Sarah McLachlan recalls being called 'Medusa' as a kid after she kissed another girl: 'I became poison'

The Canadian singer-songwriter recently kicked off a 30th anniversary tour for her hit album, "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy."

Sarah McLachlan attends the 2023 Wayuu Taya Gala at Urban Zen on Oct. 30, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
Sarah McLachlan just kicked off a tour, and she's spending time in the studio to prep an upcoming album. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Sarah McLachlan might've taken a step out of the spotlight for a number of years, but the Canadian singer-songwriter is ready to get back to music. The 56-year-old "Angel" artist has been spending time in the studio prepping an upcoming album. Last week, she kicked off her first full-band tour in a decade where she'll take on stages across the U.S. and Canada. She's also been reflecting on her travelling music festival, Lilith Fair, in interviews for a recently-wrapped documentary.

But what exactly does the Halifax-born hitmaker have up her sleeve? According to a profile from the New York Times on Thursday, she might be on the verge of a renaissance. Here's what we learned from the profile about where the Grammy and Juno-award winning artist is today.

While in the final stretch of rehearsals for the 30th anniversary tour of her 1993 album, "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy," McLachlan couldn't sing. The New York Times reported her voice collapsed three days into a string of seven-hour practice sessions, leaving her unable to hit the high notes to fan-favourite tracks like "Possession" and "Ice Cream." It was 30 hours before she was set to take the stage in Vancouver on May 23.

"It only goes away when I project, push out," she said backstage following the first of the day's run-throughs, putting a badge that read "vocal rest" around her neck. "Luckily, that’s only a third of what I do."

Sarah McLachlan kicked off her
McLachlan kicked off her "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy 30th Anniversary Tour" at Pacific Coliseum on May 23, 2024 in Vancouver. (Photo by Andrew Chin/Getty Images)

In 2016, McLachlan released her second holiday record, "Wonderland." But the last time she released an album full of original music was on her third record, 2014's "Shine On." A few years ago, she completed a set of songs about a breakup, but decided to scrap the project.

In the midst of creating her current tour and reflecting on her catalogue of music, McLachlan flew to Los Angeles to work with producer Tony Berg, who has worked with artists like Aimee Mann, Phoebe Bridgers and Boygenius. Within those sessions, she's recorded at least a dozen songs, including a cover of Judee Sill's 1973 hit "The Kiss."

"I'm so energized by music, now that I'm living and breathing it every moment," she told the New York Times. "It's a very different feeling."

McLachlan experienced a bout of bullying growing up in Nova Scotia. During the summer between grades 6 and 7, her friends began calling her a "lesbian" after she kissed another girl. While she might've been trying to practice for a boy, she was immediately became an outcast.

"I became poison. Then they started calling me 'Medusa,' because I had long, curly hair," she recalled. "There was physical abuse, too. I thought, 'I am on my own.'"

Sarah McLachlan performs during the Lifebeat Allstar Benefit Concert on July 13, 1995 at Beacon Theater in New York City. (Photo by Steve Eichner/WireImage)
McLachlan performs during the Lifebeat Allstar Benefit Concert on July 13, 1995 at Beacon Theater in New York City. (Photo by Steve Eichner/WireImage)

Life wasn't easy at home for McLachlan, either. According to the New York Times profile, she was the youngest of three adopted kids she said her father never wanted, and her mother was unhappy in her marriage, making everyone in the family equally as miserable: "I didn't have a relationship with my father, because my mother wouldn't allow it," she recalled. "If I showed him any attention, she wouldn't speak to me for a week."

To escape, she turned to music. She took up ukulele until age four, when she graduated to classical guitar until age seven. School was difficult for McLachlan, and she often skipped class to play piano in the empty gymnasium. Eventually, she began begging to join a band and her parents let her practice every Sunday for a few hours.

That first show, a set in front of a few hundred kids in a student union, changed McLachlan's life: "I was being seen, and I was being accepted. It was the first time I felt that way." That night, fellow headlining act Mark Jowett was moved by her talent and urged her to moved west and start writing music. At the time, Jowett was running Nettwerk in Vancouver, an independent music company he co-founded with Terry McBride in 1984.

While McLachlan's parents insisted she finished high school and university, she defied their wishes and chased her ambition. That lead to burgeoning music career, where she put out a successful sophomore album, "Solace," in 1991, followed by her hit 1993 record "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy."

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Musician Sarah McLachlan performs on stage at Humphreys Concerts By the Bay on September 21, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)
McLachlan's second and third albums pushed her into the limelight. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

Following the success of her third album, McLachlan saw a growing spotlight — one that came with some drawbacks. For one, letters from stalkers started piling up at Nettwerk's offices, including from a man named Uwe Vandrei, an Ottawa programmer who ended up suing McLachlan until he died by suicide. After gaining a certain level of fanatical celebrity, McLachlan pushed back while also trying to change the landscape for women in music.

She created Lilith Fair, a travelling music festival consisting mostly of female performers in the summers of 1997 to 1999. This — on top of a series of successful music releases — gave McLachlan wealth and fame, eventually letting her focus more on family and her other projects, and less on work. While years passed between albums and her music career, she was still happy.

"I'm a middle-aged woman. You kind of became invisible," she told the New York Times. "And I really like that."

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