Animal lovers and anyone with half a heart aren't the only people who have been traumatized by Sarah McLachlan's devastating ads for the SPCA. Despite the singer's desire to help the organization and its fight against animal cruelty, she found the ads themselves quite hard to do.
"Honestly, those SPCA ads? Brutal for me, because it was so far out of my comfort zone, asking for money like that. It made me so uncomfortable," McLachlan tells Huffington Post Music Canada. "Even though, boy, those ads worked like a hot damn!"
Although she's happy with the success of those ads, her current efforts with the new charity single "Find Your Voice" in support of The Sarah McLachlan School Of Music are far more her style.
Co-written with longtime collaborator Pierre Marchand and recorded with members of the school's choir and percussion ensemble, the inspirational Christmas song is available as a free download on the school's website. If people like it, they have the option of donating a little something to the school, which provides free music education and a sense of community to at risk youth.
"It's the gift of music, and music should be shared by everybody," McLachlan says of the song. "But the idea is that you can have it for free or, if you choose to donate something, you can. Giving people the option. I sort of like that softer sell."
A free single from the singer and students from her school is blossoming into something of a holiday tradition. After a visit from McLachlan transformed into an impromptu songwriting session last year and led to the creation of their first offering, "Space On The Couch For Two," she knew that she wanted to make it an annual thing.
"We had such wonderful success with it last year, and it was just such a great energy. It all came together very quickly and spontaneously and we just thought ‘Let's try and do this every year!'
"I love giving the students an opportunity to see what can be achieved as far as writing and performing. It's a really great way of promoting the school and promoting the work that we do and giving them an opportunity to shine as well and be proud of what they're part of."
McLachlan had such a busy 2012, though, that "Find Your Voice" became almost as last-minute as its predecessor.
"This year came around, and I was told on the tenth of November ‘OK, you're going into the studio on the 18th with the kids for the Christmas song!'" she says with a laugh. "I've been so behind in everything this year, and so I scrambled. I had a song idea that I'd been working on around the school for a long time that I put aside and, when it became a Christmas idea, it just solidified and found its focus really quickly. I went in with the kids on the next Sunday and worked with the choir and percussion ensemble and it came together really quickly."
The songstress can be forgiven for being distracted, given how busy she's been lately. In September, she organized the Voices In The Park concert, a star-studded fundraiser for the school so large and labour-intensive that she can only do it every three years. The 2012 edition featured performances by the likes of Bryan Adams, Stevie Nicks and Hedley. And, despite her reluctance to go for the hard sell, she somehow worked up the courage to ask her old buddy Bill Clinton to appear at the show during the height of the U.S. campaign season.
"It was a huge thrill," McLachlan says of the Clinton appearance. "I've done stuff for him for... geez, the past 15 or 20 years. Basically, when Bill asked me to do something, it's kind of hard to say no to Bill Clinton. He's a big fan and he's very gracious and kind to me, and I was sitting at an event that he asked me to come to, and I had the opportunity to sit down and have dinner with him and have a real conversation. I was telling him about the school and he said ‘Well, you let me know if there's anything I can do to help,' and I said ‘Well, yeah! You can come to my event!' You know, I couldn't believe that I was actually saying it, because I didn't believe that he would actually do it. But he was like ‘I could do that.' And then, as it turns out, it's right around the election, this insane time, and everyone's like ‘I can't believe he said yes to this.' I'm just really thankful he did."
She's also been trying to work on her new album which, "fingers and toes crossed," should be out at some point in 2013. At least it will be, if she can finally find the time to work on it.
"I've come to realize that having the school is like having a third child," the singer and working mom admits. "It's wonderful, but it's incredible time-consuming and it's been difficult to balance all of the many hats that I have to take on and off. I've been trying to say no to more things in the late winter and spring so I can just focus on writing. Because every time I leave, I just get pulled out of that world. It's hard to keep stepping out and stepping back in, and trying to have any kind of focus. I'm going to make a concerted effort to just write, write, write.
"I have about five or six songs that I'm fairly happy with right now, so almost half a record's worth, but that's take me three years so..." she says, laughing. "I don't write quickly. I have to set aside the time and focus and do nothing else. So I'm working toward that."