WASHINGTON – Country singer and songwriter Sarah Darling will receive the National Association for Music Education's yearly Stand Up for Music Award this Saturday. In an interview with the Christian Post, the rising Christian starlet shared the impact of faith in her songs and her amazing life stories.
"My grandfather is a big part of my faith," she said. "I wouldn't call him a preacher, but he's probably the wisest person I've known on this planet. He loves the Lord and I ended up getting an amazing childhood of having God centered in my life."
Darling had an amazing childhood, but not a painless one. "When I was six, my grandpa went in for heart surgery," she continued. In those days, "some of the procedures were still pretty new," and the experience proved very trying for her. "He died and they revived him – he came back to life, and they gave him a year to live when I was about six years old."
Not only did her grandfather survive the heart attack, but he is still alive today – 26 years later. Darling wrote the song "Knowing What I Know About Heaven" about him. "I wanted to write a song that painted a picture," she said. "Why one earth would we want someone back here when they're going to heaven? Because it's home – it's our real home."
"It's a song that really helps people deal with death, which is a very difficult thing," she added, stunned even when recounting the story. "Doctors can tell you, 'you've got a year to live' or whatever, but it's really up to God. He knows the day and the hour when you're meant to leave this earth."
Throughout her music career, Darling's faith kept her grounded. "You can easily get lost in the music business if you don't have God as your center, Christ as your center," she said.
"It's not been the easiest road for me," she said. "I've had to do everything the honest way." In a business where "some people are on top quickly and gone tomorrow," she has achieved steady success through hard work.
She recently broke off with her label, Black River Entertainment, and started releasing songs on her own. She said it was mutual. "Both of us parted ways," and the company mentioned the country star Vince Gill, who "really got going once he left the label he started at."
"It's not easy doing what we do," said her manager, John Alexander. "This is the ultimate roll of the dice."
She released her new song, "Little Umbrellas," on Sirius XM's Country channel, "The Highway." Now on many stations across the country, the song has also done well online.
"7,500, which should go over 10,000 in downloads by next Tuesday," said her manager.
Darling calls the song her "female Jimmy Buffett." "Your friends go through things, breakups, fights. Girls tend to get so focused on their guy, and overanalyze." The new song "is basically me saying to them, hey, don't worry about it. Let's just go to the beach."
Despite releasing a song about breakups, Darling recently got engaged. "His name's James – James Muriel," she said, with a definite twinkle in her eye. "I met him through his dad. I call it another God story."
James' dad, a lawyer in London, loved songwriting, so he moved to Nashville. Darling demo-ed some of his songs, and "he invited me to sing at Carnegie Hall, which had always been a lifelong dream."
But a month before her big debut, he died of a heart attack. His friends in London knew him as a lawyer, not a songwriter, so Darling said that his family "asked me to fly to London and I ended up singing a bunch of his songs for his family and friends at a memorial service. That's where I met James."
The romance took a while to grow, but "we always feel that it was meant to happen," Darling explained. "God gave us an amazing love from probably one of the worst things that he's ever gone through in his life and I wasn't expecting to meet him at that particular time."
In another "God story," she saw her one of her mentors, Guy Penrod, sing her song "Knowing What I Know About Heaven." According to her public relations firm, Marquee PR, she used to wait on him at Stoney River Steakhouse "but had never actually met him until he recorded her song."
When she told him what the song means to her, he said he closes every one of his shows with that song because of the positive message it leaves with people.
Darling also looks up to fellow country singer Carrie Underwood. She called Underwood, who shares her age, "so classy," and "an amazing singer." But what really inspired her, Darling said, was her courage to "be who she is.
"If she wants to praise the Lord right there at an awards show, she does it," Darling explained. "That's amazing, some people don't have the guts to do that – you can tell where her heart is."
Darling's own heart shines through in another deep song, "All You've Got." The first verse laments the death of her friend "way too soon – too young," while the second celebrates her grandfather, "who was supposed to not be around."
"The third verse is about God – finding God," she explained. "You don't know God is all you need until God is all you've got."