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Sarah Darling interview

Sarah Darling has gained a reputation as one of the most loved country artists in the UK since she appeared at her first C2C Festival back in 2015.

Originally from Iowa, Sarah released her debut album in 2009 and has performed on the Grand Ole Opry over 80 times since her first appearance in 2011. She’s also performed in the UK many times, including at C2C in 2016 and a sold-out show at London’s St Pancras Old Church last December, and continues to win over fans with her lush vocals and delicate melodies, and now she’s returning for her first ever UK headline tour.

I caught up with Sarah recently to talk about the tour, her new single Wasted and her top baking tips. Read on to find out more…

The last time you spoke to EF Country was just before Dream Country came out. How has the last year been for you?

Oh my goodness! It’s so crazy, I feel like… It’s just been this amazing year. I think Dream Country was just so me that I was just able to really enjoy the year and connect with fans – obviously in the UK but just all over the world and I just felt like that album was just such a good depiction of who I am, and I’m so happy to put it out in the world. So it’s been an amazing year. [laughs]

Have there been any particular highlights?

Do you know, honestly probably my biggest highlight of this year – I really loved the tour that I did with Jenn Bostic and Michael Logan. We went out on a month-long tour called A Night In Nashville, and that was very sort of singer-songwriter in the round. We went all through Europe and it was just such a cool experience with two other musicians. And the memories – not only were we doing music but it was hilarious on a daily basis, us driving in England on the other side of the road and all the funny stories we have. So I think that’s definitely a highlight of the past year.

What can people coming to see you on this tour expect?

What’s really cool about this is that up until this point nobody’s really heard Dream Country with a full band. I kind of gave a taste of this at Christmas time – I did a Christmas show at St Pancras Old Church and that was so wonderful, but I want to give my fans that experience of what it was like to actually hear Dream Country in the studio and experience that sort of intimacy and the fullness of the track as well. As well as playing new music – I’ve recorded three new tracks with a producer named Mark Bright, and Mark actually produces Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts and some different artists here in Nashville. We recorded a few new songs so I’ll be playing those as well, which is really fun, as well as some old ones. There’s some songs that I’ve never played before that I’ll be playing in this set. There’s actually one in particular that’s the song that took me to the Grand Ole Opry stage, so I’ll be playing that in the set which is really exciting – it’s one of my favourites.

What keeps you coming back to the UK?

There’s something so wonderful – the very first time that I came to play was C2C three years ago, and I really had no expectation of how people would react to my music in the UK. And when I played the songs off Dream Country and I hadn’t even released the album yet, there was just so much love that came from the audiences in the UK. There’s something about that for me as an artist that gives me so much that I just want to come back and connect, because it’s basically the reason why I love doing what I do – it’s because of people like that.

Do you find that UK audiences react differently compared to the US or other places you’ve visited?

Yes. I find that in the US it’s interesting because I feel so… I have to be careful how I say this, but I feel like there’s just more of an appreciation for music in the UK, and the audiences are just so attentive and listening to the lyrics. And that feels quite special to me, maybe because in Nashville in particular there’s so many singer-songwriters that there’s a little bit of a desensitivity towards it, but I don’t feel that when I come to the UK. And if you go to a small town in America you get that same feeling, which is so funny because I get that same feeling when I play a show in London and that’s a beautiful thing.

You’ve played the Opry more than 80 times…

Yes, so actually Friday I’m playing the 89th. I know, it’s crazy! I can’t believe it.

Are there any performances there that have been particularly memorable?

Yes. You know, obviously the first one is always special. I would say there was something really special about the first two Opry appearances that I did. My grandpa, who’s passed away now, when I was growing up and singing country music and wanting to move to Nashville, that was our little chat that we would have together – you know you’ve made it when you get asked to play the Opry. So he got to come to those first two Opry performances, and so when I look back and reflect on those photos and just having him there it was pretty special for him to experience that and see that. I think that was the highlight for me at the Opry.

Your new single is Wasted – can you tell us more about that?

Absolutely. that’s a song that… it’s funny because it’s been around for a very long time. I actually wrote it and now in my life I’m in a completely different situation than I was when I wrote it. When I wrote it I actually had it produced as a demo and it was really upbeat and like sort of pop power country ballad, like a power anthem type of recording, and I just didn’t like it. I didn’t like the way that it felt and I ended up playing it about a year ago in a different way and I fell completely in love with it. The story behind it is I wrote about a close family member who’d called me late at night and said they were concerned that their marriage was not going to work out and it was because of alcoholism, and the next day I had a write with two friends. Actually they [Sarah’s relative] don’t even know the song is about them which is kind of hilarious [laughs]. But yeah, it’s quite personal. I think it’s really more just about addiction in general and what that does to a person – it kind of makes them disappear in the relationship or as a friendship even, it doesn’t matter. it’s just all kind of relationships.

Sarah Darling
Credit: Sarah Darling

Between the single and the new songs on the tour, does this mean there’ll be a new album soon?

Yes, actually. we’re aiming for end of summer for a new record, which is so crazy to think about. But i’m in the process as we speak.

You mentioned first coming over to the UK to play C2C – will you be making a visit whilst you’re here?

It’s funny you should ask that – I can’t confirm anything or deny anything at this point but there’s definitely some talks, I would say. But I just can’t say just yet, it’s just one of those things.

What have you learnt from your experiences touring?

There’s a lot of things that I’ve learnt but I think just taking care of yourself is an important thing, like being good to you and being yourself in situations. Also I’ve learned that when it’s hard that’s OK. Touring can be very hard and I think some people see it as this super-glamorous thing but it’s not always glamorous, and sometimes you’re really tired. that’s just one thing that I’ve learned along the way – just really taking care of yourself and finding time to centre you in that process.

You’ve mentioned that you get a lot of inspiration for your writing from travel…

Yes, it’s true. It’s funny – as my writing has progressed it’s definitely changed a little bit since I’ve married my husband James, who’s from England. we’ve just done a lot of travelling – we both love to travel, that’s like our common thread, but I find that every time I go somewhere I am inspired to write a song about that. There’s something about being in the mountains or seeing a landscape that just opens up this creativity inside of me, and I usually want to write a song immediately once I’m somewhere beautiful.

Do you find that you write differently when you’re on the road?

Yes, completely. I feel it’s so true – a lot of people will write in a room, they’ll have a writing room and it’s wonderfully inspired, but you get inspired in a completely different way when you’re surrounded by trees or mountains or something visually stunning. I think that what I write about is completely different and it’s just more interesting I think.

Is there anywhere you’re particularly excited about visiting on this tour?

Oooh, that’s so interesting! So last time I didn’t get to play a show in Scotland – unfortunately my flights got cancelled and my tourmates got to play but I didn’t, so i’m definitely looking forward to playing in Glasgow. So I’m trying to think of places I haven’t gone yet – let’s see… I’m thinking about my list here. [pause as Sarah looks over her list] It’s funny because my head – I can’t think about all the dates I’m doing right now which is really funny. i’m gonna have to say – so I’ve been to Gateshead… Oh! Brighton was what I was thinking of. I’ve never been to Brighton and I’m super-excited because I’ve heard it’s just a lovely place. I’ve heard it’s really fun.

Will you get much time to explore while you’re over here?

It’s going to be pretty much place to place, but I have this thing that each place i’m going to go i’m going to explore some. I have to. I want to see something special in that place, for sure.

Is there a song you wish you’d written?

One of my favourite songs of all time is probably The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert. I just really connect with it because i’m from this little farm town in Iowa and I’m sure it does this for a lot of people, but it just really takes me back to that house that I grew up in and thinking about me as a little kid writing poetry and now fast forward that those are lyrics. It makes me really nostalgic when I listen to that song, so that’s probably the one.

You’re a keen baker – do you have a favourite recipe? And what’s your top baking tip?

So my speciality, which is funny because it’s so hard to bake, are French macarons. I make those often, and I even have a little company in Nashville called Sweet Darling Patisserie which is fun. So that’s probably my main thing. But a tip though for other bakers is don’t bake on a rainy day [laughs] and don’t get frustrated. Baking is very scientific. So turn on some music and keep trying different things. I think that’s my tip always for cooking.

What’s next for you?

Yes, so basically headline tour, I’ve got Wasted coming out and then possibly another song to follow, one that I’m also very excited about. It’s a song that is so personal to me and everything that I’ve got through. I feel like the Halley’s Comet story is something that I like to write about – that sort of keep following your dreams. So there’s another song coming out as well.

Catch Sarah Darling on tour in the UK on the following dates:

Monday 5th March – Union Chapel, London
Saturday 10th March – Unitarian Church, Brighton
Monday 12th March – Oran Mor, Glasgow
Tuesday 13th March – The Sage 2, Gateshead
Thursday 15th March – Waterfront Studio, Norwich
Saturday 17th March – Unitarian Church, Cambridge
Monday 19th March – The Basement, York
Tuesday 20th March – Night and Day, Manchester
Thursday 22nd March – Empire Music Hall, Belfast
Friday 23rd March – The Grand Social, Dublin
Sunday 25th March – Studio 2, Liverpool
Tuesday 27th March – The Lantern, Bristol

Laura Cooney
Laura Cooney
Laura has been writing for Entertainment Focus since 2016, mainly covering music (particularly country and pop) and television, and is based in South West London.

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