Sarah McLachlan moves on

New love helps singer-songwriter explore, expand her sound

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What: Sarah McLachlan, in concert.

When: 6:30 p.m. June 22.

Where: McMenamins Edgefield, 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale, Ore.

Cost: Sold out.

Information: 800-669-8610 or edgefieldconcerts.com.

Singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan will perform June 22, 2014 at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, ore. Photo credit: Kharen Hill.

What: Sarah McLachlan, in concert.

When: 6:30 p.m. June 22.

Where: McMenamins Edgefield, 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale, Ore.

Cost: Sold out.

Information: 800-669-8610 or edgefieldconcerts.com.

Sarah McLachlan couldn’t have been in a much different place when she wrote most of the songs on her new album, “Shine On,” than where she found herself in writing her previous CD, “Laws Of Illusion.”

That 2010 album came in the aftermath of her divorce from Ashwin Sood, which left McLachlan moving into her 40s as a newly single mother of two daughters, ages 7 and 12.

When McLachlan, 46, got to work on “Shine On,” she had yet to fully move on, and it showed in her lyrics.

“When I started writing this record, over three years ago, I started writing some of the same songs over again, lyrically,” she said. “And I couldn’t finish them. It was just like I don’t want to keep saying this. I’m done with telling this story. I want to do something else, but I was quite stuck.”

What changed was meeting former NHL hockey player Geoff Courtnall and realizing there was a spark between them.

“I was alone, obviously for over three years, and then I met my, I don’t know what the hell you call it, boyfriend, partner — this guy I’m dating — and all of a sudden, everything sort of opened up for me in a whole new way,” McLachlan said.

Courtnall came into McLachlan’s life when he attended a fundraiser she held for the Sarah McLachlan School of Music in Vancouver, B.C., a free music school she opened in 2011 to provide music lessons to at-risk kids.

And as the relationship began to happen, McLachlan’s emotional space as a songwriter changed with it.

“The possibility of falling in love again, it just seemed such a foreign concept to me,” she said. “So when it happened, it sort of, it informed everything. It shone light into everything. … So it became like (the song) ‘Brink of Destruction,’ for instance, became about the possibility of it. And ‘Flesh and Blood,’ it’s pretty obvious what that’s about. So it was nice to be able to embrace a new story.”

Courtnall, at least on paper, might not seem like the most likely person to click with McLachlan, who is known for her sensitive, intelligent and emotionally rich songwriting.

The guy, after all, played one of the toughest sports there is, hockey, building a solid 16-year NHL career. But McLachlan said Courtnall doesn’t fit the stereotype.

“He’s quite genteel,” she said. “He’s gone through a ton of stuff, and to his credit, has really come out the other side. He’s worked really hard and has really come into his own as a spiritual human being. That’s part of why I respect him so much because he struggled. He had such a hard time. He drank too much. And he quit drinking about four years ago. He had a really tough time, and he came through it. He’s such a strong guy.”

Although much of “Shine On” reflects the positive turn in McLachlan’s love life, a few songs (“Broken Heart” and most obviously “Song For My Father”) touch on her adoptive father, Jack, who died in 2010. He had been a hugely steadying force in McLachlan’s life.

“I rarely needed him. I rarely played that card. But the point was, if I ever needed it, he would be there in a second,” she said. “And that unconditional love is something that is rarely felt anymore. Really, I figure most love is conditional. … But not with my dad, he was just solid.”

Musically, the album will sound familiar to fans who have followed McLachlan since she came onto the American music scene with her 1991 album, “Solace.” It was her next album, 1993’s “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy,” that introduced her to the masses with hit singles such as “Possession” and “Good Enough.” She hit a new peak with 1997’s “Surfacing,” which included the hits “Building a Mystery” and “Angel,” and enabled her to launch her ground-breaking all-female festival tour, Lilith Fair.

Like those albums and those that have followed (2004’s “Afterglow,” 2006’s “Wintersong” and “Laws Of Illusion”) “Shine On” has its share of first-rate ballads (“Monsters,” “Broken Heart” and “Surrender And Certainty”) with pretty, well-developed melodies, but there’s also a little bit more edge to a few songs. “In Your Shoes” uses an assertive beat and full-bodied instrumentation to give it some heft. “Flesh And Blood” has an anthemic quality that would fit on a Coldplay album, and “Love Beside Me” brings some edgy guitar into its expansive midtempo sound.

McLachlan said she plans to play nearly all of “Shine On” during her summer shows. But because these are “evening-with” performances that will feature upwards of 30 songs, there will also be time for hits and fan favorites. She has special plans for the staging this time out.

“We’re sort of tentatively calling it the living room experience because I hate to leave my house,” McLachlan said. “So I basically am going to take my house with me and I’m going to have it on stage and I’m going to invite people from the audience up to hang out on stage with me while I’m performing.”