It was back in 2016 when we first saw Sarah Darling live at London’s Country2Country music festival where she performed at one of the pop-up stages which act as a precursor to the main evening event. And she was in good company, with other acts gracing the free stages including Ashley Campbell (who performs at the Deaf Institute this week), future Grammy winner Maren Morris, Brooke Eden, Frankie Davies and many more. In fact so good was Sarah Darling, that we went to see her perform again the very next day, changing our schedule to hear the singer-songwriter back in action.
Thankfully it wasn’t too long before she returned to the UK to perform a series of ‘In The Round’ shows with Jenn Bostic and Kyshona and then again in 2017 alongside Jenn Bostic and Michael Logen. Both ‘In The Round’ tours cemented what we already knew – that Sarah Darling is a supremely talented singer, songwriter and performer.
And now, back on the road in the UK, Sarah Darling will be at Manchester’s Night and Day with a full band headline show. The Manchester gig comes in the midst of a 12-date UK and Ireland tour which follows the release of her new single Wasted.
“As song writers, we just write about true things”
We spoke to Sarah about touring, the single and recording new music. And it’s immediately apparent that Wasted is an extremely personal song to her as she opens up about performing the track on stage, “It’s such a truly personal thing when you do get to sing a song like that. Most people probably don’t realize that I’m thinking about that situation as I’m singing. It’s like a moment captured in time, being able to heal from that as well as the person who is written about.” Wasted is a song about addiction, she explains, “I wrote it about someone in my family who had called me for advice years ago. They were dealing with alcoholism and it was sort of like the culprit of the relationship problems. I ended up writing a song the next day about it which is what we do. As song writers, we just write about true things. That’s kind of how the story happened. It is a beautiful one because I always like songs that find their way eventually.”
And whilst Wasted will be on Sarah Darling’s new album, it’s not actually a ‘new’ song, but has completely evolved from the original version. “Wasted has been around for a while. That song I wrote years ago. When I had written it I was actually signed to a label. We produced it in a way that was very kind of up-tempo. For some reason, I just couldn’t connect to it, as the writer, as the singer. I stopped performing it for a while. I recently fell back in love with it while I was in the UK last year. I started playing it, acoustically, on my international tour and decided to start playing it again, and then recorded it with Mark Bright.
With such a personal connection behind the song and dealing with a theme which may touch many nerves, we ask Sarah about opening up on stage and she shares the positives which have come out of it, “When I started playing it last summer in the UK” she continues, “I had so many people come up to me and say they were either the one that had the addiction or on the other side where they felt like they were invisible. It really touched my heart because I felt that this is a song that those people can relate to. Like the person who may feel like, ‘yes, I’m actually hurting someone because of addiction’. That’s the big reason why I wanted to release that first, because I felt like people were coming up to me after shows and saying the song is really special.”
When discussing the upcoming album, Sarah Darling reveals that she has recorded three tracks so far with producer Mark Bright. “The idea is that, after I get off tour I’m going to be recording and writing some more and hopefully have a release by the end of the summer” she adds. And she opens up about the feeling of the album, explaining what she hopes to create, “It’s funny because the best way to describe it is it’s an elevation, this beautiful elevation. Dream Country was so wonderful because I felt that album was so me and it was really honest. I feel this new music it goes further and it’s deeper. Very, of course, cinematic and country and then honest, of course, but it’s elevated. I feel I found a musical direction over the last few years that I really love. That’s just continuing to evolve.”
As with previous album Dream Country, there’s also every chance that places will continue to be a source of inspiration for Sarah Darling, and perhaps the UK will also feature this time. “Yes, actually. I have a song. I have a couple that I’ve written and one is funny. When I went to Gateshead, I wrote a song about the angel of the north which was really fun. I wrote a song – it’s so pretty – and I might actually sing it when I go there. I also wrote a song called Wings, which is really cool. I was writing with a co-writer in London and he’s like, “If you notice anything as you’re on your way to co-write today…” It was funny, I kept seeing feathers everywhere and so ended up writing this really cool song called Wings. I feel like places are my biggest inspiration for songwriting. That’s changed over the years. I feel like early on it was love and heartbreak but now it’s travel. It’s so much fun because you get to experience new people, new places. It does, it really inspires me.”
UK fans have truly embraced Sarah Darling, and for good reason – her songwriting, singing and performance are exceptional – so is there any chance of Sarah collaborating with UK artists? “I would love to do that” she answers enthusiastically, “and actually it’s been great because over the last year I’ve opened for Ward Thomas several times and we’ve become really good friends. I think eventually that could be a cool possibility. I do have some amazing UK friends here in Nashville and we’re scheming up possibly doing some touring together although I can’t actually tell you who yet. That could be something that I’m doing later.”
“Manchester’s just a really fun place to do a show”
Sarah acknowledges that she has developed a strong feeling of closeness to the UK, “I feel an incredible connection to the UK. People always ask me, “Why do you keep coming?” I think it’s the connection that I feel. I just feel truly appreciated when I share my music and it was something I immediately felt the very first time I played C2C. I guess I’ve played it now for a few years and the very first time I played was the first time I’d ever performed my music at all in the UK. I just remember the feeling that I got and I just truly love sharing my songs with UK audiences because I do feel just a lot of love.” And we expect that there will be a lot of love for her when she performs at Manchester’s Night and Day. This will actually be her first headline show in Manchester, although she has previously supported Ward Thomas at the Deaf Institute and headlined at the local Buckle and Boots Festival. “When I supported Ward Thomas, that was the very first time I had been to Manchester. I loved the spirit. The crowds are different everywhere you go. Manchester’s just a really fun place to do a show. I enjoyed it. I remember loving the crowds.”
As for what to expect from the Nashville based singer songwriter at Manchester’s Night and Day, “It’s definitely a journey. You are going to hear Dream Country, which is such fun. People in the UK, my fans, are familiar with Dream Country but they’ve never seen it full band. That’s exciting. You’ll also be hearing some new tracks that I’ve been working on. Then I will be going old school and sing some songs that I first wrote when I first moved to Nashville, one in particular which is a song which got me on the Grand Old Opry stage. And songs that nobody has ever heard before.
Sarah Darling headlines at Manchester’s Night and Day on Tuesday 20 March 2018. Support comes from Emma Stevens and Gary Quinn.