[the sea of waking dreams]

Court to hear a McLachlan mini-concert

The Vancouver Sun, November 5, 1998

Neal Hall, Sun Court Reporter Vancouver Sun

Canadian pop music star Sarah McLachlan plans to perform a mini-concert in a Vancouver courtroom to demonstrate how she developed songs for her 1988 debut album, her manager said Wednesday.

"She wants to show what the songs sounded like," Terry McBride explained to The Vancouver Sun when asked why McLachlan's guitar was brought to court each day.

McLachlan, however, isn't expected to perform until she begins her testimony, likely next week.

The 30-year-old singer-songwriter is attending court daily, jotting down notes that she hands to a woman bodyguard who passes them on to her two lawyers -- both women.

Court staff had to turn away people wanting to get inside for a look at the star Wednesday morning because the courtroom was packed with media and McLachlan's fans.  But there were empty seats during the afternoon session.

McLachlan is being sued by Vancouver record producer Darryl Neudorf, 34, a former drummer with the Vancouver group 54-40, who claims he co-produced McLachlan's first album, Touch, and co-wrote four songs but didn't receive songwriting credits or adequate compensation.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are her record company, Nettwerk Productions, McBride and his business partners Mark Jowett and Ric Arboit.

Most of Wednesday's testimony came from Darren Phillips, 32, a Vancouver musician and barber who co-wrote two songs on McLachlan's debut album, which sold poorly initially but went on to sell 624,000 copies after McLachlan became an international star. The trial heard how Nettwerk initially hoped to sell 3,000 copies of the low-budget album.

Phillips testified he was given credit for co-writing the music for the songs Steaming and Uphill Battle. He said he received more than $20,000 in songwriting royalties and received an additional three-quarters of a "point" for helping McLachlan develop other songs before she went into the recording studio in March 1988.

A point in the record industry is worth one per cent of the retail price of each record sold.

Phillips recalled spending three months helping McLachlan develop songs after she signed a five-record recording contract with Nettwerk in October 1987, when she moved from Halifax to Vancouver to begin what Nettwerk called the "Sarah Project."

They worked on songs during the evenings -- Phillips works as a barber by day -- but things weren't progressing fast enough, Phillips recalled, so Neudorf was hired to speed things up, working days and evenings helping McLachlan, who had never before written a complete song.

He recalled McLachlan had a lot of "meandering ideas" she played on the piano and guitar, which Neudorf picked parts of and organized into songs.

Even when McLachlan went into the recording studio, he added, Neudorf worked with McLachlan finalizing parts of songs. He said the song Strange World, which Neudorf claims he co-wrote, was finished in a back room of the studio.

Under cross-examination by Jennifer Conkie, who is representing McLachlan and the other defendants, Phillips said he was happy with his royalties and agreed he didn't have to fight to get songwriting credits.

Phillips said Neudorf was given one point and producer Greg Reely was given two points of retail sales. But he felt Neudorf should have been given credit for co-producing the album.

Conkie at one point showed Phillips a cassette tape of Touch on which Neudorf was given written credit for "pre-production coordinator and production assistant."

"It's a wordy way around not giving him production credit," Phillips told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen, who is hearing the civil case without a jury.

Conkie also pointed out the album liner notes said: "Thanks to Darryl for inspiration."

"He provided a lot of inspiration when deadlines weren't being met," Phillips explained.

During the testimony, McLachlan's manager sat at the media table taking notes and reading radio airplay charts, checking to see how her single Angel is doing.

Her latest album, Surfacing, has already sold four million copies in the U.S. and another one million in Canada.

The trial is scheduled for three weeks and will hear the testimony of a number of Vancouver musicians.

Nettwerk has retained as a music expert local songwriter and musician Bill Henderson, formerly of the Vancouver groups the Collectors and Chilliwack, and now with UHF.

The trial will hear a motion today by McLachlan's lawyer to have the evidence of Neudorf's music expert, American musicologist Gerald Eskalin, ruled inadmissable. Eskalin has testified in similar cases involving Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.


Sarah McLachlan, 30, studied classical piano, guitar and voice and was first discovered as the singer of a New Wave band in Halifax in 1985 by the then-fledgling Vancouver company Nettwerk.

In 1987, at the age of 19, she signed a five-album deal with Nettwerk and moved to Vancouver to begin recording her debut album, Touch.

She claims she wrote all the lyrics for her first album, although that is disputed in a pending lawsuit filed by Jeff Sawatsky.

The album eventually sold 624,000 copies. Nettwerk was hoping it would sell 3,000. Most of the sales were after McLachlan became an international star.

She has now released six albums and founded the Lilith Fair concert tour, which showcases the talents of female performers. The tour visited 52 cities this year and grossed $28 million, making it the most successful multi-artist tour in North America in 1998.

In recognition of her work with Lilith Fair, McLachlan received the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Visionary Award, presented by New York Governor George Pataki, for advancing the careers of women in music.

McLachlan won two Grammy awards this year, including female best pop vocal performance, and four Juno awards, including best single (Building a Mystery) and best album (Surfacing, which has sold five million copies in the U.S. and Canada), best female vocalist and best songwriter (with co-writer Pierre Marchand).

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