Renowned Country Artist Sara Evans Talks About Her New Album, Copy That, And How She Wrote Her Classic Hit Songs

Sara Evans
Sara Evans
(photo credit: LOWFIELD)

For the past two decades, singer/songwriter Sara Evans has been a leading artist in the country and pop fields. Starting in 1998 with her #1 hit “No Place That Far,” Evans has had a remarkable run of success, with several platinum & gold albums, five #1 country hits and nine Top 10 hits. Impressively, she was the fifth most-played female artist at country radio for two decades. On top of this, seven of her singles also reached the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.

Now in 2020, Evans will be releasing her first new album in three years on May 15. Her new album is called Copy That, which is unique collection of classic songs that she’s recorded, which were originally made famous and written by other artists. This includes a wide range of Evans’ favorite songs, from country standards to modern pop & rock hits. Copy That will be released by Evans’ own label, Born To Fly Records (distributed by ADA).

SPECIAL FEATURE: STREAMING AUDIO
Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Sara Evans, who discusses the making of her new album, Copy That.

 

Importantly, Evans says that she wanted her renditions to remain faithful to the style and arrangements of the original versions. She definitely sings these songs in her own artistic and expressive way, but the music arrangements that made these records famous remain intact.

Some of the highlights from Copy That include “6th Avenue Heartache’ (by the Wallflowers), “Don’t Get Me Wrong (the Pretenders), “If I Can’t Have You” (Bee Gees), “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” (Chicago), “It’s Too Late” (Carole King) and “Whenever I Call You Friend” (Kenny Loggins & Stevie Nicks). Evans also performs fine versions of the country standards “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (Hank Williams) and “She’s Got You” (a hit for Patsy Cline).

The album also contains some surprising, fun pop/rock choices such as “My Sharona” (The Knack) and “Come On Eileen” (Dexys Midnight Runners).

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Sara Evans. But before we get started, here’s a rundown of her biggest hits and best-selling albums. Her most popular hits are: “Born to Fly,” “No Place That Far,” “I Could Not Ask for More,” “I Keep Looking,” “Perfect,” “Suds in the Bucket,” “A Real Fine Place to Start,” “Cheatin’” and “A Little Bit Stronger.”


Here’s the audio of Sara Evans’ recording of “Hard To Say I’m
Sorry,” from her new album, Copy That.

Evans’ best selling albums are: No Place That Far (1998, certified gold); Born to Fly (2000, double platinum); Restless (2003, platinum); Real Fine Place (2005, platinum); and Stronger (2011, gold). Also, in 2007 she released a Greatest Hits album that is certified gold.

In addition to her career as a recording artist & performer, Evans has recently written a book titled Born to Fly, which is a memoir. This book is scheduled to be released in September by Simon & Schuster.

Here is our interview with Sara Evans:

DK: You’re about to release your new album Copy That, which is collection of cover songs. Can you talk about the making of this album?

Sara Evans: Yes, I’ve been waiting to do a covers album my entire life, and I’m so excited about this. I’m probably more excited about this album than any other project and that’s saying a lot, because the other projects I’ve done have songs that I’ve written that were very important to me, and close to me. But I started singing in my family band when I was four years old, and so I spent my entire life in a cover band, prior to getting a record deal. And you know, it’s always fun to choose what cover songs you’re gonna do. Back when we played at dances all over Central Missouri, we would watch people two-step to our music. So we would have to choose cool, fun, popular songs, and I covered everybody from Fleetwood Mac to Reba McEntire to George Jones.

We were thinking…when is it going to be the right time to do a covers album? And so last August, we moved back to Nashville from Birmingham (Alabama). And recently before that, I had listened to Ruston Kelly’s record, Dying Star, and I fell in love with his album and his music. So I was like, I need to find out who produced this record and I’ve got to work with them, because they’re amazing. So we tracked down Jarrad K (Kritzstein), and he agreed to meet with us. And instead of waiting and going through the process of finding songs and writing songs together, I was like, “Why don’t we do a covers record now, and that way we can get to know each other and we’ll make this record.” So we were excited about making the covers record, and we decided to go away and start listening to songs. Then we came up with a list of hundreds of songs to choose from.


Here’s the audio of Sara Evans’ recording of “If I Can ‘t Have
You,” from her new album, Copy that.

[For the album], I knew that I needed to have a Patsy Cline song (“She’s Got You”), because I was obsessed with her as a teenager…I loved the movie, Sweet Dreams. And I knew that I wanted a Hank Williams song (“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”) because my papa loved him so much. The rest are just songs that I love. One day, I got in this car and I was headed to meet with Jarrad about songs, and “My Sharona” was on the radio. And I’m like, “Oh my God, I’ve got to cut ‘My Sharona’.” So some ideas were spontaneous, and some were planned out.

On the record, I worked with new musicians that Jarrad introduced me to. Also, my son Avery played guitar on the whole record, my daughter Olivia sang harmony on it, and my daughter Audrey sang harmony on a couple songs. So it’s very much a family affair.

DK: I like the songs you selected that are pop/rock songs that really fit your style, such as the Pretenders’ “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and the Wallflowers’ “6th Avenue Heartache.”

Evans: Yes, songs like “6th Avenue Heartache” really fit into my style, and that’s why we chose them. It had to be authentic. And even “My Sharona” and “Come On Eileen,” they’re like stretches and they both have crazy lyrics (laughs), but these songs felt authentic to me, too.

DK: Besides talking about your covers album, I wanted to ask you how you wrote some of your own songs. First, what inspired you to write your classic hit song, “Born to Fly”?

Evans: Right after my son Avery was born, I started writing for the album, Born to Fly. One of the first writes I had was with (hit songwriters) Marcus Hummon and Darrell Scott. They were kind enough to come to my house, and Avery was eight weeks old, and he was sitting there in his little bouncy seat. I’d never met either of them before, but I knew that Marcus had written big hits for the Dixie Chicks. So Marcus and Darrell came out, and Marcus is sort of ADD to write with (laughs). He’s brilliant, although he’s all over the place…he’ll change the melody everytime he runs through a song. I’d say, “Whoa, slow down here…we’ve got to come up with one melody that we’re working off of.” And he’s just constantly playing guitar…he’s strumming on it and playing around.


Here’s the video of Sara Evans’ #1 hit, “Born to Fly.”

Marcus asked me, “Sara, where are you from? Tell me all about you and your life.” So I said, “Well, I grew up on a farm in Missouri, and I come from a family of seven kids and I’ve been singing my whole life. My dream was always to move to Nashville.” And [while I was talking] Marcus was strumming and kind of singing. The way Marcus writes, he likes to start off very literal. And then, once he’s got this literal sculpture started of the song, he’ll go back and put in all the picturesque things. And Darrell Scott is so good at adding all the imagery.

Then Marcus started singing, “I grew up on a farm in Missouri.” And we were like, “Wow, we’re gonna literally write what I’m saying (laughs).” The song started out with a bluegrass beat…like a fast train beat. That’s how we wrote it and that’s how we made the demo.

DK: How did this demo of “Born to Fly” end up becoming a big hit, and perhaps the song you’re best known for?

Evans: A couple weeks before we were set to go in and start tracking the album, I had this panic attack. I was like…”Born to Fly” is so great lyrically and melodically, but it’s not going to make it at country radio if we keep it as a train beat and keep it bluegrassy. So I started thinking…since we had Matt Chamberlain on drums, why don’t we change the whole rhythm and vibe of the song, so it has a shot of being more commercially successful. I played the demo for the whole band, and I told them how I wanted to change the rhythm. Then Matt sat down and he put that drum part on the beginning and I said, “Leave it…let’s cut this. That’s our intro.” And that’s how that happened.

DK: Another song you wrote that I like, is your early hit, “No Place That Far.” Can you talk about how you wrote that song?

Evans: That was my first writing appointment with (hit songwriters) Tom Shapiro and Tony Martin. It was very intimidating to write with them, because I had not broken out yet. My album, Three Chords and the Truth, wasn’t a big commercial success, and I needed to come back with something major. So when we started writing, I thought [the song] might be too cheesy or gushy. But then the more we got into it, I thought it was  beautiful, and [I liked] the message we were saying…how there’s nothing you can do, nowhere you can go that I wouldn’t follow you, and nothing you could do that I wouldn’t love you…there’s just no place that far.


Here’s the video of Sara Evans’ #1 hit, “No Place That Far.”

Then Tom Shapiro had a demo made for it, and after I heard the demo, and hearing it become a big power ballad, I was like, “Oh, this is amazing.” So we named the record No Place That Far and sent the whole album to radio, and the radio programmers said, “Man, I hope you release that one, that’s a hit.” So that was our first single.

DK: I read that later this year, you’ll be releasing your memoir book, called Born to Fly. How did you decide to write this book?

Evans: I was approached by (book publisher) Simon & Schuster to see if I was interested in writing a book. They said, “Whatever you want to write about, that’s fine.” So I said, “I’m not really ready to write my autobiography yet because I’m too young. I didn’t feel like it was time for that yet.” So they said, “Fine, whatever you like.” So I thought, I’ll do a book [that’s about] raising kids with this crazy career, and being a stepmom with four kids, and how busy I am, and trying to give some unsolicited advice to other women. And talk about how I deal with always being on camera and trying to stay healthy, and my self-image issues. Well, the more we got into it, the more it became a memoir, because in order for me to talk about why I feel the way I do about things, I had to tell about my life and explain where I came from. So then I was like, “Oh crap, we’ll just do a memoir, but it won’t be a complete tell-all…it will be a soft memoir. But as you get into it, you’re like…Well I have to tell this, and I have to tell this. [It turns out that writing the book] was such a hard experience…it was not easy. But the other day, my daughter and her boyfriend went out on a blanket in the grass, and started reading it. Livvy starts running in and says, “Mama, this is amazing. Oh my gosh, I didn’t know many of these stories about you.” And it’s true, that there’s so much drama in my life that people aren’t going to believe it when they read it. There are a couple of stories that I’ve never told in public before, that are gonna shock people (laughs).