When Sarah McLachlan decided to take a break from music-making several years ago, what she had in mind was a bit of rest and relaxation. Instead, the Vancouver-based singer/songwriter ended up with an avalanche of emotionally charged, life-changing events, including the death of her mother, the birth of her daughter and the crash of the World Trade Center.
The album that has emerged from that roller-coaster ride, Afterglow -- her first studio effort since 1997's Surfacing -- will finally hit stores Nov. 4, and McLachlan feels it was worth the wait.
"I always think one needs to take some time off to recharge," McLachlan says. "I took three whole years, but I had a lot of personal things to deal with, a lot of big changes in my life. I lost my mum, and four months later I had a baby. But I'm glad I took the time off, because now I'm happy to be back with a record I'm very proud of."
The process of making Afterglow was not easy, however -- in fact, McLachlan suffered a crisis of confidence in the middle of it and had to shelve it for a while.
"I think I pushed myself to try and finish the record too soon after my daughter was born," she explains. "It's not a good idea to make decisions when you're sleep-deprived and hormonally overcharged.
"If my head had been on straight, I could have seen clearly enough to just leave it alone for a while. But I couldn't do that for a long time, and I really worked myself into a fervour before I realized it was just not going to happen so easily."
With titles like World On Fire, Trainwreck, Fallen and Push, the songs on Afterglow seem to directly address the recent crises in McLachlan's life. But she insists the songs came first, and that she won't be writing about her mother or daughter until at least her next album.
"I have no perspective on it yet," she explains. "I need a lot of time and space to sit back and reflect on something before I can write about it. These songs were about three-quarters finished before I had my daughter."
Still, the pregnancy did make its presence felt.
"Yeah -- all the tracks that I sang when I was pregnant I had to re-sing after the birth, 'cause I wasn't happy with them," she says. "I lost a lot of tone and control when I was pregnant -- I'm sure it has something to do with having this basketball pushing on your diaphragm all the time."
McLachlan will pack up the baby and the band -- which includes her husband, drummer Ashwin Sood -- and head out for a major world tour in the spring. Just don't expect a return of her groundbreaking girls-only Lilith tour anytime soon.
"I sort of feel that it had its time and place," she says. "It was an amazing event. But if you keep bringing something back again and again, it starts to lose its specialness."
In the meantime, McLachlan's ultra-devoted fans will have to satisfy themselves with a MuchMoreMusic live event on Sunday -- and the video for her new single, Fallen, in which she sings in the bath.
"Yeah, yeah, I know -- naked again," she laughs. "I can't seem to keep the clothes on. But it's not gratuitous -- I mean, who wears clothes in the bathtub?"