The holiday season is a time of giving, and Sarah Darling is doing just that with the release of a Christmas album and a charity show she'll be hosting near Nashville.
Have a Merry Little Christmas Darling, an independently-released project, features her interpretations of perennial favorites "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)," "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Silent Night," along with Joni Mitchell's emotional ballad, "River." She'll be joined by several of her singer-songwriter friends for the Sarah Darling and Friends Acoustic Christmas concert set for Friday (Dec. 13) at the Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tenn.
During a recent interview with CMT.com, Darling talked about her love of the season, her favorite holiday memories and what's in store for 2014.
"Christmas is my favorite time of year," she says. "I think it's one of those times where you're kind of whisked away to when you were younger and immediately listening to Christmas music is just so special to you."
For her EP, the Iowa native says, "I picked the songs that were special to me."
Darling chose to kick off the project with "The Christmas Song."
"That's always been one of my favorites," she said. "Nat King Cole's version will always forever be the best version. And I decided to keep it really classic and traditional."
Describing Mitchell's "River" as "one of the most gorgeous songs ever," Darling has known for years she wanted to cover it.
"When I was younger, I used to hear it and think, 'Gosh, if I ever got a chance, I'd love to cut that song,'" she said.
Recording the track was a new venture because it's never been covered by a country artist before.
"I think it's my standout track," she says.
Darling teamed up with producer Steve Gibson for her EP and already plans to work with him in the future. Having previously produced albums for the likes of Randy Travis, Gibson now serves as music director for the Grand Ole Opry. The venue is also a regular stomping ground for Darling who just made her 50th appearance there.
In fact, a serendipitous encounter at the venue led to the two working together.
"He used to produce way back when, and he actually approached me after an Opry show and said, 'You know what? I haven't produced anyone in ages, and there's something about you that makes me want to produce again,'" she recalls.
Darling says the timing was excellent.
"It's a little eerie, in a way, because I was looking to find a new producer, and it was so subtle," she says. "He just walked into my life, and it was like the perfect fit. I always love when life works out that way. That's how you know it's meant to be."
For her acoustic concert, she'll be joined by Jen Bostic, Matthew Perryman Jones, Jessica Campbell and others.
"It'll be a wonderful night of music," she says. "It's going to be myself and some friends just playing at one of the prettiest venues in Nashville."
Darling's not done spreading holiday cheer yet. A portion of her physical CD sales goes to benefit Live Beyond. The charity was founded by the Vanderpool family of Brentwood, Tenn.
"They have this organization where they basically sold everything they own, and they have a place in Haiti where they really go into the trenches and help people that are sick," she says. "Educate them, help get water, pretty much anything that you could think of in the poorest place in the world. ... When I actually saw what they did, it was so moving that I really want to contribute to it."
Darling is gearing up for 2014 with hopes of releasing a new album. After parting ways with Black River Entertainment earlier this year, she's currently searching for a new label home.
"I'm looking for a partner," she says. "Someone who really gets me musically, that wants to join in on all the visions that I have and we just help each other get to that common goal."
Earlier this year, Darling found herself among the ranks of Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe and Brandy Clark when she was named one of CMT's Next Women of Country. The initiative showcases emerging signed and unsigned ladies in country music. Darling says being a part of the group "means absolutely the world to me."
She adds, "I love the fact that it's label or without a label, radio or without radio. It's just people that you know are making a difference. And I love being in that category of women. I think it's a strong group of women, and everyone's so different and brings something incredibly different to the table. I want to go out there and continue making everyone proud."
Parmalee may be new to the country charts with"Carolina," but they are by no means new to the music business. They're literally a family band consisting of brothers Matt and Scott Thomas (lead vocals and drums, respectively), cousin Barry Knox on bass and "adopted" brother Josh McSwain on the guitar.
Formed in 2001, the band held their first rehearsals in a tiny barn in Parmale, N.C. (pop. 264). The locale inspired their name -- with an extra "e" to make the pronunciation less confusing.
Since hitting the road, they've burned through five vans, three trailers and an RV. Their first full-length album, Inside, leaned toward alternative hard rock and was released independently in 2004. The band has recorded in New York and California, even working with Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx.
The song "Carolina" first appeared on their 2008 EP Complicated and would end up leading to their breakthrough. It just took five years for the song to top Billboard's country airplay chart.
"'Carolina' is a song that we wrote years ago and is actually the song that kind of got us out here to Nashville," Matt Thomas says. "We had written it and released it as an independent band, and it got us some regional success -- enough so that an artist out here in Nashville cut it and went to radio with it on this new label. Right as he was going to radio with it ... we came out to Nashville to live for a month. We kind of raised our flag and said, 'Hey, we're the songwriters on this single that's going to radio. Come write a song with us. Please, anybody!'"
With the possibility of a record deal in sight, the band kept on hitting the road and playing clubs, building their audience until a night in Rock Hill, S.C., nearly dealt a fatal blow.
In October 2010, two men (one with a gun) attempted to rob the band and their RV after a show at a bar called the Money. The attempted robbery became a shootout when Scott Thomas, armed with his own gun, told them to leave. This led to a fight that killed the armed assailant and critically injured the musician.
After being airlifted to Charlotte, N.C., Scott Thomas was given only a five percent chance of survival and spent 10 days in a coma. However, he made a full recovery and got behind the drum kit in February 2011 for the first time since the shooting. That performance marked Parmalee's showcase for the label Stoney Creek, a subsidiary of Broken Bow Records, whose roster includes artists such as Thompson Squareand Randy Houser.
"We did a showcase in February for [label head] Benny Brown and the whole team. He said, 'You guys passed the test. We want you guys on the label.' It took from February to July to actually sign that deal," says Matt Thomas. "You wanna talk about pins and needles."
"The most anxious time of our life -- sitting there, every day, waiting for the phone to ring," says Knox. "Finally, we got the call in July, and they were like, 'Well, boys, the paperwork's done.'"
"We'll be there tomorrow!" the band members exclaim together, remembering the moment.
After a decade of being an independent act, the band finally had a label. But success or even an album didn't come right away.
"We just kind of hustled whatever we could. We moved out here, and the first six months, we were writing music and we were struggling," says Matt Thomas. "Luckily, we had a fan base back home in North Carolina, so we could take a weekend and go back and make some money then come back and write."
"We were all living together, splitting meals together, cheap as possible," McSwain adds.
Parmalee released "Musta Had a Good Time," their first single for Stoney Creek, in July 2012. The song performed exceptionally well on Sirius XM station the Highway, topping its Hot 30 Live Countdown for four weeks in a row and eventually cracking the country airplay Top 40.
Building off that success, the group released "Carolina" in early 2013. Bolstered by a slick video, the single slowly climbed the Billboard country airplay chart, finally reaching No. 1 in its 43rd week of release. The career-making song holds a special place for the band.
"We're very proud of that song because it keeps doing good things for us," says McSwain.
The band's brand new album, Feels Like Carolina, plays host to party songs in the vein of "Musta Had a Good Time" (such as "Day Drinkin'" and "Dance") and more love songs with geographical descriptions ("My Montgomery"). The album also features a track by Nashville hit songwriters Keith Anderson and Craig Wiseman called "I'll Bring the Music."
After years of shows in bars and clubs, the band is excited about the possibility of a big tour.
"Yeah, we're really ready to step it up and play in front of more people," Matt Thomas says. "I love clubs, but you know, there'll be another sacrifice to get out there on a tour and pay your dues and start that process. We're ready for that."
Chris Young is the first to participate in the new web series Grammy’s “ReImagined,” where modern artists do their version of classic Grammy award-winning hits. Other tracks include R&B singer Eric Benet doing Willie's Nelson’s ”Always on My Mind” and soul singer Lyfe Jennings doing Michael Jackson’s hit “Human Nature.” In a recent interview Chris talks about why he picked “Change the World.” “It’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful song,” “It really is one that just spoke to me.” Chris also mentions that he knew it was a beloved all around the world, so there was a little bit of fear there. His first thought: “Man, I hope I don’t mess this up.”
Take a look as Scotty McCreery brings you behind the scenes and on the set of his new
music video 'See You Tonight'.
Scotty McCreery’s sophomore album 'See You Tonight' will be available October 15th.
Alright, so Luke Bryan was a co-host on ‘The View’ last week, but it was YouTube sensation Tommy Woolridge who stole the show. Tommy Woolridge famously used Bryan and other artists’ lyrics to try to pick up women and failed, but had much better success with a little help from Luke to score his first kiss with former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy. Woolridge awkwardly tried to use lyrics from Bryan’s No. 1 hit ‘Crash My Party’ on McCarthy. It didn’t work … until the ACM Entertainer of the Year gave him some pointers. With a little more emphasis, Tommy found himself sharing his FIRST KISS (EVER!) with the blond beauty. She pulled him in to lay one on him like she never wanted anyone more!
The rest of the ladies and Luke went crazy with excitement, as did the live audience. Woolridge tweeted about it afterwards. “I think they call this the morning after,” he said, linking to a picture of his hair tussled and clothes a mess.
Rolling Stone Magazine has put together a list of the 50 greatest live acts right now and some are music greatest artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Prince, the Rolling Stones, and making the list is two of country music’s very own Eric Church and Taylor Swift.
To create this extensive list, the magazine asked a panel of writers, industry figures and artists to vote on their favorite live performers right now. The magazine raved about Church, saying, “At his summer stadium shows, country star Eric Church emerges amid smoke and sirens…beginning a gig that recalls arena rock’s golden age.” Church appeals to an enormous audience, as demonstrated by his Lollapalooza invitation, he was the only country star invited to the alternative rock festival, and he also received Album of the Year at the 2013 ACMs, as for Swift, she just made the list at No. 49.
What makes a great live band?
Is it how long they play? Or maybe the set list distinction between “the hits” and “the new stuff”? How about the energy the lead singer expresses on stage telling the audience to clap their hands and so on? Maybe it has to do with the number of original members who aren’t dead, or the already-peaked level of fame they’re still coasting off from 30 years later? If you’re Rolling Stone, it’s all of that, though it also helps if you’re the Rolling Stones or you have been in a band for more than 20 years and around 50 years old.
50. Fiona Apple