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Sarah McLachlan

by Melody Alderman

From her home in Vancouver, BC Sarah spoke about what it means to be a songwriter and about the most important role in her life; motherhood.

:  The first question I wanted to ask you is... I was reading Letters To A Young Poet last night and I came across a statement that really struck me. "Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness.... Were it otherwise he would never have been able to find those words." Does that statement resonate with you in any way in terms of how you are perceived or viewed through your songwriting?

SARAH:  Well, I can't really talk about how other people think about me but I certainly understand that sentiment. It does resonate with me too because I think often sadness is a great place to get songs from. That's a really bad way of saying it but it definitely feeds me lyrically.

P.S.: There was one other quote in the book I wanted to ask you about. "Acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write."

SARAH: Oh I remember that one, yeah.

P.S.: How important is being a songwriter to you?

SARAH: It's very important to me because it's a really cathartic experience for me to write and it's taught me a lot about myself. I'm not sure if... maybe it's because I'm older now, but I'm not sure if I completely agree with the sentiment. It's a very romantic sentiment but to think that you would die if you didn't write and you'd have to make that decision, well I would definitely choose to not write and live. I still do feel very strongly about doing it, definitely. Honestly, everything's changed a little bit since I've had a child. Nothing outside of my child is important... is as important anymore. So writing has sort of taken a second fiddle to her and everything in my life has but I think that's sort of the way it's supposed to be. I think that's a natural progression and I'm happy with that. It's made writing even more of a challenge but I still think it's something I enjoy doing. It's hard work but it's very fulfilling when I get something I'm happy with.

P.S.: You've said that songwriting is therapy for you. At this point in your life, you're not able to retreat to a cabin for six months like you've done in the past. Are you still able to find therapy through your writing with the more structured lifestyle of being a mother?

SARAH: I think it's harder to find because there is less time and I've become less disciplined (laughs) in spending enough time to focus long enough. So it does happen. It just takes longer.

P.S.: I know you've been through a lot in the past couple of years (Sarah lost her mother just months before giving birth to her daughter). You said the songs on Afterglow do not reflect that experience because it was still too new to begin processing. Have those songs begun to come to you yet?

SARAH: They may well have but I'm not open enough to see them yet. I think because what technically happens once a record is finished, there's this huge whirlwind of activity around promoting it which is the world I'm in right now. I've never managed to see much past the moment when I'm doing all this work. So all of my experiences, I experience them on the surface and then I file them away for later when I can actually take them out and look at them and deal with them. Then you give them proper time.

P.S.: How has it been being in this whirlwind for the first time as a mother?

SARAH: It's been pretty crazy. There have been times where I've felt incredibly overwhelmed. For the most part, it's been fantastic. I have the world's best little traveler. She comes everywhere with me and I think just because we got her going at a very early age she's really taken to it, thankfully. I couldn't do what I have to do without getting some time with her everyday and I've been very lucky. I've been able to work the schedule so that I could do that. You know, which is essentially the goal of every working mother. They want to be able to spend as much time with their children and still feel fulfilled and feel that they're doing a good job at whatever it is they've chosen to do outside of being a mother. That's sort of the biggest challenge is getting to do both and giving as much as one can to both.

P.S.: With the video for Fallen, I'm just curious what the concept was behind the video and also, was it difficult to make the decision to appear in the bathtub scene after giving birth?

SARAH: (laughs) Thankfully water is very forgiving. Everything lifts in water. (laughs) So that decision was very easy. Once I had a chat with the director and said, 'Okay, listen buddy. (laughs) This is going to be done tastefully.' Then of course, the director is Paul Fedor. He's a lovely guy. He's an artist so he understood that and so I had no fear about that. What was the first part of the question? I just remember the bathtub part.

P.S.: Well I know you've directed some of your videos in the past and have had a lot of creative input in your videos. I was just wondering about the concept behind this.

SARAH: In the past I have. I have lately given up a lot of control over that kind of stuff because I simply haven't had time and I'm not that good at it myself. So I've allowed myself to delegate authority (laughs) and find other people who can do it. I mean, the concept's fairly loose. It's sort of about someone who... the woman leaves and the man finds a letter on his pillow and realizes that she's gone. You know, I don't know what the hell the thing's about. It looks pretty good. You tell me. What do you think the concept is? She leaves, he's pissed off, he trashes everything in the apartment and then he has remorse and she has remorse but then she comes back and she drives through all of the stuff lying in the street. It's sort of that unresolved feeling of... You're in that place where you've made so many mistakes that you can't go back. The only way is forward.

P.S.: You being in the bathtub throughout everything that was happening seemed to be a cleansing from all of those mistakes.

SARAH: It is cleansing and there's a real vulnerability there. There's sort of shades of suicide... of suicidal tendencies. Being in that place of 'Okay, I can go forward or I can go backwards.' Also, I think a lot of contemplation happens in bathtubs. It does for me. Nothing like a hot bath to sort of ease the tension and think about what's going to happen next.    

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Photographs by Melody Alderman
Copyright 2004

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