Sarah McLachlan was born on January 28, 1968, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
She curiously began experimenting with various musical instruments, including her voice, in 1973, at the age of 5. Despite her parents' desire for her to become something more "interesting" than a rock star, young Sarah continued to learn as much as she could, taking classical voice, piano and guitar lessons for several years, eventually mastering all three. Though her parents sought to block her every step towards the music industry, she had already recorded several demo tapes by the age of 16 with a new wave band called October Game, and, in 1984, she signed to fledgling record label Nettwerk Records, which was based in Vancouver. Sarah was the first artist to sign to Nettwerk, though she was soon followed by industrial music giants Skinny Puppy and Frontline Assembly, both of whom are/were also based in Vancouver. When Sarah finished school in 1987, she moved to Vancouver, which she now considers her hometown.
Her debut album, Touch, was released to critical acclaim in 1989, and got her a distribution deal with Arista Records, and quite suddenly she was everywhere; she recorded several videos that received heavy airplay on Canada's MuchMusic channel and toured Canada and parts of the USA incessantly. Touch eventually reached gold status when its 500,000th copy was sold in mid-1989, and the album was then reissued in hopes of capturing an American audience.
Drawn To The Rhythym
In 1991 Sarah released Solace, on which she showed a great leap in songwriting abilities, as it was a much more technically proficient, more flowing album than Touch had been. Solace received very wide distribution and won her an American audience, so she began touring the USA more broadly, playing to packed low- to mid-level concert halls and clubs.
Following a year-long tour in support of Solace, Sarah and her band holed themselves up in a rented house just outside of Montréal, Quebec, and begun working on the next album, which was to be her best-selling (at that time) -- Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. The Fumbling studio sessions were documented on a half-audio, half-CDROM release called The Freedom Sessions (1995), which contained acoustic versions and demos of many of the Fumbling tracks, as well as half a dozen Quicktime videos and studio outtakes for the singles from that album. Track 1 contained the data portion of the CD and couldn't be played on a CD player; you had to skip past it to get to the audio portion of the CD. This was 1995, after all, and the whole CD-plus thing was just getting started. Fumbling was released to extremely wide critical acclaim on October 23, 1993, and eventually went platinum, topping off at number 50 during its run on the Billboard album chart, where it spent nearly a year and a half.
Building A Mystery
Throughout 1996, Sarah recorded what was to be her big breakthrough, the awesome Surfacing. Its first single, "Building a Mystery," hit MTV and MuchMusic like a tonne of bricks in June, 1997, and suddenly you couldn't escape Sarah's voice on the radio, her newly made-over image on TV, or pictures of her in magazines.
Capitalizing on her new-found global success, 1997 found Sarah organizing the first Lilith Fair, which toured the USA touting only female acts (more specifically: bands fronted by women, some with male musicians). Sarah and others, such as Heather Nova, Paula Cole, The Indigo Girls, Lisa Loeb and Natalie Merchant were a part of Lilith Fair, and though they've remained mainstays on it through its various incarnations, many others have been added as well. Lilith Fair went on hiatus for all of the 2000s before returning in 2010 with a larger lineup.
In 1999, with the close of the last Lilith Fair until 2010, Sarah came out with Mirrorball, a greatest hits compilation, which contained (among other songs) her rendition of "Gloomy Sunday," a song that has been covered by literally dozens of artists since Billie Holiday immortalized it in the 1930s. In 1999, 2000 and 2001 she contributed to various movie and TV soundtracks, most notably the track "When She Loved Me" to the Toy Story 2 OST and "Full of Grace" for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Also recorded around this time was a cover of the XTC atheistic classic "Dear God," which ended up on the Rarities & B-Sides compilation. Sandwiched between all her successes in the late 1990s, she also recorded a track with the Frontline Assembly side project Delerium, entitled "Silence," which also received moderate airplay on modern rock stations across the continent, despite its industrial bent. Also, apart from The Freedom Sessions, she has released two separate video collections on DVD. In between all this, she was made a recipient of the Order of Canada, which is more or less Canada's version of the British OBE.
In February 1997, Sarah and her drummer, Ashwin Sood, eloped and were eventually married. On April 6, 2002, Sarah and Ash had their first child, a girl named India Ann Sushil. The delivery came just a few months after the end of a recording session for Sarah's new album, Afterglow, which was released (after a significant delay) in late 2003 on Arista Records and Nettwerk Records. The title track was also released as a single a number of months prior to the release of the album.
"I've learned to trust myself, to listen to truth, to not be afraid of it and to not try and hide it."
(Sarah has released nearly three dozen singles (including country-specific releases) since the late 1980s, so I am listing only the album-length releases.)
1989 Touch (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
1991 Solace (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
1993 Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
1994 Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: The Home Video (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
1995 The Freedom Sessions (CD-plus) (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
1995 Under a Blackened Sky (VHS)
1996 Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (Live CD) (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
1996 Video Collection: 1988-1994 (VHS)
1996 Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
1997 Surfacing (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
1999 Mirrorball (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
1999 Mirrorball (DVD -- Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
2000 Video Collection: 1988-1998 (DVD)
2001 Remixed (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
2003 Afterglow (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
2004 Afterglow Live (Digital self-released album available through her official website)
2004 Afterglow Live (DVD)
2005 Fumbling Towards Ecstasy Live (DVD)
2005 Sarah McLachlan: A Life of Music (DVD)
2005 Bloom: Remix Album (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
2006 Wintersong (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
2008 Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff Volume 2 (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)
2010 Laws of Illusion (Arista Records/Nettwerk Records)