“It was about redefining myself and going, ‘OK, I’m not married anymore, and I don’t have all these things sorted out,’” says the singer, who appears in Berkeley this week. “And what I came to recognize was that I didn’t know anything. About anything! And that was so scary.”
Luckily, she had her craft for comfort, and she painstakingly distilled the wisdom she gleaned from the cloudy days into a conversely sunny new album, “Shine On,” for Verve.
The chiming opener “In Your Shoes” is a self-empowering pep talk (“You never asked for trouble but you’ve got fire that burns so bright/ You turn and face the struggle when all the others turn and hide”). Then it has the Zen-like reflections “Monsters,” “Surrender and Certainty” and “Song For My Father.”
“Shine On” is dedicated to McLachlan’s late parent, and her new beau, ex-NHL player Geoff Courtnall, who, she says in the album credits, “showed me how wonderful it is to love again.”
Buddhist philosophy, and its concept of inevitable suffering, helped her discover that complacency was the enemy, since good things had befallen her most of her pre-40 life.
“You start to check off all these boxes,” she says. “‘I have great kids, great friends, a great job. Wow! All right! I’m just cruising!’” At which point, she adds, the universe inevitably delivers a humility-inducing beatdown.
McLachlan learned the most from staying close to her dad in the final months of his life. He was subjected to countless physical and mental indignities, she recalls, yet he remained kind, generous and grateful until the very end.
“He never was waiting to die — he was grasping onto every bit of life that he had,” she says. “When he passed, I was like, ‘Holy s---. What am I doing with the rest of my life? I want to live like him!’”
That gave the Lilith Fair founder the courage to move to Verve.
She says, “The process of writing is lonely and isolating, but just having that release was monumental for me. Always has been, from when I was a teenager, with no friends and zero self-worth. I could go play the piano, and it instantly made me feel good.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley, 2001 Gayley Road, Berkeley
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $39.50 to $115
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com