Creating art in a world of entertainment
Toronto’s Sarah Slean plays the CBC Music Festival on May 27
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