Over the course of a music career that has spanned almost three decades, Sarah McLachlan has penned numerous bittersweet melodies that can leave her fans scrambling for the nearest box of Kleenex.
But the silky-smooth vocalist says she rarely weeps herself.
“I’m one of those suck-it-up, smarten-up, you-have-no-time-to-cry-right-now kind of people,” says McLachlan, 47, calling from her home in Vancouver, British Columbia, on an unseasonably sunny and mild winter day.
She’s in the middle of a five-week stretch of performances that represents the second leg of her North American “Shine On” tour, which stops at Charlotte’s Ovens Auditorium on Wednesday.
We spoke with her before she hit the road about the new album (which was released last May), sad songs, sad commercials featuring sad pets, and the best song she’s ever written. Hint: It’s a tune that will probably make you blubber.
Q. What’s the response been to the new material?
A. Really great. I’ve been pretty much touring since May with this record, and when we started I’d say, “Listen, I know you’re probably not that familiar with these new songs. But I love ’em, so I’m gonna play all of ’em, so bear with me.” Right away people would clap and people would be singing along. It makes sense, though, because when I think about the last record (2010’s “Laws of Illusion”) and how that didn’t happen ... I wasn’t in a great place, and it was a downer record. I just think this one has a lot more hopefulness and joy in it, and I think perhaps it was easier and simpler to attach to, quicker.
Q. My wife, she’s a bit of a crier, and I would say of all the songs ever made, “Angel” is the one that will get her more often than any other.
A. Yeah, that seems to be the case with everybody.
Q. Does knowing one of your songs can make someone cry give you some sense of satisfaction?
A. Absolutely. The reason she’s crying and the reason people cry is because it does evoke some sort of strong emotion, and I think it’s a connection to our emotional world that is so powerful. That’s what music gives us. It’s great validation for me as an artist to know that something I’ve created has gone out there in the world and done that for people. ... Typically, I think people attach it to some sort of loss that they’ve gone through. The loss of a parent, or a loved one, or an animal. It’s sad, but it’s also beautiful and sweet, because it reminds them of that person. And I think that’s a beautiful thing. I love that.
Q. Speaking of crying, I have to ask about the ASPCA ad. (Almost 10 years ago, she filmed a commercial for the nonprofit that featured “Angel,” and images of shelter animals. It’s sadder than “Terms of Endearment.”) Can you believe it has become so famous?
A. (Laughing) No! When you attach a piece of music to something – it’s sort of an innocent thing. I spent three hours in the studio, I said those words, the song went with the pictures, and it raised 30 million bucks. It really hit home in a profound way, and there were articles written about how we’d changed the face of fundraising. And it was kind of difficult for me because I started to feel a bit disingenuous about the whole thing, in the sense that I had people writing me letters weekly (about shelter animals). I felt like a fraud, because I just did this little commercial. I love animals as much as the next person, but if I really wanted to attach myself to something, it would be kids and education.
Q. Is “Angel” the song you get asked about the most?
A. Yes. People ask me, “What’s your favorite song?” Or, “What song most defines you?” And I think that song does, just because of the reach it’s had, and how many people have chosen to come up to me and talk to me about it – about how it’s made a difference somehow in their lives.
Q. So by that measure, would you say it’s the best song you’ve ever written?
A. In a way, yes. Not because of the public perception, but because of how I feel about it. I mean, I have the same real, visceral attachment to it that that they do, I think. It was one of those beautiful songs, for me, that came out quickly and easily. I felt like more of a conduit. There wasn’t all that blood, sweat and tears attached to it. It just kind of happened. Those are blissful moments that seldom happen for me as a songwriter.
The Canadian singer-songwriter returns to Charlotte for the first time since the 1999 Lilith Fair tour.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday.
WHERE: Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd.
DETAILS: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.