Lilith Fair

She’s at the beach on Vancouver Island, about to go surfing with her two children.

Sarah McLachlan sounds like any other single mom, multitasking in perpetuity, getting her kids ready for the day ahead as she tends to work simultaneously. “Yes, sweetie. That’s fine. You’ve got to wear a big coat, OK? It’s cold out,” she tells one of her girls in the background. “Oh dear, I’m just going to run away from my children. They are screaming.”

For McLachlan, a heart-on-the-sleeve singer-songwriter whose tunes often read like pages torn from her diary, business always has been personal.

Her latest album, “Laws of Illusion,” is McLachlan’s first since her split with her husband of 11 years in 2008, and in terms of emotion, it’s as raw as a freshly skinned knee.

“I’m not the girl I was, but what have I become?” McLachlan asks on the album-opening “Awakenings.” “I’m not so willing anymore to bend. Still pleasing and conceding, but I’m not gonna lose myself again.”

As such, “Laws of Illusion” marks something of a rebirth for McLachlan, psychically and sonically, a lush-sounding, galvanized record.

“I suppose there was a time when I sort of felt a little sorry for myself,” McLachlan says of her mental state in the wake of her divorce. “At the time, I’d just turned 40, and I’ve got two small kids. That’s a tricky place to be in. But I’m happily single right now.”

If “Illusion” signifies a series of new beginnings for McLachlan, so does her first tour in support of the disc: as headliner of the relaunched Lilith Fair female-centric package tour.

The first outing of its kind to focus on female musicians, Lilith did three years of blockbuster business beginning with its debut in 1997.

“We actually decided in late 2008 to bring back the Lilith Fair in 2010,” McLachlan says. “That’s sort of how long it takes to get the ball rolling. We’ve always been talking about it, and it seemed like a lot of work. Then the last time we talked, we had a different attitude about it. Also, I was putting out a new record, and it seemed like I’m only going to be touring in the summer, so it seemed like a good time to bring it back.”

Featuring a rotating cast of performers — the Vegas date includes Miranda Lambert, The Bangles and others — Lilith returns at a time when the landscape has shifted for female performers.

And McLachlan argues that Lilith was a force behind said change by demonstrating that female performers could be big earners on their own.

“I think that we did definitely help to change some old-school attitudes, that you couldn’t put women back-to-back on the radio, that you couldn’t put women together onstage, that people wouldn’t come,” she says. “I think that was an old fallacy, and we blew that apart. That definitely helps to let the industry know that women were, in fact, a powerhouse.”

Lilith’s return, however, comes during a struggling summer concert season, and ticket sales have been sluggish in some markets.

“We may not make a ton of money. We probably won’t, you know,” McLachlan admits. “But, honestly, it’s not so much about that anyway. I just want to put on a really good show. It’s certainly not, ‘Oh, we’re not selling a lot of tickets. We’re going to pull the plug.’ We’re not going to do that.”

Instead, McLachlan says she’s focused on rebuilding the sense of camaraderie among her fellow musicians that she believes defined Lilith’s initial run. At many shows, a variety of different performers would end the night playing together onstage.

McLachlan may have undergone many changes, personally, since then, but that’s one thing she hopes will remain the same.

“If I talk about Lilith and remember what I loved best about it, it was that sense of community that was created,” she says. “We were all sort of hurtling along in our parallel universes doing our crazy jobs that we have and very seldom getting to connect as human beings, and as women, as artists, for any real chunk of time.

“We all got to be part of something that was kind of becoming bigger than ourselves,” she adds. “It was almost like a happening. It wasn’t just a music show. There was a lot more to it.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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