Singer McLachlan at a recent performance in Arkansas.

Singer McLachlan at a recent performance in Arkansas. (RICK WILKING, REUTERS / June 6, 2014)

Sarah McLachlan long ago made peace with her reputation. She's a professional Sad Girl, singer of soothing songs of misery perfect for funerals ("I Will Remember You") and please-don't-let-the-animals-die fundraising pitches ("Angel").

A few weeks ago, "the whole Debbie Downer/ASPCA thing," as McLachlan likes to refer to it, went viral when a tragicomic video clip from the "Game of Thrones" season finale depicting a really depressing animal death set to McLachlan's three-hanky hit "Angel" made the rounds. She wasn't offended: To serve as shorthand for moments of tragic beauty isn't so bad — she could be Sir Mix-A-Lot, remembered only when someone hears a song about big butts. Also, she loves "Game of Thrones."

"I've given up long ago trying to please everybody," McLachlan said in a recent phone interview, done on a rare day off (she doesn't mind: "I'm such a people person!"). "I simply do what I do, and people have their preset ideas about what I'm like. The older I get, the more I feel comfortable being who I am."

McLachlan's new disc, "Shine On," a bright and nominally edgier record partly made with Metallica producer Bob Rock, is her first release since 2010, and first for a new label, Verve. Four years is a long time to be away, especially for a veteran artist no longer certain of her place in the pop music firmament.

But McLachlan's fan base remains massive, and wide, consisting partly of separate camps of older fans who remember her first few hit albums or her annual outings as the founder and perennial headliner of Lilith Fair, newer ones who discovered her through her ASPCA commercials, and EDM fans who arrived via Tiesto's fabled remix of "Silence," an end-of-the-century trance hit for the group Delerium on which she featured. She also has a small but passionate following among death metal fans; no one knows why.

McLachlan says she didn't worry about the gap between albums any more than she usually does. "The level of uncertainty for me has always been the same. I've always seen my success as a sweet surprise. I've always made my music for me. It's selfish. I'm always surprised when other people get into it and enjoy it."

For McLachlan, 46, the four-year gap isn't even remarkable-she went more than six years between the release of her 1997 career landmark "Surfacing" and its follow-up, "Afterglow." "My records have really long legs," she figures. "You don't get sick of them quickly. They're timeless in their production quality. Who knows? We'll see how long this one lasts."

Lyric writing is the most time consuming part of the process, but McLachlan is the single mother of two pre-teen girls: Everything is difficult. "It's never been an easy process for me, and it takes me a long time. It's difficult to focus for long enough, and that's because I have two kids, and I'm a very present and active mom. I have a free afterschool music program I've been running for thirteen years. There's a lot of moving parts that distract me on a day by day basis. I was joking the other day that I haven't had more than 16 hours alone in four years."

McLachlan's daughters, who will take to the road with her this summer, are only vaguely aware of their mother as a famous person. "I haven't had that discussion," she says. "In the past it's been an annoyance to them, because it takes me away from them. They don't care about that stuff, they just want me to be mom."

It's a weird time: McLachlan, the figurative mother of Lilith Fair, a touring festival dedicated to the celebration of female musical empowerment, is now the actual mother of two daughters just old enough to navigate the psychosexual minefield of Top 40 radio, which has advanced less, empowerment-wise, than she'd hoped. "They love Miley Cyrus. They love Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato and Katy Perry and all that stuff." Pause. "It is what it is."

An attempt to revive Lilith Fair was D.O.A. in 2010. McLachlan allows that if she were to organize another one, and there's absolutely no indication that she is, but people keep asking her about it, she would probably see if Lorde was free ("she's fantastic").

Other female pop icons, like Cyrus, are more problematic. McLachlan is grateful her daughters haven't seen the "Wrecking Ball" video yet. "I don't think they'd understand it, the provocativeness of it. I don't think they need to see her licking a ball. They'd probably just go, 'Eww, why is she licking a ball?' Which is a perfect response."

onthetown@tribune.com

Twitter @chitribent

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ravinia, Lake-Cook and Green Bay Roads, Highland Park

Price: $38-$90; 847-266-5000 or Ravinia.org