Sarah Darling’s cinematic new video for “Where Cowboys Ride” from her latest album Dream Country certainly looks like something out of a dream. But it’s not. It’s beautiful Wyoming.
“Five years ago, I played a rodeo in Jackson Hole, and I was so overtaken by how beautiful the state was,” she said during our CMT.com interview. “I’ve always been one of those travel lovers and love thinking of the West. It’s sort of my favorite spot.”
Co-written with one of her go-to co-writers Zach Rungquist, they sent to the track to Wyoming Tourism and the organization loved it so much, they partnered with Darling to film the official video.
“We worked together on scout locations and made this really gorgeous video,” she said. “It’s everything I’ve ever wanted. I think there’s something really gratifying about how much love has been put into it.”
With cascading string arrangements by producer Larissa Maestro (Margo Price, Deer Tick, Langhorne Slim & the Law) and mixing by Grammy-winner Vance Powell (Chris Stapleton, Jack White, Kings of Leon), the 10-song collection is meditative, reflective and escapist in all the right ways and offers Darling’s uplifting take on California country. Featuring moments of Americana, jazz and rock, the collection transports the listener into the farthest reaches of her creative mind, and it’s easily her most versatile to date.
Just don’t ask her for her horoscope on any given day.
“Everybody thinks I’m into astrology because of this album,” she joked. “But the goal of Dream Country was to take you on a journey. That’s my favorite thing to do as a writer — ‘OK, let’s go to Wyoming,’ or ‘We’re going to Paris,’ in your mind through the lyrics.”
The album kicks off with the progressive “Wandering Star,” which encourages having faith in the future. Lucifer could be anything — an ex, a vice, a bad attitude — in the electric blues rocker “Tell That Devil.”
“Where Cowboys Ride” and “Montmartre” capture her love for two of her favorite places, Wyoming and Paris, respectively. Co-written with Sam Palladio, “Anchor” was inspired by the Nashville actor’s longing for home in Cornwall, England. A trumpet solo by Mikie Martel surprises in the jazzy “You Take Me All the Way,” which could easily fit in any live jazz cave.
Track eight, “Halley’s Comet,” could be considered Dream Country’s Big Bang. She admits it was one of the hardest songs to write because it was written during a musically emotional time in her life. She and her former record label had parted ways, leaving her free to create whatever she wanted, but she was struggling over what to say next.
“‘Halley’s Comet’ is about finding your place to shine,” she said. “It’s one of those songs where it relates to everyone because it shows what it’s really like to go after your dreams and believing that everything has a way of working out at just the right time.
“I had faced a lot of changes personally,” she added. “I had gotten married. I had left a label deal. I went from having a team to no team. That day I bared my soul with my co-writers and close friends, Rebekah Powell and Cheyenne Medders, saying, ‘I just want to figure out what my place is in the world with music.’”
The first time she performed the “Halley’s Comet” at the Grand Ole Opry, her guitarist recommended she add a cellist. “Larissa came and played, and I realized that I’m supposed to sing with strings,” she said. “I really imagined all these songs with string arrangements. I asked her if she produced. So, I had a girl produce the album, and it was amazing working on this together.”
The idea behind the album title came during a conversation with Runquist, while going over some rough cuts at Music Row’s Ocean Way recording studio. “He said, ‘This is so you. It’s country, but it’s something different,’” she recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah, it’s dreamy. It’s dream country.’”
Darling agrees Dream Country marks the beginning of a new musical exploration.
“It stretched me as a person and as an artist,” she said. “I think it’s just going to only open up what I write moving forward. I had to make this one for me. And I think the possibilities are endless. It’s right where I’m supposed to be.”