About 30 years ago, Canadian singer songwriter Sarah McLachlan released Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, her third studio album.

Now, she’s going on tour to pay tribute to the album that brought her so much success, but most of all, was written during a pivotal time in her life, and has made such an impact on her fans. 

“I talked to a lot of people over the past couple months, talking about how [Fumbling Towards Ecstasy] got them through the university experience or got them through a breakup or a divorce or whatever,” McLachlan said. 

“I think there’s a lot of emotional energy attached to this record for a lot of people. It’ll be great to play it, start to finish.”

The tour kicks off May 23 in Vancouver, where McLachlan has lived for over three decades. 

She sat down for an interview with CBC’s Gloria Macarenko, host of On The Coast, ahead of the tour.

WATCH | Sarah McLachlan shares significance of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy:

Sarah McLachlan to kick off Fumbling Towards Ecstasy 30th anniversary tour in Vancouver

Vancouver singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan discusses preparations for her 30th anniversary Fumbling Towards Ecstasy tour, and recording her first new studio album in about eight years.

Correction, May 16, 2024: An earlier version of this video included concert footage from a performer who was not Sarah McLachlan. It has been updated.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How would you describe your relationship with this album?

It was my easiest album to make. I was unencumbered in so many ways. I had no partner. I had no children. I got to sequester myself away in the woods in the Laurentians in Quebec and just focus 150 per cent on music. It was also my third record so I had gotten the sophomore freak-out out of the way and was just able to really dig into it and enjoy it. There was a real freedom during that time for me. It was easy and fun and joyful and fun to go back and revisit. Many of these songs I’ve continued to play through the years, but there’s probably four or five of them that I haven’t played in 25 years.

People don’t play records in full. Nobody does that. They stream a whole bunch of different music. We used to really think hard on the emotional arc of a record and what song to put after the other one because you used to assume they all played as a whole.

You’re playing 31 cities across North America in 44 days. How are you preparing for such a rigourous schedule?

I’m eating really healthily, which I do normally anyway. I’m getting a lot of exercise. I think for me, it’s sleep. I need to sleep a lot. I’m very boring on the road. I don’t talk much during the day to maintain my voice. I’m a little bit concerned about it only because I haven’t done it in 10 years and I’m 10 years older. And there’s many warranty issues that are now coming up as we age.

My mental energy, I have to sort of protect that a little bit. It’s super fun and exciting, but it takes a lot of energy to put on a two-hour show every night and you know, just to recharge during the day is really important.

Sarah McLachlan, a white woman with shoulder-length brown hair, raises her arms in celebration while holding a mic.
McLachlan, pictured in 2019, is touring across North America this summer, with plans to perform in 31 cities in 44 days. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

This is a fundraiser for the Sarah McLachlan School of Music. What difference will the money raised make for the school?

We rely 100 per cent on donations from folks. I fund the administrative costs every year, but it’s not a cheap program to run. It’s completely free for children and youth in Vancouver facing barriers to access. It’s been almost 22 years now that we’ve had this school and it’s always been free. We have locations in Vancouver, Surrey and Edmonton now, and we have over 1,000 kids for the three schools.

I love that we provide that opportunity for kids here in Vancouver. Music saved me. When I was growing up, I don’t know what I would have done without it. I had lots of private music lessons. We had vibrant music programs in schools and a lot of kids don’t have those opportunities these days. For me, recognizing the value and importance of a musical education for me, opening up my own emotional world and giving me a a sense of my own value and self worth, it was just paramount in my development as a human. To give kids that opportunity has just felt incredibly rewarding.  

I understand you are recording a new album. What can you tell us about that?

I’ve been working with a producer named Tony Berg and he is fantastic in bringing together lots of young, vibrant, creative musicians. 

I think we’re probably going to finish it by October and hopefully have it out by May of next year. I know it seems like a long time, but it typically takes six months once the record’s done to get it out to the people.

A woman sits at a piano
McLachlan performs at the 2019 Juno Awards at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont. (CARAS/iPhoto)

In an interview that you did recently with the Canadian Press, you talked about not being political, but whether you have that luxury of being apolitical anymore. 

I don’t think any of us can be apolitical anymore. I think there’s such division going on in the world and so much radicalizing of both sides. We have to figure out how to work together. I think music is an amazing bridge for that.

I think I had a lot of fear coming back into this. I suppose maybe I still do, just about speaking my mind and going to America and getting shot for it just because people are angry and afraid and they’re not not necessarily behaving in a civilized manner sometimes. So sure, I have a little bit of fear about it but I have to speak my mind. If someone asked me a direct question, I’m going to answer. 

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