St. Louis, MO
Kagin Lee
She played here on monday the 2nd, at a place called Westport Playhouse - really a strange venue. It was an actual "modern" playhouse, built more like an old amphitheater. The stage was in the middle, seats faced inwards, with a rotating stage which didn't rotate during the show, which meant that a quarter of the people had a great view, and a quarter of the people had a great view of the performers' butts. It was an incredibly intimate place. There were only ten rows of seats, and the guy sitting a few seats next to me could have stretched out and touched Sarah. In between songs, anything said by anyone in the place could be heard throughout, and oftentimes the performers (either The Devlins or Sarah) were forced to acknowledge the audience's comments or questions because they were so loud. About halfway through the show, at every break between songs there were lots of "We love you Sarah's" and the occasional "You're beautiful, Sarah" - to which she seemed appropriately embarrassed. Anyway, a friend and I interviewed her after the sound check for our radio station KWUR. It was supposed to have been done for the magazine we put out, Sample, but she's a little too mainstream of an artist for us these days, so i'm not sure if this will see real paper print. Maybe some of you will enjoy reading this...


Sample: Do you like being on the road?

Sarah: For the most part, yeah, I love playing live, I hate all the other shit that goes along with it, but it all balances out in the end somehow.

Sample: Are you doing what you want to do?

Sarah: Well, I mean, there's compromise everywhere, but yeah. I mean, I feel incredibly lucky that I have a job like this where I get to play live and make records and I'm making a living doing it. That's an amazing thing.

Sample: And you can have a life as well?

Sarah: Well no, I don't really have a life when I'm on the road.

Sample: So how did you start your career?

Sarah: Oh, I was in the right place in the right time. I opened up for a band called Moev, in the band that I was playing in, and they were seven or eight years ago one of theonly bands signed to the Nettwerk label, and the guy who is now head of A&R for Nettwerk used to play guitar in the band. He heard me sing and wanted me to join Moev. I was 17, my mother freaked out, said no, so they came back two years later and offered me a five record deal on the basis of my voice, and I said yes.

Sample: And that's history?

Sarah: I was very lucky to have gotten that. They've been amazing too 'cause they've given me 100% control and complete freedom even when I had no idea what I was doing.

Sample: Musical freedom?

Sarah: Musical freedom and artistic freedom. I've designed all the album covers. I do all the merchandising stuff. I do the videos. Unfortunately you know, the Sarah McLachlan conglomeration of stuff now is becoming so big that I physically can't do everything any more otherwise I'll end up doing a bunch of things half-assed.

Sample: What do you think of the people that you run into? I mean, you're taking on the whole world basically.

Sarah: Basically, you get to look at buildings really quick in a taxicab, going from one interview to another, and you see the street the venue's on, and that's it.

Sample: But you see people?

Sarah: You see faces.

Sample: Then you move on?

Sarah: And you meet about a hundred people after the show where it's like, you basically shake a hundred people's hands and say hi to a hundred people, or two hundred or whatever it is, and, you know, there's no time for any intimacy. None. The only intimacy is shared during the show. It's completely and utterly draining. It's a hold thing that takes absolutely everything out of you. It's a real drag really, because the job, and the business end, and the dealing with all the people end is so all-consuming that by the time I'm at the end of the day I have absolutely nothing left for the people that I love. You know, for my best friends and for the people who are on the road with me, which is kind of a drag. But hey, you don't want to hear that because that's not the glamorous side, and everybody only wants to hear the glamorous side so I'll shut up now and stop talking about that.

Sample: But you like the glamorous side, don't you?

Sarah: I couldn't give a shit about the glamorous side.

Sample: What do you think of being a pop star?

Sarah: I hate it. I don't want to be put up on a pedestal. I never asked for that, that's just part of the gig.

Sample: What did you ask for? Just to be a musician?

Sarah: Mm-hmm. I mean, I didn't ask for anything when I was getting into it. I didn't know what it all involved. You know, I don't necessarily enjoy celebrity status, that kind of thing, because as far as I'm concerned I'm as worthy as you two, or anybody else on the street. I believe people are really equal, and for me to be put up on a pedestal because I'm in the newspaper, or in magazines or on the television and people treat you differently, and I think it's just weird. It's not something I've totally gotten a grip on. I've seen so many people on the media especially celebrities who'll say something, then if they change their minds the media will just slag them, because they expect them to be more than human. They expect them to be godlike and not make mistakes, and that's bullshit. I mean, we're just people, but that's another thing that you guys don't want to hear about, because it's just me ranting and raving.

Sample: But you can still be a musician, and the price you pay is you have to be put on a pedestal.

Sarah: Yeah, that's my argument: why? why do people put musicians on pedestals or actors or actresses? Why do they get put up there? That's my frustration with society, but that runs very deep.

Sample: That must have been really bizarre at first, to be treated absolutely differently than before.

Sarah: People I care about, people really close to me, don't treat me any diffferently. If anything else, they give me more trouble than, you know, if they even see a glimpse of my head getting big they'll whap me and say "Hey hey, don't forget who you are," Yeah, for the most part, I've surrounded myself with a lot of really good people, and it's hard sometimes, if you're not... I can't be strong all the time and being strong for me is having total control over my identity and who I am and where I'm going and when you have so many people every day telling you who you are and where you're going and what you should be doing, all that stuff sort of starts to wear down on your own identity, and if you're not really strong in that then you're just gonna go, "Wow, oh wait a minute. What do I think in all this?" and you start to lose that. That's probably my biggest fear of the celebrity kind of thing, of being a famous person, because I love my privacy. I love my control over myself which ebbs away the more people I deal with, within the industry.

Sample: And you see that more and more, you have to do more and more in the industry.

Sarah: Yeah, that comes with popularity, and it's hard to complain. I have a successful record, it's great. I mean I love that, and you know, there's other stuff that's involved. On a good day it's fine. I'm just not always strong, and on those days it's hard because you just have to basically put on a smile and and deal with all the people anyway, and act - which I hate doing because I hate being anything less than what is totally real, but unfortunately it tends to work against me even more if I am, if I go, "Look, I'm really not into this" then it's like, "Wow, what a bitch," you know, and a whole bunch of people think I'm a horrible person. It's all such a surface facade thing, you know, but that's the way it works.

Sample: It must be really hard for you too. Sometimes you don't know what the situation is. Is it you or is it just going along with the thing?

Sarah: It's hard sometimes if you know people are just total assholes but you have to be nice to them. That's frustrating because I'd like to just tell them to fuck off, but oh no they're a powerful person, they're promoting my record and I'm supposed to be nice to them. Situations like that are like "Oh, you misogynist pig dog, you! How dare you have those attitudes in this day and age?" But you know, stuff like that prevails everywhere. It's just that on occasion, I'd really like to speak my mind and I don't, which angers me more than them being a jerk, that I don't get to, that I'm fighting with that.

Sample: What kind of audience are you looking for?

Sarah: I'd hate to limit it by saying I'm looking for any particular kind of person or age group. I'd like to think that there's something in it for everybody. It's not something I ever aimed for. I never wrote a song for those people or for this particular age group. I'd imagine that people of my generation of my peer group probably empathize most strongly with the songs that I'm writing because they're from an emotional point of view, and in some situations, I'm talking about topical issues or whatever. In an underlying sense, I'm dealing more with the emotional point of view of the individual involved, but, my only way of telling is through the shows. If it's an all-ages, it's anywhere from 14 year olds to 50 year olds. There's definitely a large group of people in the middle that are from 17 to 30, which is sort of my peer group though.

Sample: That's got to be really cool though, that you can reach that gamut of people, when you really think about it there are few people who can really do that.

Sarah: Well, I think a lot of that though has to do with the availability of being able to hear it. There are so many bands and musicians who are sort of on the fringe, and if there's not a radio format that they don't nicely fit into, they won't get played on the radio and therefore they'll sort of remain on the outskirts of popularity.

Sample: And that's what you found?

Sarah: Well that's been my thing in the past, I think radio seems to be opening up a lot more these days. I mean, with AAA, and adult alternative, and AC, and all that stuff. College has always been there, has always played cutting-edge stuff, and stuff that's on the fringe or whatever, but as far as the big stations who actually get out to... Maybe the older generation or whatever, it's been limited in the past I think, and it seems to be opening up. I'm only saying that because I'm getting airplay where a couple of years ago I would not. and I don't think I'm writing that differently.

Sample: It's got to be frustrating for you and a lot of artists.

Sarah: It wasn't so frustrating that there wasn't a format for me because I couldn't care less if there was a format. What was frustrating was that they were trying to change my sound to pigeonhole it into something so it would fit.

Sample: So that actually did happen, that you need to do this, or this?

Sarah: Yeah, well there was always remixes. Arista wanted remixes because it would sort of work in this format, but if we made it a little more uptempo or rocky, it would really fit. So there was always that kind of a thing which, you know, I went sort of like, "Nggrrr, I don't wanna do this" and then I finally did, when "Oh well, it won't kill me to see what happens, to see how it works."

Sample: What kind of projects are you looking forward to doing, when you have some time?

Sarah: Painting more, making more music in the studio.

Sample: Are there people you'd like to work with?

Sarah: Tons of people. Well, not tons. I mean, I have a wish list. This is just sort of a wish list, but I don't know what we'd do once we got together. I don't have anything thought out, but let's see. I guess it's more singers, or people to work with. Definitely Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene of Talk Talk, Tom Waits. Hmm, my mind's blank. I can't think of anyone else. There was tons out there.

Sample: What did you think about the scene in Canada?

Sarah: I'm not a very good person to ask 'cause I have no idea what's going on up there. I don't even know what's going on in my own backyard. As far as on the grand scale of Canada becoming sort of accepted more, I think that's definitely happening. I know that the Crash Test Dummies are doing phenomenally well down here. I'm doing really well. I think Jane Siberry is doing quite well too.

Sample: What do you think of her work?

Sarah: She's a total goddess. She's great. Not to be put on a pedestal or anything


Sample: Do you have a song that you like, that you'd say was your favourite?

Sarah: That's kinda like, "Which kid's my favourite of my kids?"

Sample: Good answer.

Sarah: I don't know. "Good Enough" is one of my favourite ones to sing, "Good Enough" and "Ice." "Ice Cream's" really fun to sing too.

Thank you to Anna Hoang for posting this to the list.