Sarah Darling: Recording in the UK gave me a fresh take on country

Country singer songwriter Sarah Darling on the joys of recording in the UK and the difficulties of dealing with the demise of PledgeMusic.

When making her fifth album Nashville’s Sarah Darling decided to spread her creative wings – and head to Wales.

The singer songwriter recorded part of the soon-to-be-released Wonderland in Hay-on-Wye (the rest was done in London), an experience she found freeing.

“I wanted to challenge myself musically,” Darling explains on the phone from her Tennessee home. “My husband is British, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the UK, so it made sense.”

Darling collaborated with British songwriters Pete Hammerton (Kylie Minogue, The Shires, James Morrison) and Shelly Poole (Ward Thomas, The Wandering Hearts, Red Sky July). Did she notice a difference in way we do things in the UK?

“In the UK you tend to really build a track,” she says. “Often you end up writing for several hours longer than you would in Nashville, but the song is better.

“In Nashville I find I write more with friends, people who I have an open connection with. I enjoy both ways of working, but I think it’s good not to just write with friends.

“I’ve written some of my best songs with people who I had never met before I sat down to work with them.”

Interestingly working away from the capital of country music gave her a new take on the genre.

“In the UK there are fewer boundaries. You can blend country with other genres, and nobody questions it. That’s not always the case in Nashville.”

But it wasn’t all plain sailing. During the making of the album crowdfunding platform PledgeMusic went under. Like many artists, Darling was burned.

Funds pledged by fans to help make Wonderland never reached Darling. She’s owed “thousands and thousands” and doesn’t envision seeing any of it.

Nevertheless she is honouring orders of the album and associated items out of her own pocket.

“I don’t want fans to miss out,” she says. “I consider those who pledged my superfans. I don’t want them to feel jibbed.

“Looking back on it, the people at Pledge must have known for a long time that they were in bad shape – but they kept taking people’s money. They should have told everyone when they knew [it was in financial difficulty]. Instead people like me continued with their campaigns and the funds we raised were used to pay their debts.

“It’s really upsetting and has put me off using crowdfunding sites. But I don’t want to dwell on it too much. I feel really positive about the album itself.”

Instead she’s looking to the future – and another trip to the UK. Darling will soon return to Blighty for festival season. You can catch her at the Cambridge Folk Festival, Nashville Meets London at Canary Wharf and the British Country Music Festival.

Wonderland is out 7 June.


Bronwyn Bidwell is an Australian journalist and editor based in London. She enjoys writing about music, books, history and popular culture.