McLachlan shines on amid tough times
Sarah McLachlan. Picture: supplied

In the past six years, Sarah McLachlan has dealt with divorce and death. But as the title of her latest album suggests, the Canadian singer-songwriter is putting the past behind her and embracing the future.

Written after losing her father to cancer, Shine On - her eighth studio album - is at times, understandably, melancholic. Yet optimism ultimately rises to the surface, a reflection of the gratitude McLachlan says she felt having spent time with her dad in the months leading to his death.

"The songs are written from a very emotional point of view and they are from places I have been at over the past few years," McLachlan says on the phone from her home in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"There is a lot of loss on the record but there is a lot of gratitude as well. That's certainly something I carry with me in my life and I try to relate that to everything I do."

Now 46 and mother of two daughters - India, 12, and Taja, six - McLachlan has been through a lot. In 2008 she separated from Ashwin Sood after 11 years of marriage which she documented on her 2010 album Laws of Illusion. Then came the death of her father, Jack, after an 18-month battle with cancer.

Both events had such a profound impact they prompted her to split from her manager Terry McBride and label Nettwerk after a 24-year partnership.

"I was looking at all the things that were right in my life and all the things that were wrong and the complacencies and the patterns and I just wanted to start everything fresh," McLachlan explains.

Shine On is her first album with US label Verve, though it was produced by her long-time creative partner Pierre Marchand. It's unapologetically emotional and at times painfully raw but, as one critic observed, "it succeeds in its universal humanity".

The track Flesh and Blood is about being open to love again. McLachlan has been in a relationship for the past two years with former NHL player Geoff Courtnall.

In Your Shoes started out as a song about bullying but was ultimately inspired by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl and activist who survived being shot by the Taliban.

"These days young girls haven't had a lot of strong role models to look up to and I think she's just an incredibly positive role model for girls and humanity in general," says McLachlan, who herself has been inspiring youngsters through her Vancouver- based School of Music, a free program aimed at youth who would not otherwise have access to a musical education.

The school was set up 13 years ago and now accommodates about 700 students, many of whom are from broken homes or schools "where they have been labelled problem kids".

"They get to leave the labels at the door, come in and make music together and discover their voice," says McLachlan, who pays all the school's administration costs.

"The sense of confidence it creates and the belief that 'I can do this, I can be part of this, I am being heard and being respected', I think that's a really powerful thing for kids to experience."

McLachlan is as proud of her work with the school as she is her own music - as was her father, who kept newspaper clippings of his daughter until the day he died and to whom McLachlan pays tribute on the bittersweet eulogy Song for my Father.

"We had 18 months from when he was diagnosed," says McLachlan, who also lost her mother to cancer in 2001. "And I was lucky, I was home and off the road, so I was able to care for him.

"His body was giving out on him and he suffered a lot of indignities but he remained full of grace through the whole process and he was full of gratitude every day.

"He wasn't just sitting there waiting to die. He was living every moment to its fullest and while it was sad, it was beautiful to have that time with him.

"In losing him that's when I really understood the impact of what he has been for me in my life and I know how to be that for my children. That pillar of unconditional love."

The West Australian

Popular videos

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West