Left: Loretta Lynn, Mary J. Blige, Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae and Sugarland.
international tour is
scheduled to hit over 30
cities in the U.S., Canada and the U. K., seeking out undiscovered
female artists along the
way via the Lilith Local
We recently spoke
with McLachlan about
the tour as she put
the finishing touches
on her eagerly anticipated new album,
The Laws of Illusion,
her first since 2006’s
Arrive: It’s been
11 years since the
last Lilith Fair. Why
did you stop?
SM: We always planned
to do three years, and
at the end we were
all tired. I needed to
make a new record,
so I couldn’t go out
again. My managers
and agent, who were
partners in Lilith, had
full-time jobs. So at
the end of three years
it was like, “Let’s take
a break,” because we wanted to end on a high
note. A lot of other summer festivals kept going
out year after year, and they lost their luster. We
wanted Lilith to be special, and leave people
What makes this the right time to bring it back?
A lot has changed for all of us, and in the music
industry. It just felt like the right time to try it
out again. There’s a whole wealth of great new
talent out there, and we just thought, “Why not
bring it back?”
What was your original mission in founding
I wanted to do some summer shows and didn’t
want all the responsibility [for selling tickets]
to fall on my shoulders. I thought it’d be fun to
get other female artists on the bill. We talked
to promoters and they were like, “What? No!
You can’t put a bunch of women on the same
bill! People won’t come!” Which, of course, I
thought was asinine. As soon as someone tells
me I can’t do something, I want to do it twice
as bad just to prove ’em wrong. We did four
shows in 1996 to see how it went, and everybody loved it. If you put a bunch of musicians
up there playing really good music, gender
You were determined to get artists from the
original tours back this year, including Emmylou
Harris, Erykah Badu, Indigo Girls and Sheryl
Crow. But were there any new artists you especially wanted to have on board?
I’m very excited about Mary J. Blige, because
I think she’s so talented. We also got Loretta
Lynn. ... I also love Court Yard Hounds, which
is Emily Robison and Martie Maguire from Dixie
Chicks. Oh boy, it’s a long list ... (Laughs)
Everybody wants in on it now. So as opposed to
trying to find people, now we’re overwhelmed
with artists. But it’s a lot trickier to get people to
commit because everyone has busy schedules
in the summer.
How has the position of women in music
changed since that first Lilith tour?
I think it changed the industry’s perception of
the power we had. It gave all of us a platform
that was bigger than we could’ve had on our
own. Women were getting a lot more airplay
on the radio, so it helped a lot of us—myself
included—to take our careers to a different
level. When Lilith ended, there was this big
surge of boy bands and the door slammed shut
on singer-songwriters. In came the bubblegum
pop. But music is cyclical, and out of that came
this surge of quality male singer-songwriters,
like David Gray, Ray LaMontagne, Damien Rice
and Rufus Wainwright.
How do you feel about the music industry
changes over the past decade?
It’s progress. Downloading changed everything,
but the record companies put their heads in the
sand, and I think it really hurt them. They’ve
got to change and grow with the times. I’m
incredibly lucky because I write and sing my
own songs and I play live. Even though I sell a
quarter of the records I used to sell, it’s okay
because I have fans who come to my shows.
I think everybody still wants to go see music.
They want to hear music, and as long as that’s
the case I think music will endure.
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