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Sarah McLachlan: a 3-song Junos primer

Andrea Warner

With 10 acts and artists confirmed to perform so far, this year’s Junos broadcast on Sunday, April 2, promises to be one of the biggest in the award ceremony’s history.

From emerging artists like Ruth B to established acts like Sarah McLachlan and Billy Talent, there’s something for every music fan, and there are also a lot of great opportunities to discover exciting, new-to-you artists for your earbuds —to punch up your playlists or add to your record collection, or scope out for when their tours come to your hometown.

Think of the live Junos broadcast as an opportunity to survey just a little bit more of the country’s music scene, its depth and breadth, and then keep checking back daily as CBC Music posts its handy three-song primers for each artist and band, as well as a few quotes to help deepen your appreciation of all these great musicians.

Sarah McLachlan

McLachlan will be inducted in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at this year's Juno Awards. She's won multiple Grammys and Junos. She’s one of the best-selling artists of all time, and even has one certified diamond album in Canada (1997’s Surfacing). If you’re not familiar with her name, I welcome you from the underground bunker you may have lived in for the last 25 years. Is the air as sweet as you remembered?

But even if you know McLachlan’s work, you might not truly be familiar with just how daring and visceral her arthouse-pop sound was, and still is. Or what a funny, frank, defiant person McLachlan is, all qualities reflected in her groundbreaking, financially successful, all-women touring festival Lilith Fair. Or the true scope of McLachlan’s jaw-dropping live performances.

But that’s what we’re here for. Below are three essential songs that provide a bit of shape and context to McLachlan’s illustrious career, as well as some quotes and interview excerpts to help you get to know the real Sarah McLachlan.

Song: "Possession"
Album: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (1993)

In 1995, McLachlan was interviewed by the legendary Stevie Nicks for Interview magazine. This is a bit of their conversation:

Nicks: Every once in a while somebody else will pull me out of my sleep. So this past February I'm sound asleep and all of a sudden this [sings] "And I will be the one." [Sarah McLachlan takes a deep breath] Right?

McLachlan: Right.

Nicks: And I'm going, "I love this." The DJ said, "That was a new, fabulous thing from Sarah that's called Possession." So I wrote down: "Sarah. Possession." The next morning I said to my assistant, "You have to go get this record that's called Possession. I don't know if that's the name of the album or the song. All I know is that this lady's name is Sarah, which, of course, is my favourite name." And you have been a total part of my life since. I have to give you the greatest compliment that I could pay to anyone. You remind me so much of the first time that I went to the Fillmore in San Francisco. I was in a band that was the opening act on a show that had about seven acts in it. And there were red-velvet drapes, and you knew that Janis Joplin had sat in this dressing room, and there was something about your music that reminded me of how I had felt about Janis. When I heard your music, I thought, "Somehow this woman reminds me of the incredible music that came out of San Francisco when all of us were so knocked out to be alive."

McLachlan: Whoa! That's pretty heavy for me.

Nicks: Well, it was heavy for me, too, because I thought, wow. She's ticked into an incredible thing here. Somehow she's new, yet she must be a very wise, old soul, because she's put it all together now, but she's still a little antique.

McLachlan: Wow, that blows me away.

Song: "Building a Mystery"
Album: Surfacing (1997)

On Lilith Fair (, 2010): “I’d like to think that we created a sense of community that didn’t really exist before for a lot of women musicians and a lot of those friendships continued and we dispelled a lot of myths within the industry about not being able to put two women on the same bill, not being able to play two women back-to-back on the radio because people won’t come, or people won’t listen. But guess what, they sure do! And they came, and they listened and they loved it. We created something I think that took on a life of its own; it was so much bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Song: "Fallen"
 Afterglow (2003)

On songwriting (Rolling Stone, 1998): "The trick is not to give a shit. It's an elusive thing … I'm a sensible girl when it comes right down to it. But I also have a blind romantic streak. I love romance. I love beauty. But I also love the flipside, when you turn the stone over and there's worms and mud and shit, and it's really ugly."

Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner

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