Cre­at­ing art in a world of en­ter­tain­ment

Toronto’s Sarah Slean plays the CBC Mu­sic Fes­ti­val on May 27

North York Post - - Arts - by Ron John­son

There are pe­ri­ods in Toronto mu­si­cian Sarah Slean’s life when she has to dis­ap­pear, when she’s given all she can and needs to re­fuel her cre­ativ­ity.

In 2003, she bought a cabin and gave in to the idea that she would quit the mu­sic busi­ness for good. A decade and sev­eral crit­i­cally ac­claimed al­bums later, she was in a sim­i­lar frame of mind and bought a farm to nour­ish her soul.

Now, Slean is back with an emo­tion­ally wrought and beau­ti­ful new al­bum dubbed

Meta­physics. She plays the CBC Mu­sic Fes­ti­val in town May 27.

“That cy­cle of tour­ing, giv­ing, ex­pelling, ex­press­ing, ev­ery­thing is out­ward,” she ex­plains, over cof­fee at one of her favourite east end haunts, Te Aro. “Then the world asks you to give again, and it’s like, I’m empty. There’s noth­ing left. You have to go in­ward again and fill up, so that’s what I was do­ing.”

Slean, born in Pick­er­ing, has pro­duced eight studio al­bums over her 15-year ca­reer: her first, the EP Uni­verse, in 1997 when she was 19. She’s signed big record deals, had her mu­sic fea­tured on big and small screens and graced the world’s finest stages along­side both pop stars and or­ches­tras.

But Slean isn’t and will not soon be­come a pop mu­sic ma­chine. She is an artist and a philoso­pher in the clas­sic and most beau­ti­ful sense. At one point, she made peace with the fact that she would never be the per­son to turn out chart-top­ping hits.

“The world we live in is not ex­actly con­ducive to mean­ing­ful art that has been re­ally cooked in the psy­che for some time,” she says. “But that to me is what art is. Any­thing that does not meet that bar is not art, it’s en­ter­tain­ment. Not that it ’s bad. I love en­ter­tain­ment too. I love a good Daft Punk record. I’m of the school of po­ets, of nov­el­ists and great painters. Those are the kinds of state­ments and gifts that I want to try and give to the world.”

To that end: Meta­physics. A tran­scen­dent mu­si­cal odyssey that ex­plores, in a vi­brant and gor­geous fash­ion, why we are here and what it is that makes us happy. Slean tack­les the big ques­tions in a way she al­ways has, with bound­less en­thu­si­asm and her sense of won­der still in­tact.

“As you get older, your life phi­los­o­phy, you are edit­ing it, tweak­ing it, when things start to hap­pen to you, the way life beats you up a bit, and you have to rec­on­cile those events with what you think is ac­tu­ally go­ing on in the world,” she says.

“I had to tweak mine be­cause some crazy s--t hap­pened to me.… To me, it has al­ways been that the world is a beau­ti­ful, mag­i­cal, heartbreaking and dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand place, but I’ve al­ways be­lieved that in the end there is noth­ing but the light.”

Sarah Slean pur­chased a farm to feed her soul

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