Ahead of Bangor concert, Sarah McLachlan talks new album, her fans, and not being ‘the animal person’

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In what’s now a career that spans more than 25 years, Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan has developed a strong, devoted fanbase, who look to her for emotional comfort, via McLachlan’s eight studio albums and multiple live recordings and compilations. McLachlan, now 46, released that eighth album, “Shine On,” in May of this year, and embarked on a North American tour shortly afterwards. The tour will make a stop at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor on Friday, July 18, in McLachlan’s first Maine show since a 1998 concert at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland. The Bangor Daily News caught up with the songwriter while she readied for a concert in update New York. Tickets for the concert are still available via waterfrontconcerts.com.

You’re originally from Halifax — did you ever come to Maine as a kid?

Actually, no — my parents did so much traveling before we were born that I think more traveling wasn’t something they were really into. We always went to Prince Edward Island. They’d strap the three of us in the car and every so often my Dad would get out of the car just to get away from us. But we have the day off in Portland before the show in Bangor. I wanted to be near the water.

shineonYour new album “Shine On” is very emotional, very candid and open. What were some of the things that inspired some of those songs?

In the past I think I’ve had a lot of other stories in there, and I used a lot of creative license to tell those stories. But with this album, I felt like I had enough big things happen to me that I needed to tell my own story. I lost my father, and separated from my label and my management, and I separated from my husband. Big, big changes, that all happened around age 40. The aftermath of that, coming to terms with who I wanted to be and dealing with all that change and the opportunities for growth that come with it, was the album. So there’s songs like “Song For My Father,” which of course is an homage to him… and “Surrender and Certainty,” which is about really feeling quite lost. Songwriting is always cathartic. It’s a public way to process information. But one of the most validating things is when a stranger comes up to me and says that something I’ve written has made an impact on them.

Any specific instances of a fan coming up to you with a story about how your music has affected them? Who were those musicians for you, when you were younger?

I can answer that first question right away. Peter Gabriel was probably the most influential and continually influential musician in my life. Also Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, Joan Baez. Cat Stevens in particular. I’ve picked apart his amazing melodic structures a million times. As far as any one story, well, I can’t cite just one because there have been so many. “Angel” has meant a lot to a lot of people. You can apply it to so many things in your life. At first I was worried that with this album being so direct and specific that I would lose that kind of universality, but then I realized that half the world gets divorced. Everyone loses a parent. These are things that everyone goes through.

Your SPCA ad has become kind of an internet meme — what do you think of that? You must have a pretty good sense of humor, judging from your “Portlandia” appearance.

Oh yeah — I laugh along with everyone else. I change the channel too! It’s depressing! But I’ll tell you what, it worked like a hot damn, because it raised $3 million for the SPCA. To be honest, though, I don’t want to be associated with only being the SPCA person. This has just turned into a phenomenon. I wanted to do a good thing, and it did become a little intense. I love animals, of course, but if I wanted to be the face of something I’d choose children and women and furthering their rights. I didn’t really want to be the animal person. But then again, I get like 15 letters a week from people saying they’ve given up their lives to create a shelter for animals. So it’s done a lot of good, but I just don’t want to be associated with it. I’ll take any opportunity to take the piss. I love it.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a UMaine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.