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For her eighth studio album, the luminous and compelling Shine On, Sarah McLachlan wanted to shake things up a bit. Since 1991, she's worked with producer and multi-instrumentalist Pierre Marchand (who helmed the bulk of the new set) on an unbroken string of platinum and multi-platinum releases. "I wanted to try a few different things," McLachlan says, "and it was actually Pierre who suggested I that I look to some new people."
Hoping to capture more of a raw, live off-the-floor feel on a couple of cuts, McLachlan hooked up with fellow Canadian Bob Rock, best known for producing mega-sellers for hard rockers Metallica, Aerosmith and Bon Jovi, and she couldn't be happier with the results. "Bob is a lovely, lovely man," she enthuses. "He brings out a more rock ‘n’ roll element, which you can hear on Flesh And Blood and Love Beside Me. It was a lot of fun to work with him."
McLachlan sat down with MusicRadar recently to talk about the new album, reconnecting with the electric guitar (and ukulele), what she looks for in a good piano sound and whether she even thinks about the radio when songwriting. (Shine On will be released on May 6. You can pre-order the album at Amazon, iTunes and Target.)
Aside from wanting more of a raw feel on some songs, was there anything else you were looking to do differently on the record?
“I don’t set out to reinvent the wheel. I just want to keep pushing myself and do something different, but I never quite know what that is. I don’t set out and say, ‘OK, I’m going to make this kind of record.’ I don’t try to write something for a specific genre or try to push it in a direction that it doesn’t want to go in. The songs just reveal themselves, and when they do, that’s when things start to take shape.”
Bob Rock got you to play electric guitar on the cuts you did together.
“Yeah, which I love! I haven’t done that for so long, but he really encouraged me, which was great. It’s rekindled my love for playing electric guitar, so I’m excited to play these songs live.”
The guitar sound on Flesh And Blood is big and rousing, and on Love Beside Me it’s kind of tough and gritty. What guitars were you using? Were they yours or were they some of Bob’s?
“Oh, God, it was white and solid-body… It was a little guitar. [Pauses] Shit! I’m terrible at this – I’m so not a gearhead. I can never remember of the names of anything, including people. I can’t tell you what I played." [Laughs] [Editor's note: According to Bob Rock, in the studio Sarah played a 1961 "'Dave Vidalized" Stratocaster and a 1993 chambered Dave Johnson-reliced Gibson Les Paul with real PAF pickups.]
Well, you play and sound great. When you were growing up, did you play electric guitar at all?
“No, I never played electric till I was in my 20s. I played acoustic growing up – acoustic guitar and piano. The first time I played electric was probably on my second record. That was just Pierre saying to me, ‘Play that on electric,’ and I went, ‘But I don’t play electric.’ But I got it in my hands and found out it was the same thing – just more noise.”