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- Posted on May 26th 2011 9:00AM by Leena Tailor
"Yeah, the marriage part didn't quite work out," she tells Spinner with a laugh after having just put her "screaming three-year-old" to bed. "Apparently that's a bit of an epidemic, so I just make light of it."
Epidemic indeed. Three years on, the 43-year-old Canadian may chuckle at the demise of her marriage as another statistic in a divorce-saturated world, but it wasn't always so easy for the songstress to joke about. In fact, she admits at one point she entered an emotional hole so horrid that she never expected to be able to make music again, let alone return to the stage.
The thought of never singing and touring again was a grim prospect for the girl who grew up spending her spare time taking vocal lessons and her school hours studying classical piano and guitar. It wasn't exactly down to her genes -- the Halifax, Nova Scotia-born Aquarian was adopted by an American couple, Jack and Dorice, shortly after her birth and it was Dorice who taught McLachlan her first song and had her performing at tea parties. The story goes that it wasn't until McLachlan was a college student at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design that a peer commented on her likeness to another friend -- who turned out to be her birth mother Judy (the two would eventually meet).
By that stage, McLachlan had found solace in music through her teens. It's a typical celebrity story -- the geeky girl who finds herself an outcast at school then goes on to become a global superstar. She never doubted that she was destined for a career in the arts.
"I knew I'd be making music or art, just like I knew ever since I was 17 that I'd have two daughters," she says, matter-of-factly. So it was hardly surprising when her high-school band the October Game's debut concert saw her immediately offered a record deal. After finishing up school and one year of college at her parents' insistence, McLachlan signed with the label and moved to Vancouver.
Her first two albums saw her shoot to fame in Canada, her next cracked the international market and 1997's 'Surfacing' (which spawned the iconic single 'Angel' from the 'City of Angels' soundtrack) scored her two Grammy awards. But as she basked in the success, McLachlan became frustrated that none of the summer's touring festivals featured back-to-back female artists. So while the Spice Girls were exploding in the UK, McLachlan engineered her own girl-power movement, the female-only music festival Lilith Fair.
The tour quickly became big news, grossing roughly $16 million US in its first year, becoming the most successful all-female music festival in history and helping launch the careers of various female artists. A portion of ticket sales raised around $7 million US for various charities over Lilith Fair's three-year run and it became an iconic celebration of women and music, attracting more than 1.5 million fans. "I just thought it'd be fun to make music with a bunch of women," says McLachlan. "But it became a big political statement and took a life of its own. A lot of great things come with being with other women -- social issues and environmental issues, trying to make the world a better place."
The tour was relaunched last year on the back of McLachlan's comeback album 'Laws of Illusion,' but she recently announced it would not be returning, due to the project's failure to bring in money.
McLachlan has experienced her own dramatic changes during that period, too, most notably her marriage to fellow Canadian musician Ashwin Sood, who she hired as a drummer, started dating a few years later and then wed while on vacation in Jamaica in 1997.
Eleven years and two beautiful daughters later, the marriage fell apart.
At the time, amid cheating rumours, Sarah simply described the breakup as "pretty gross," and she's open about the pain that it caused her.
"Coming to terms with the fact that my marriage was a failure was devastating and very difficult," she says. "I blamed myself for a lot of things. It took me a very long time to get over it. I have amazing friends, great family and two kids so I just got out of bed everyday and kept moving forward. I'm not one to sit and wallow -- I would rather figure out a way around so I can move past it and be at peace with things. I don't like bad feelings gnawing away at me.
"So I've certainly done a lot of growing up in the past couple of years, recognizing bad traits in myself and others.
"And music has always been incredibly cathartic for me, whether it's writing my own stuff or singing other people's music; it's very freeing. But it did take me a long while to be able to write again because I was just too far down a deep dark hole to do anything. I had to crawl back up, get some light in and have some objectivity before I could start writing again."
Two songs -- 'U Want Me 2' and 'Don't Give Up on Us' -- eventually came from McLachlan's heartache, and these days she's friends with Ashwin and has adjusted to life as a solo mom.
"My oldest, India, is 8 and she is an amazing teacher and the great leveller," McLachlan says. "She's very truthful and loves an opportunity to take the piss out of me and put me in my place. She's fierce! I tend to bulldoze through things and she's always there making me more present and thoughtful in everything I do. She has made me a much better person.
"My second, Taja , is just joyful. She takes fistfuls of her sister's hair every chance she gets but they're girls so that's what happens. She wakes up singing and skipping and dancing and she's always happy.
"I honestly can't remember what life was like before I was a mother. I think I had a lot of bloody time on my hands! Having kids is profound. All of a sudden you have to be 100-percent responsible for a human being other than yourself, and it's terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Everything I do, my first thought is how it's going to affect them."
Sadly, her adopted mother passed away of cancer shortly before Christmas 2001, when McLachlan was pregnant with India. It was a long, ugly illness and it was heartbreaking for McLachlan to lose Dorice just a couple of months before the birth of her first child. "But she's in a better place," McLachlan says. "She was sick and in pain for a long time and it's brutal to watch somebody go through that. By the time she died, it was a relief because she wasn't there anymore. She was this shell of a person who was suffering and it wasn't much fun.
"I miss her a lot, especially if something crazy happens with the kids. It would be nice to have her there. But my dad is a gem. He's so sweet and he remarried the most fantastic woman on the planet -- who happens to have the same name as my mother -- and with her came two new sisters and a brother, all who I love. It so could have gone in the other direction. So I have great family support and incredible friends who I've leaned on a lot."
Having returned to the road after taking a significant step away from music to concentrate on motherhood following India's birth, McLachlan credits the world's best nanny for helping her juggle work with the girls: "She is Mary Poppins and Mother Teresa mixed into one -- a school teacher, lifeguard, swim instructor and the finest human being I've ever met!"
And while dating was fun for awhile, right now Mary Poppins is enough to fill the gap Ashwin left in McLachlan's life.
"I honestly can't imagine dating anybody right now," McLachlan admits. "I dated briefly and it was a whirlwind and so much fun but it takes too much emotional work. I have two small kids so for anybody who comes into my life, it's a big life and there's a lot going on. I think I'm going to be single for a long time."