Sarah McLachlan was born and adopted in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As a child, she took voice lessons, along with studies in classical piano and guitar. When she was just 17 years old, she fronted an up and coming rock band called the October Game. Her high school yearbook claimed that she was “destined to become a famous rock star”.
Following the October Game's first concert at Dalhousie University, Sarah was offered a recording contract with Vancouver based independent record label Nettwerk. Sarah’s parents convinced her to finish art college before embarking on a new life as a recording artist. Interestingly, the world famous singer songwriter was actually signed to Nettwerk before having written a single song.
The signing prompted McLachlan to move to Vancouver, British Columbia. There she recorded the first of her albums, Touch, in 1988, which received both critical and commercial success and included the hit song “Vox”. Her 1991 album, Solace, was her mainstream breakthrough in Canada, spawning the hit singles “The Path of Thorns (Terms)” and “Into the Fire”.
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was an immediate smash hit in Canada in 1993. From her Nettwerk connection, her piano version of the song Possession was included on the first Due South television series soundtrack in 1996. Over the next two years, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy quietly became Sarah’s international breakthrough as well, scaling the charts in a number of countries and setting the stage for 1997’s Surfacing, which debuted at the top of the charts amid the hype around Lilith Fair. The Sarah-founded Lilith Fair tour brought together two million people over its three-year history and raised more than seven million dollars for charities. It was the most successful all-female music festival in history, one of the biggest music festivals of the 1990s, and helped launch the careers of several well-known female artists.
Sarah has been extensively profiled by media including cover stories for Rolling Stone, Time magazine and Entertainment Weekly. She was awarded the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Visionary Award in 1998 for advancing the careers of women in music.
On February 7, 1997, she married Ashwin Sood, her longtime drummer, in Negril, Jamaica. Lilith Fair debuted in Vancouver that same year, after which McLachlan began an extended period away from recording or touring. She did, however, participate in the 2002 British Columbia Cancer Foundation Benefit Concert in memory of cancer victim Michele Bourbonnais. She participated along with four other Canadian artists, Bryan Adams, Jann Arden, Barenaked Ladies, and Chantal Kreviazuk.
She returned to public life and touring with her 2003 album release, Afterglow, although she has no current plans to resurrect Lilith Fair.
Known for the emotional sound of her ballads, some of her popular songs include “Angel”, “Building a Mystery”, “Adia”, “Possession”, “I Will Remember You” and “Into the Fire”. Her best-selling album to date is Surfacing, for which she won multiple Grammy Awards and four Juno Awards (Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy). Through her career, she has also received many other awards, primarily in recognition of her efforts in launching Lilith Fair. In 1999, she was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of her successful recording career, her role in Lilith Fair, and the charitable donations she made to women’s shelters across Canada. McLachlan also funds an outreach program in Vancouver providing music education for inner city children. In 2001, she was awarded the Order of British Columbia.
During Sarah’s hiatus in her recording career, she lost her mother to cancer in December 2001, while Sarah herself was pregnant. Sarah gave birth to a daughter, named India, on April 6, 2002, in Vancouver. She had already completed three-quarters of the Afterglow record production. In May 2002, her duet with Bryan Adams was released on the Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron soundtrack. She sang harmonies and played the piano on the song “Don’t Let Go”, while Ashwin Sood did the drum work.
In early 2005 McLachlan took part in a star-studded tsunami disaster relief telethon on NBC. On January 29 Sarah was a headliner for a benefit concert in Vancouver along with other Canadian superstars such as Avril Lavigne and Bryan Adams. The show also featured a performance by the Sarah McLachlan Musical Outreach Choir and Percussion Ensemble, a children’s choir and percussion band from the Vancouver outreach program that Sarah provides funding for. The concert was titled One World: The Concert for Tsunami Relief, and raised nearly four million dollars for several Canadian aid agencies working in south and southeast Asia. The show was the brainchild of Sarah McLachlan’s manager, Terry McBride, CEO of Nettwerk. It ran for four hours and aired live on CTV across Canada.
On July 2, 2005, Sarah McLachlan participated in the Philadelphia installment of the Live 8 concerts, where she performed her hit “Angel” with Josh Groban. These concerts, which were held simultaneously in nine major cities around the world, were intended to coincide with the G8 summit to put pressure on the leaders of the world’s richest nations to fight poverty in Africa by increasing aid.
It has been seven years since Sarah McLachlan’s last full-length non-seasonal studio album Afterglow. Listening to Laws of Illusion (2010) it’s like she never went away. The opening track “Awakenings” seems to kick off an aggressive, more rock-oriented approach, but the album quickly settles into the kind of ethereal folk-edged pop music Sarah McLachlan fans know and love. She is an artist with a truly distinctive sound and approach. Instead of any radical changes in direction, she simply returns to remind us who Sarah McLachlan is and that she has not gone away.
Sarah McLachlan’s gorgeous, controlled vocals with that distinctive melancholy catch continue to enchant even casual listeners of her music. Simple, exposed songs like “Forgiveness” and “Rivers of Love” showcase the beauty of her voice as it moves across the song like a languidly flowing stream. “Bring on the Wonder” alters the approach by adding new age style echo. The effect is quite beautiful if fleeting at under two minutes.
The first single from Laws of Illusion is “Loving You is Easy”. It has an upbeat, almost breezy, feel that is quite refreshing. “Out of Tune” applies Sarah McLachlan’s sound to the sense of love providing an oasis from the stresses of the rest of the world. “Heartbreak” makes light of being chased down by sadness. Ultimately, Sarah McLachlan tells heartbreak to “find some other fool”. The melancholy seems not too far away, but for the few moments of these songs the smile behind the voice is entrancing.