THERE are many American artists who claim to have a special affinity with the UK.

But for rising country star Sarah Darling, that connection with fans on this side of the Atlantic has genuinely been life changing.

As she prepares to play Manchester next week as part of a headline tour she said: “When I first started playing in England I felt so much love coming from the audience it became a really big priority for me to play there.

“Any opportunity I could get, I’d take it and that has just continued.”

Sarah - who is also playing at this weekend’s C2C Festival - will be showcasing songs from her forthcoming album Wonderland which, she acknowledges, is a distinctly different album from her previous release Dream Country.

“It’s much more upbeat and I really like that,” said Sarah, who wrote and recorded the album in the UK.

“It’s way different than Dream Country but it still has these elements of me running through it.

“That’s really cool. As a musician you are always trying to stretch the boundaries and never do what you’ve done before. I’m a country artist creating a new album in the UK and it naturally took a different route and new sound but it’s still so me and that’s what’s so cool about it.”

Dream Country with its songs of wide open spaces and chasing your dreams proved to be a major hit with UK fans which, Sarah admits, brought extra pressure when it came to recording Wonderland.

“When something is great and people love it, you do think ‘how do I make something else that people will love’,” she said. “But I came over to the UK and put myself far away from home but it really brought some cool music out that I would never have written otherwise. It’s been one of the best adventures I’ve had to date in music.”

At a time when country’s profile in the UK has never been higher, it would have been easy for her to aim for commercial success over artistic integrity but Sarah has never been one to compromise.

“Music is not about commerciality,” she said. “It’s about telling a story and connecting to people. That’s been the greatest gift and most fulfilling thing for me as an artist. What you get with Dream Country and now Wonderland is just truly me and people are loving it.”

Sarah Darling, Deaf Institute, Manchester, Saturday, March 16. Wonderland is due for release in May. Details from