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Sarah McLachlan 'wasn't into anything but music'

After playing live for the audience on a CBC late-night show in 1993, Sarah McLachlan tells host Ralph Benmergui about being in the studio recording her third album.

The musician left high school and her Halifax home for a career in Vancouver

The musician talks about her career path and making a "brilliant record." 3:04

It had been a while since Sarah McLachlan performed for an audience, but the applause from a CBC studio audience proved she hadn't lost a beat.

It was March of 1993, and 25-year-old McLachlan was hard at work in a Montreal recording studio as her yet-to-be-named third album came together.

"Did it help to do this [song] in front of people?" asked Ralph Benmergui, host of a late-night variety talk show. 

Sarah McLachlan poses for a photo at the Juno Awards Nominations event in Toronto on Tuesday, January 29, 2019. The 12-time Juno Award winner will host this year's awards show. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

McLachlan had just performed a solo piano version of a new song, Possession, which would appear on the album when it was released later that year.

"It always helps to play in front of people," she said. "It forces the immediateness of it ... I love doing it because it takes on a whole new personality."

McLachlan said she and her "wonderful, wonderful" producer, Pierre Marchand, had just decided that the album would include the "simple" piano arrangement of the song.

"The way we've been doing it in the studio, there's all these raunchy electric guitars ... and really heavy drums," she said. "This is really pure, more beautiful."

Ultimately, the album, called Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, included both, with the solo piano version as a hidden track at the end of the CD release.

A March 1994 profile in Maclean's magazine noted that Possession was written after McLachlan placed a restraining order on an obsessed fan who moved to Vancouver to be closer to her. "It was a kind of therapy, putting myself in the shoes of someone like that," McLachlan told the magazine. "It helped me deal with a very unnerving situation.''

'I was failing high school'

Benmergui asked McLachlan about leaving her hometown of Halifax to pursue a music career.

"You were 17 years old and a record company in Vancouver said, 'come live out here!'" he began.

McLachlan agreed that was accurate, but her parents weren't enthusiastic about it at first.

"I was failing high school. I wasn't into anything but music, and art," she said. "[My mother] wanted me to finish high school and get a real job."

McLachlan will host the Juno Awards on CBC-TV on Sunday, March 17.