TORONTO — Sarah McLachlan will never forget how sick she was of hearing songs off her 1997 smash album "Surfacing" — and that was before it was even released.
The Halifax-born singer's record was at the centre of a cultural movement, released as her touring Lilith Fair music festival found its footing 20 years ago. Hit tracks "Building a Mystery," "Sweet Surrender," "Adia" and "Angel" were practically inescapable.
Yet McLachlan couldn't shake the resentment she felt towards the music.
"We'd been recording and mixing, fine tuning and beating them to death," she remembers.
"By the time the album was done I was really like, 'Ugh, I don't even want to hear any of these songs again.'"
McLachlan, who will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame as part of Sunday's Juno Awards telecast, now laughs at the animosity she once felt towards her diamond-certified album.
It began with McLachlan nearing a burnout.
Coming off 2 1/2 years touring her 1993 album "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy," her personal life was in tatters. Her romance with keyboardist Dave Kershaw was on the rocks. Emotionally gutted and fearing she'd never write again, her label Nettwerk urged McLachlan to go home to Vancouver and decompress. McLachlan spent eight months focused on rejuvenation. She bought a new home, picked out a piano and adopted a black lab for company.
She also found love again, this time with her drummer Ashwin Sood.
"I had already been in her band for seven years," Sood says.
"There was nothing there before. (But once we) got home, the re-entry process was not easy. That's where we really fell in love."
McLachlan's creativity started to thrive and she began writing again in mid-1996. With several songs in hand, the 28-year-old singer rang up Pierre Marchand, the Montreal producer who had crafted her albums since 1991's "Solace."
The pair decided to return to Morin-Heights, Que., a quiet community about an hour outside Montreal, where they'd recorded before at a property they both liked. The A-frame house's high ceilings were perfect for richness of sound and massive windows offered a view of the nearby mountains.
"There was nothing pristine about it. It was a dirty, creative place," Marchand says.
"At night the temperature would drop really quickly. But (there was) a homemade fireplace ... we'd fill that up. It was comfortable, but in the morning you'd have to get up and make a fire or it'd be freezing."
Recording here was a sweet deal for the musicians, which included Barenaked Ladies' bassist Jim Creeggan, guitarist Yves Desrosiers and others who mostly hadn't worked with McLachlan in the studio before.
Everyone seemed to agree the house was a wonderful collaborative space, with an open concept that eliminated the usual barriers that separate musicians from the control room.
"It was really conducive to creativity because you could stop playing and chat," says Sood.
"Sometimes Pierre would dance in front of me conducting my drum parts."
Marchand, who never liked winter much, found his creativity thrived in the cold weather — mostly because he went into hibernation behind the soundboard.
"It makes you stay inside and make music," he says.
McLachlan and her bandmates didn't always subscribe to that theory. Sometimes they'd give into temptation and hike through the snow on a crisp afternoon. Hours later, they'd be back in the studio inspired.
The singer stayed at a nearby cottage by the river, so walking to work was always an option.
The seclusion was charming at first, but eventually started to wear off.
McLachlan and Sood were getting restless and wanted to chart a romantic getaway. They started researching a 10-day escape from Quebec and a VHS tape advertising a Jamaican resort sucked them in.
"Somewhere in the middle of us watching the videotape (the guy says,) 'And you can get married here,'" Sood remembers.
"We looked at each other ... and literally said, 'Yeah let's do it!'"
A day later, they were scouring the local mall for the perfect wedding rings.
"Nothing else got in the way of that," says Sood.
Telling only a few people, including Marchand, the couple married in February 1997 with a quiet tropical ceremony. McLachlan and Sood would go on to become parents to two daughters before later divorcing in 2008.
Back in Canada, Marchand was turning the knobs and dials trying to find the sound of "Surfacing." He'd continue tinkering into early spring.
"I remember being overwhelmed and not feeling good — just stressed out by finishing this album," he says.
"After hearing the songs 150 times, perspective is kind of difficult."
McLachlan shared his sentiments as her label started to encourage the group to wrap production.
Nettwerk hoped to release "Surfacing" by the early summer, before McLachlan would launch an idea that grew out of disillusionment with the state of the music industry.
Frustrated over radio stations that wouldn't play two female musicians in a row, she came up with the concept for what would become Lilith Fair. The all-women touring showcase started as a 1996 test run of four concerts with only her and Paula Cole.
Proven a success, the plan was to kick off a full-fledged Lilith Fair tour in July 1997, with headliners like Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman, Jewel, Fiona Apple and Lisa Loeb.
Nettwerk wanted "Surfacing" in stores before then and Marchand ultimately thinks pressure to meet the deadline might've led him to a "simpler production."
Worn out by the process, he thought "Surfacing" would be the last album he ever finished.
"I closed down the studio, started selling everything and was moving onto a sailboat for the rest of my life," Marchand says.
"I'd had enough of winter and producing."
"Surfacing" was released about two weeks into the Lilith Fair tour, which made McLachlan's early sets a little awkward because nobody in the audience recognized the songs.
"It was a downer, the first show,'" McLachlan says. "We had to quickly rework the set."
Audiences weren't disappointed for long as "Surfacing" took off and Lilith Fair began to generate widespread attention. McLachlan graced the covers of Time Magazine ("The Gals Take Over") and Rolling Stone ("Flower Child With a Filthy Mind") as the press questioned the merits of a showcase of only female voices.
"I was asked to defend it every step of the way," McLachlan says. "It was either too feminist or not feminist enough."
"Surfacing" went on to win two Grammys and four Junos, including album of the year, and McLachlan did find an affection for the album she once almost wrote off.
"I can still play all those songs and feel attachment to them," McLachlan says.
"It's got great legs."
Follow @dfriend on Twitter.
David Friend, The Canadian Press