The Second Coming of Lilith Fair

BY David Michael Conner

May 06 2010 6:05 PM ET

LILITH FAIR MAIN X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

“I’d like to think that it’s one of those ‘What came first: the chicken or the egg?’ things,” McLachlan says when she's asked about the advances women in music have made since she last took Lilith on the road. “The success of Lilith was based on the artists who came out and supported it and were part of it. And the audience that followed it and listened to it. We certainly did break down some barriers in the radio world — you know, [I was told] you can’t play two women artists back to back, you can’t put two women on the same bill, people won’t come. And it really helped to sort of redefine the face of the music business and to allow for more inclusivity. I think in the 11 years it’s been away, a lot of doors have opened up, a lot of doors have closed, as far as women in music. In the same way as women in most industries, there’s still a long way to go, there’s still inequality. But that is not the primary focus of this tour. The primary focus is putting on a great, diverse musical show.

“Eleven years have passed, and there’s a ton of new artists, new acts,” McLachlan says. And her excitement is palpable as she rattles off names, practically singing about some of the new additions or reuniting with original Lilith artists.

“Colbie Caillat! Sugarland is a new huge hot, new country act. Miranda Lambert was on the tour last time, A Fine Frenzy ... we’re lucky to be getting back a lot of the artists who were there the first time ... Sheryl Crow, Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah, Emmylou Harris ... but you know, like, the Go-Go’s are coming this time. Mary J. Blige is doing a bunch of shows this time ... wicked. Loretta Lynn. And Heart. The Indigo Girls are coming back, Kelly Clarkson is a great new artist, Jill Scott, Beth Orton is coming back, Cat Power, Missy Higgins! I should have the whole list in front of me."

As McLachlan talks, she gives the sense she’d love nothing more than to gush about all these musicians all day long. A cynic might think, Well, why wouldn’t she? They’re helping McLachlan pay for her two girls’ college funds.

But those cynics should take note of McLachlan’s honesty. Though promoting Lilith might provide an easy opportunity to pander to her LGBT fans, McLachlan speaks her mind and heart, not talking points.

“I think of people as human beings. I don’t think of them as gay or straight. I don’t think of people as black or white. They’re just people. And those are labels.”

Coming from most other people, this might seem like a pat, canned response. But anyone who has listened to Sarah McLachlan’s music will understand that “human beings” is simply her worldview.

“As much as there are definitions, there are defining characteristics as well, but if I think, Oh, I have a big gay following and how do I tap into that? I just ... I don’t think that way. Gay or straight, it’s all about love. It’s about feeling love and being loved and giving love. And that’s pretty much the main theme of my music. And self-discovery and all the messy, gooey stuff that goes along with it. And being in relationships and trying to figure out how to navigate that, whether you’re gay or straight, it’s tricky stuff."

Tags: Music

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