One of our 1st confirmed contestants on Rising Star, who will be featured in this Sunday’s premiere episode at 9p Eastern on ABC will be a known quantity to at least some country music fans. Country/pop singer/songwriter Sarah Darling announced last night via Facebook that she will compete on the show:
I know all of you have been on pins and needles!!! I’m so excited to finally announce I’m a Rising Star contestant! I have the best fans in the world and I’m going to need your help!! Please spread the great news! You’re the judge, so download the app and vote for me, Sunday June 22 at 9|8c.http://abc.tv/1p9mGdW #risingstar #raisethewall #americasdarling
Sarah Darling’s return to televised singing competitions comes 11 years after she was a t3 finalist on E!’s The Entertainer. More recently, Sarah Darling released several albums and an EP via Black River Entertainment, which is currently home to Idol alum and Dancing With The Stars champ Kellie Pickler. Sarah’s best known and highest peaking single “Home To Me,” a track written by Caitlyn Smith (who cowrote the debut singles from Cassadee Pope and Danielle Bradbery) and Bobby Hamrick.
To preview/download Sarah Darling’s Home To Me EP, click HERE.
“Home To Me’ was picked up by Sirius XM’s The Highway, and ultimately sold 125k downloads while peaking at #44 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
During the song’s chart run, Sarah Darling appeared on ABC when she performed her single at the time “Home To Me” as part of 1 of Bachelor Sean Lowe’s dates:
The episode aired on February 4, 2013, and prompted a sales boost that gave “Home To Me” a peak of #34 on the hybrid Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Sarah also promoted the song with a performance on Conan. During that time, Sarah was also the opening act on Season 10 Idol champ Scotty McCreery’s Weekend Roadtrip Tour. Scotty would bring Sarah out during his set for a duet cover of Garth Brooks’s “The Dance” – you can check out video of that performance here.
Sarah Darling also has a fan in country superstar and Season 4 Idol champ Carrie Underwood, who tweeted about loving Darling’s single “Home To Me” back in October 2012:
Song I'm loving right now… "Home to Me" by Sarah Darling. It's so sweet and makes me miss my hubby!
— Carrie Underwood (@carrieunderwood) October 16, 2012
Carrie also name-checked Sarah in an interview earlier this year when she named some of her favorite up & coming female country acts:
A: Which acts do you have your eye on?
C: I do love Lauren Alaina. I know a lot of people are into Kacey Musgraves and her writing style. Sarah Darling has such a sweet voice. There are a lot of females that are kind of waiting for their opportunity.
After parting ways last spring from Black River Entertainment, Sarah Darling self-released a summery tune called “Little Umbrellas” (cowritten by Rob Crosby and Doug Johnson). It didn’t appear on either of the published airplay charts, but she promoted it with a video:
To preview/download Sarah Darling’s “Little Umbrellas,” click HERE.
Although Sarah Darling has released several outside cuts, she is a songwriter in her own right. She cowrote every song on her debut album Every Monday Morning from Black River Entertainment (released June 16, 2009) and 10 out of the 12 tracks on her 2nd full album Angels & Devils with the company (the other 2 songs were covers of U2’s “With Or Without You” and Elton John’s “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”).
To preview/download Sarah Darling’s debut album, click HERE.
Here is Sarah Darling singing the tune that brought her to the attention of her debut album’s producer, Jimmy Nichols:
“Stop The Bleeding” (Shaunna Bolton/Sarah Darling/Joe Perrault)
Check out the video for lead single “Jack Of Hearts” (cowritten by Marc Beeson, Sarah Darling, and Don Pfrimmer):
To preview/download Angels & Devils, click HERE.
Check out the video for second single “Something To Do With Your Hands” (cowritten by Sarah Darling & Jason Deere):
Gospel singer Guy Penrod also covered “Knowing What I Know About Heaven” (which appeared on Sarah’s debut and that she cowrote with Bill Austin and Dave Robbins), leading to a duet performance at last October’s Inspirational Country Music Awards:
Sarah Darling hasn’t shied away from covers since Angels & Devils, either. Her well-received cover of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” was featured on the 200th episode of the CBS show Criminal Minds., and she released videos of her performance of the song to CMT and GAC.
Sarah Darling is also a frequent performer at the Grand Ole Opry, where she has covered “Landslide” and performed her own music:
In a July 2013 interview with Billboard, Darling was relishing the freedom and agility being outside the label system gave her, but indicated she would eventually look for a new label partner to help get her music to fans and radio. In a December 2013 interview with Engine 145 promoting her Christmas EP, Sarah Darling said she would cull outside cuts and her own cowrites from over the years:
I think that’s what’s going to be interesting about it. I’ve been writing songs for years, so it’s going to be compiling the best songs of mine and outside songs and get a collection that suits me best, which I’ve never really had the chance to do. That’s something I’m really going to take my time on to put together.
Darling is still represented by Webster & Associates for PR, which sent out a press release this afternoon regarding her upcoming appearance on Rising Star. She also has a manager in John Alexander, a former Vice President of Strategic Management at Black River entertainment who left the company with Darling in spring 2013. This Music Row profile discusses Alexander’s involvement in Sarah’s deals with MoonPie marshmellow sandwiches, Crock Pot (see her associated video series here), and Durango Boots, which enabled her to gain some level of exposure without having a t40 hit. In that profile, Alexander says:
“I think television is a very important part of any artist’s career today. We have long-term aspirations to get Sarah her own lifestyle channel. She’s a baker and a fashion person, so we’re going to build a brand with her that way.”
Though Sarah Darling’s had a good amount of exposure through non-traditional channels and could arguably be considered a ringer considering her past appearance on another ABC show, this is somebody who has never been through the major label system in Nashville, and who has come up against the same obstacles all non-established female country singers face at country radio. While Black River Entertainment has raised its profile in the past year by promoting Craig Morgan’s “Wake Up Lovin’ You” into the t20, that was the label’s 1st t20 hit, and the label has so far been unable to return Kellie Pickler, somebody with much more national name recognition than Sarah Darling plus a track record of t20 hits, to the t40.
The only chance females at country radio seem to have is if they come to country radio with a fanbase, so it’s a good and understandable move for Sarah Darling to raise her profile on network TV via Rising Star. Another woman who has made a few attempts to break through at country radio, singer/songwriter Emily West, is doing something similar via America’s Got Talent.
Besides, as Rising Star tries to find itself a place in the market, it only makes sense that instead of trying to find truly undiscovered talent, producers would seek acts with at least some experience and fans. This will guarantee not only a certain level of participation but also ensure a certain amount of comfort in performing. Indeed, according to the Billboard cover story on Rising Star, “30 contestants [were] chosen from a pool of about 2,500 invited to audition in six cities.” So I doubt that Sarah Darling will be the only contestant with a healthy amount of previous exposure.
Do you think Sarah Darling’s country/pop stylings will go over well with the Rising Star audience?