New York- Drawing on her sensitivity and experience as a performer, Arista/Nettwerk Records artist Sarah McLachalan has designed Lilith Fair, a unique all-female-headliner music festival tour.
Though she was inspired in part by her reaction to a predominance of male-centered summer tours, the sometimes grueling conditions on the road, and a reluctance by some venues to book a double-female bill, McLachlan admits to a special ulterior motive.
"It's basically a selfish act, because i want to see all my favorite performers that I never get a chance to see. I thought it would be great fun," she says.
Plans are to take Lilith Fair to 30-35 North American cities beginning next summer. The multi-act bill will rotate during the course of the eight-week tour, though McLachlan will play all the dates. More than 50 artists are expected to participate at va rious tour stops.
Lilith Fair was put to the test this summer with shows in four cities and drew capacity crowds in Detroit and Burbank, CA, according to Terry McBride, McLachlan's manager and president of Vancouver-based label and management firm Nettwerk.
"It went very well, and there's obviously a demand for this. People want to go and spend a nice day and enjoy good music, " he says.
This summer, the bill included Patti Smith, Emmylou Harris, Lisa Loeb, Paula Cole, Aimee Mann, Suzanne Vega, Michelle McAdorey, and McLachlan. Artists committed for 1997 include Cole, Loeb, Mann, and Neneh Cherry, according to Marty Diamond, McLachlan's a gent and president of New York-based Nasty LIttle Man agency.
"There's such a grand spectrum to tap into in a population so rich in talent and creativity," Diamond says.
Lilith Fair is being organized by McLachlan, Diamond, McBride, and partner Dan Frazier. "It was a simple idea, but without them, it would still be in my brain," McLachlan says.
The tour will be booked into amphitheaters, and a key component is a second stage for both headlining and up-and-coming artists. This "coffehouse" stage will be located in the general admission area.
A day's concert will include four or five performers on each of the two stages, and the schedule will be set up so that both stages will have prime performances.
The spirit of consideration for others will extend to the performers as well, and McLachlan wants to offer them something unusual.
"We'll give them the option of playing solo or with a band. I want (their sets) to be just how they want it," McLachlan says. "Many times on tours, (the backstage area) is dirty and there's no proper dressing rooms."
McLachlan explains that she is striving for the warm atmosphere she experienced backstage at the Vancouver Lilith Fair date this summer. "It was a hometown show, and in my dressing room, there were four babies and five dogs, and it had such a calming effe ct," she says. "It should be easy and have a really good energy."
Side-stage artists will offer CD's for sale at the event, and they will use SoundScan reporting forms to log sales. "You're probably going to see some of the better artists sell a couple hundred CDs (at a show), so it gives the record company some ammuni tion," McBride says.
In addition to live music, Lilith Fair will feature vendors, but wares will be geared toward a "gentler lifestyle." "We will go after some corporate sponsors, but they won't be traditional ones. You won't see Bud Lite, but you might see Evian water," Mc Bride explains.
The "Lilith" in the tour's name - suggested by McLachlan's friend, the writer Buffy Childerhose - is derived from a myth about the first independent woman (adam's first wife), but the fair won't be a political event.
"It's not a feminist platform, and I totally want men to be involved," McLachlan says. Audiences for Lilith Fair shows this sumer have been made up of a cross section of people, and McLachlan adds, "I want it to be like a family affair."
While she has been busy planning Lilith Fair, McLachlan has taken most of the past year as downtime, using it to recuperate from her previous 2.5 years on the road.
"I needed to replenish the well, and now I'm really ready to do something. The creative juices are flowing again," she says.
McLachlan has just gone into a Montreal studio with longtime producer Pierre Marchand and hopes to have a new album out in time for next summer's tour-which will likely include more conventional dates in addition to her Lilith Fair appearances.
She has completed writing one or two songs, which they will work on first, she says, and has "the nuggets" of seven others, which they will soon begin fleshing out.
"Usually I don't go in with any preconceived notion, and the biggest challenge is not to be judgemental, so it becomes free-flowing," she says. "This is mostly lyrics I'm talking about; I toil much less over music."
McLachlan's last official studio album, 1994's "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy," has sold 1.4 million copies in the US, according to SoundScan. She spent six months in the studio on that project, and the process yielded a lot of recorded material, some of whic h ended up on 1995's enhanced CD "The Freedom Sessions."
"A lot of the tracks were early sessions, and some of the songs went through wildly different versions," McLachlan explains.
While she says it is much too soon to speculate on what direction the new album will take, her past method might provide a clue.
"Pierre's convinced he wants me to play all the guitars on this record, but we'll start with guitar and piano and record ideas and listen to what's strong and what's not," she says.
"A lot of times for me, finishing a song or finding a focus is just building on or chaniging," she adds. "THe most important thing in the world to making good music is for the ego-the conscious uptight mind-to take a backseat to the song."
Lovingly and painstakingly typed in by Paul Kim.