During her recent trip to NYC we got to chat with Sarah Darling about her new album, Dream Country.
With her recently released album Dream Country, Sarah Darling sought to create something that made her feel fulfilled; something that was a true reflection of her inner self. Having parted ways with her label Black River, she realized this was the perfect opportunity to experiment with everything she’d always wanted to try as an artist. “I really wanted to make this beautiful, cinematic, take-you-to-a-place album,” Darling explained.
Dream Country is built on a solid country music foundation, but with a melding of multiple genres on top of it to create a truly unique experience for the listener. The album brings together Americana, folk, pop and jazz, along with a magical accompaniment of strings throughout that adds a dreamy element to Darling’s incredible vocals.
“Having this record out is such an amazing feeling,” said Darling. “It feels like I’ve given something so meaningful to me out to the world.”
The first single released off the album was Halley’s Comet, a deeply personal song for Darling. It tells the story of a girl pursuing her dream of becoming a musician and facing the challenges that go along with that. Darling wrote the song with her guitarist, Cheyenne Medders, and Rebekah Powell. At the time, Darling was trying to figure out how she was going to fit in the music industry now that she had parted ways with her label. “We ended up writing this song that I feel like completely tells my story,” she said. “I couldn’t have told it better.”
The song’s message has clearly resonated with her audience. “As a songwriter, we go through so much,” Darling explained. “Sometimes it’s really tough, and then we write these amazing songs out of it, and I’m thinking, why did I have to go through this to write a song? But I think it has to be pulled out of you sometimes, it’s like this character building process that hurts sometimes.”
Check out Sarah’s acoustic performance of Halley’s Comet with Cheyenne Medders for us in NYC:
Darling has released two videos off the album: Halley’s Comet and Where Cowboys Ride. The former captures the sense of the open sky and stars through animation, a vision Darling had of using anime characters. The latter was done with the help of the Wyoming Tourism Bureau after Darling had sent her song to them – her love letter to Wyoming as she calls it. They worked with Darling to scout locations for the video, creating a visual masterpiece. “I feel like the actual landscape is the star of that video, it’s just so beautiful,” said Darling.
Beauty is definitely a common theme on Dream Country. When you listen to the song Montmartre you are immediately transported to a quaint Parisian street lined with wonderful shops and cafes. Darling and her husband James fell in love during a trip to Paris. And it was there that Darling found another love: French macarons. When she returned to Nashville she tried making macarons at home. “It was a disaster, it was horrible,” she said. “I had batter everywhere, I was crying. Yeah, it was bad.” Darling returned to Paris and enrolled in French cookery classes in Montmartre and learned the skills needed to master the delicate and delicious French macarons. With that, she created Sweet Darling Patisserie and now sells macarons in Nashville and online. Having ordered them myself in the past, I can attest to how amazing they are.
Two songs on the album actually have interesting ties to the tv show Nashville. Anchor was co-written with Sam Palladio (Nashville’s Gunnar Scott) as a tribute to his hometown of Cornwall, England. Darling’s friendship with Palladio dates back to when the tv show first started, having met at a bar in downtown Nashville after being introduced by mutual friends. Tell That Devil is a gritty, gutsy track on the album, and one that Hayden Panettiere’s character, Juliette Barnes, performed in season two of Nashville.
Dream Country also includes a cover of The Smiths Please, Please, Please. “I think the words are just so powerful and I can’t imagine anyone not relating to that song at some point in their life; lyrically it’s just fantastic,” said Darling. “It makes me really nervous to do covers, especially The Smiths because they’re so beloved, and iconic, you just want to be careful how you do a cover. I hope that they love it.”
In 2012 Darling released Home To Me, a song that completely opened up her career. “I’m so grateful for that song,” she said. “Being able to go out on a radio tour and have that experience, I think it’s only helped me now being independent for whatever’s next – I don’t know what that is, but I’m grateful that I’ve had to work this hard on this project.” For Darling that means in addition to writing and performing she’s taken on the role of booking shows and building her brand with a small team. “It’s been quite satisfying to work this hard on something, because it makes it even sweeter when people come up to you and they’re like, I just love the message, what you’re saying is really what the world needs, and that makes me incredibly happy,” she explained.
If you’ve been to a show at the Grand Ole Opry in the past several years, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen Darling perform, as she just had her 83rd appearance in the famed circle. She made her Opry debut in 2011 when her manager at the time sent a song she wrote with Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally, Bad Habit, to Pete Fisher. Fisher loved it and gave Darling her first shot. “He’s a great friend and I’m forever thankful,” said Darling. “That’s what’s great about the Opry, if they like you then you get to come back and they let you be part of this amazing family; to be there, to learn from all these amazing artists. Being on the side of the stage listening, I got to hear Little Jimmy Dickens tell jokes and I’m very lucky that I got to witness that at all, it’s amazing.” One Opry moment in particular stands out for Darling. Following her time on the tv show Rising Star, Brad Paisley invited her to perform Whiskey Lullaby with him at the Opry. “That was one of my top five moments in my life,” she said.
With Dream Country, Darling has developed her own sub-genre in country music. “There’s so much talent in [Nashville], everybody’s trying to set themselves apart and be different. It’s really important to drive in your own lane. A lot of people get lost and that was what I didn’t want to happen.” No risk of that. Darling’s not only driving in her own lane, she has the highway all to herself.
For all of the latest news and updates on Sarah, head over to sarahdarling.com.