If you happen to get invited to a private concert that Sarah McLachlan is giving on the train (baby grand piano included), you drop whatever you are doing and run as fast as your little legs can carry you. That’s the Sarah McLachlan, and yes, I said on the train. Meaning that between you and the ultra-talented artist, dishing out her breathy, haunting Mezzo-soprano vocals is mere 10 feet of air.
Recent inductee to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Sarah McLachlan is no stranger to travel, but, believe it or not, it was her inaugural voyage on a train. Of her trip so far she gushed, “I love this! It’s a beautiful way to travel, it’s fantastic!”
For Canada’s 150th, Fairmont* Hotels & Resorts partnered with VIA Rail (lucky us!) for a cross-country event and invited Ms. McLachlan along for the ride. She regaled the travelling group with a brag-worthy private concert and even offered up some time at the end for a Q&A. Sarah, ahem, Ms. McLachlan, told us about her favourite places to visit in Canada, her morning ritual and how she doesn’t listen to music (nope, that’s not a typo).
Q: What is your favourite place in Canada?
SM: Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. [The national park] and Tofino the town. It’s heaven on earth. It’s a trek to get out there. It’s about a six hour drive from Vancouver, with the ferry included, but it’s so worth it. It’s glorious!
Q: And your favourite national parks?
SM: Banff is beautiful. Kejimkujik, I think that’s a national park too [it is! –ed.], that’s in Nova Scotia. I haven’t been there for years but I was born and raised in Nova Scotia so I spend a lot of time trekking around there as well.
Q: As a Canadian, what does 150 years of Canada mean to you?
SM: We’re a young country still, in the grand scheme of things, [but] I think we’re pretty great! We are a beautiful country, we’re a diverse country. There’s so much going on culturally, geographically, there’s so much to see and this [by train] is one of the most beautiful ways of seeing it.
Q: Are you planning anything for Canada 150?
SM: I’m going to be in Edmonton on July 1st, celebrating by playing.
Q: What were your most memorable shows?
SM: Quebec City, Festival d’été, a couple years ago, that was my biggest crowd, 75,000 people, and it was a huge thrill and it’s in the Old Town, so it’s aesthetically beautiful, you look out and you’re in the walled city. That was pretty incredible – and I have to say that Quebec audiences are pretty incredible.
The first time I played the Spectrum in Montreal, I was touring across Canada […] and playing to 75 or 100 people […] and then we went to Montreal and played the Spectrum. I walked out onto the stage, and I think it’s maybe 900 people, and it was sold out and they were screaming. And I felt like the Beatles for a moment. […] and I was like, “Ok can I just stay here and play every single night?”
Q: What are your favourite cities to play around the world?
SM: I’ve mostly played in North America over my career. I’ve done certain gigs in Europe. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been over there. I loved playing Royal Albert Hall. I love playing in New York City, I love the Beacon in New York. Sydney Opera House – that was kind of sweet too!
I love travelling! I love that I get to go to all these crazy places under the guise of “I’m working”. I love singing, I love making music and every day I pinch myself that I get paid for this!
Q: What music do you listen to?
SM: I rarely listen to music, actually. I know that sounds weird, [but] it’s going on in my head all the time, when I’m writing anyway, which is most of the time. I have my own stuff going on automatically whether I like it or not, the noise is constantly there.
I love Brian Eno, I like ambient music, just quiet, chill. Love Peter Gabriel […] if I’m hiking, and I’m not working on lyrics, because hiking is like a walking meditation, I do it every morning and figure stuff out and write.
Brian Eno’s “Thursday Afternoon”, Sarah McLachlan’s “go to” song.
Q: Do you have any rituals?
SM: I try and hike every morning. I try to get into the woods every morning and I would say that’s probably my biggest ritual that I need. Between that and putting my fingers on the keyboards every day – I have to do that as well. Hiking, in the woods, by myself with my dog… best meditation.
Whyte Lake in West Vancouver is one of Sarah’s favourite hikes (image: the District of West Vancouver)
Here’s a quick hit-list list of Sarah’s (we’re on a first name basis now) favourite places in Canada:
Celebrate Canada’s 150th with VIA Rail and Fairmont!
(*interesting side note: many of the now-branded Fairmont hotels in Canada were originally built along the railway, to serve visitors)
panoramic image: Jeremy Koreski
main image: Daniel Kelleghan Photography