pop music charts. In anticipation of yet another busy summer, Sarah sat down with contributor Denise Sheppard to talk mirror balls, babies, and bugs. Your next disc, Mirrorball, is a live album. You've released some great live tracks in the past, in the form of B-sides and rarities. Does this disc contain any of that already-released material, or is it all new?

Sarah McLachlan: It's all new in the sense that it's live material, but there are no new songs. It's mostly from Surfacing and Fumbling. I think there's some from Solace as well. I can't be objective about it. For me, I listen now and think my band is so strong and so great, and I listen to how I sing and think my voice has gotten so much better. We're always our own worst critics. Mirrorball is the third in a series of live, Lilith-related albums coming out in a very short period of time. The other two----Lilith Fair, Volume 2 and Volume 3--follow closely in the footsteps of last year's debut compilation. What's on these discs that people didn't get before?

Sarah McLachlan: Well, I think there are a lot of artists this year who didn't get represented last year. There were 170 artists on last year's Lilith, and the one before I think we used less than half of that. So obviously there's a lot of new people. We're trying to continue with the same idea; we need the big-name artists for people who want to buy the CD in general, but we really want to focus on the "B" and "C" stages as well and try and get those younger and newer artists recognition. And if that wasn't enough new stuff for fans, there have been rumors that the live DVD and VHS will be different versions than the CD. Is that right?

McLachlan: The DVD and VHS are both concert film footage taken from two nights in Portland, Oregon. The album, however, is taken from the whole spring tour; they'll be different in the sense that they were recorded on different nights. You've got these albums being released and then Lilith Fair. That's a huge chunk of time. After that?

McLachlan: Well, I'm going to be super busy up until the end of the summer... August 31st I think is the last show. Almost for sure a Lilith in Europe is going to happen in June before that, as well as a Lilith Australia in December, which should be great. So I do have September, October, half of November. There's also talk of me doing my own shows in November, or going to India in November as well, whether to do my own thing or to play a show. There's this project called Listen that's 99 artists working together to raise hopefully 99 million dollars for children's charities. It's the same organization that did Pink Floyd's The Wall at the Berlin Wall, as well as the Free Nelson Mandela concert. They've asked me to be involved and I'd love to. There's the small matter of writing a song in that time... a really good song. So I'm just trying to do that. There's a lot of distractions. No pressure.

McLachlan: No pressure! [laughs] December 31st, 1999, I punch in for the last time for a long time. Me and Celine [Dion]. I presented the award that she won at the Grammys with Puff Daddy and Beck, and afterwards I said, "I heard you're going to retire." She said, "Yeah." I said, "Yeah, me too! Baby time!" She said [in a whisper], "We'll talk." It was pretty funny! Looking way ahead to when this baby comes, there's no real way of knowing how that's going to affect your life.

McLachlan: Oh, not at all, except there's going to be a monumental change. I have a very hard time planning what I'm going to do next week, you know, but the way that my life has turned out, the constraints of the job that I've chosen--it's an amazing job and I'm very lucky to have it--it demands that you think six months ahead. It goes against every grain of my being. I'm in the moment. I think it's kind of good that I have that exposure to other stuff and come to the balance. I can't wait to float. Back to the present. The music that you are writing...

McLachlan: Trying to write. I'm fairly prolific musically, but lyrically, I'm absolutely empty. Nothin'. Music comes easy, it always has, but lyrically it's much more of a challenge. That's where I need a lot more focus. And I think it'd be really helpful for me to start writing practices again, writing two pages every day of just nonsense. Often great things come out of that. I need a little discipline back in my life. How about three words that are influencing your songwriting right now?

McLachlan: Hmm... I'm just trying to think. Love... that always comes into it. My husband. Friendship. Any of the lyrics I am writing are incredibly sentimental and sappy. Sometimes I think I better find a way to darken this up a bit! Finally, you're seen as someone quite loving and gentle by your fans. How about a story from your childhood that would crush that image?

McLachlan: I used to rip the legs off of mosquitoes one by one. There's no good reason for them to be on this earth. Bees? They die after they sting you... they pollinate. They're good creatures. And wasps? They just keep on stinging and they don't even die.