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Sarah McLachlan Looks Back -- And Forward -- With Hits Set

Of the Oakland Press

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Sarah McLachlan’s yearbook at Queen Elizabeth High School in her native Halifax, Nova Scotia, declares that she’s “destined to become a famous rock star.”

She is of course, but it certainly wasn’t what McLachlan envisioned at the time.

“I never expected success — commercial success,” says McLachlan, 40, who reviews her 20-year recording career on the just-released hits set “Closer: The Best of Sarah McLachlan.” “I never set out to be a famous rock star. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to do something that made me feel good and playing music made me feel good.

“And I’m really lucky that a lot of other people seem to feel good when I play my music, too. It’s sort of carried me along all these years. I’m just really, really lucky that way.” That journey has included

sales of more than 40 million albums worldwide since McLachlan released her debut album, “Touch,” in 1988. She’s won eight Juno Awards in Canada and three Grammy Awards in the United States. She also guided the successful Lilith Fair summer package tour for three years and founded the Sarah McLachlan Music Outreach Program to bring music education to inner city youth.

It’s been five years since her last studio album, “Afterglow,” but the past year has found McLachlan in a retrospective mode. Prior to “Closer” — which comes in single- and a

double-disc “deluxe” packages — she released a 15-year expanded anniversary edition of her third album, “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy,” and a “Rarities, BSides and Other Stuff” compilation.

On a darker note, however, another era of her life is coming to a close. She and husband Ashwin Sood, the longtime drummer in her band and father of McLachlan’s two daughters (six-year-old India Ann Sushil and 15-month-old Taja Summer, 15 months), have separated after 11 years of marriage, inspiring the two new songs on “Closer,” “U Want Me 2” and “Don’t Give Up on Us,” which she co-wrote with longtime producer Pierre Marchand.

“It’s pretty gross,” McLachlan, 40, says of the situation. “I wasn’t planning on saying anything, but it’s gonna come out at some point. I haven’t said anything about it ‘because I’ve been terrified to, but I figure ... there’s no good time to say it, so I just said it.”

If there’s a silver lining, McLachlan notes with a laugh that she made “Fumbling ...,” her favorite album, during one of the few periods when she was single in her adult life. “It’s the most joyful, simplest record I ever made,” she says. “It was fun and easy and light — makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”

Taking a breath to survey her career, meanwhile, has been illuminating. “It doesn’t feel like 20 years,” McLachlan says. “If I sit back and think about that, it’s quite shocking. I don’t feel like 40. I feel like 22 ... OK, 26.

“It’s been a pretty incredible ride. If I start to think about all the different experiences and all the different tours then, yeah, it feels like 20 years. But it really has flown by.”

She’s doing anything but flying these days. With “Closer” designed as a bit of a stop-gap to let her get her equilibrium back, McLachlan is “just chuggin’ away” toward her next full-scale studio album. But because she’s “a hands-on mom ... life moves at a different pace now. I love being a mom, so that really takes up a lot of my energy and time.” But, she adds, “I’m starting to get back in” to the record-making process, without focusing too much on the expectations that will inevitably greet that long-awaited project.

“I don’t go into it with the anticipation that any of it’s gonna be a huge hit,” says McLachlan, who’s playing a handful of shows this month — including Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit in Mountain View, Calif. “I do the best I can, I feel good about it and I let it go.

“I’ve pretty much lived my life that way. Whatever I do is because it should feel good and feel right. That, to me, is success.”

Download Depot

Five mandatory Sarah McLachlan tracks ...

“Drawn to the Rhythm” (1991)

“Into the Fire” (1991)

“The Path of Thorns (Terms)” (1991) “Hold On” (1993)

“Angel” (1997)

And one wild card... “I Will Remember You” (“The Brothers McMullen” soundtrack, 1995)

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