Sara Evans Highlights Power And Strength Of ‘Words’ On Upcoming Album

With her upcoming eighth studio release, Sara Evans wants listeners to refocus on the power and strength of Words.

For the 14-track album, set to release July 21, Evans turned to a stable of 30 of Nashville’s top songwriters, among them 14 female tunesmiths, including Ashley Monroe, Caitlyn Smith, Hillary Lindsey, Sonya Isaacs, and Evans herself.

Evans says she didn’t realize female writers made up approximately half of contributors to the album until A&R executive Tracy Gershon brought it to her attention.

“It wasn’t intentional,” Evans said during an interview with MusicRow. “I tell people not to tell me who wrote songs because I don’t want any preconceived notion about it. I don’t want to know when they were written or whom they were pitched to. When we were done, Mark Bright, Tracy Gershon, Craig Dunn and I were sitting and having wine at the very end of tracking on the third day. Tracy said, ‘Do you realize there are 14 female writers on this album including you?’ I think that makes it cooler.”

Helmed by producer Mark Bright, the album begins with Evans’ smooth voice covering the plucky bluegrass track “Long Way Down,” a stark reminder of Evans’ deeply-held country and bluegrass roots. Her versatile voice easily navigates the varied rhythms on Claude Kelley and Charles Harmon’s “Rain and Fire,” and is perhaps at its best on her new single, the cautionary “Marquee Sign,” which she co-wrote with Jimmy Robbins and Heather Morgan.

“Words,” the album’s title track, serves as a potent, yet never preachy, reminder of the building and destroying influence even the smallest utterances can have on relationships. For Evans, it is also a one-term charge for a song’s lyrical substance to resonate as much as its hooks.

“I’m trying to make a point that we need better lyrics. Not everybody can be a prolific writer. I don’t even call myself some genius writer; I’m no Jason Isbell or Patty Griffin. But as soon as I sit down to write with somebody I can tell whether or not they are going to just rhyme or if they are really going to think about it.”

Earlier this year, Evans announced that Words would be released on her own label, Born To Fly Records. The singer, songwriter and businesswoman’s vision for the new venture includes plans for a publishing company and development program for new artists.

The move to launch her own independent label follows a former deal with Sugar Hill Records.

“We were totally going to go with Sugar Hill, then everything changed and Tracy Gershon left, so that was when we were like, ‘Lets just dive into it and start our own label.’”

Similarly, Evans has immersed herself into every aspect of the new album, inviting fellow songwriters to her home just outside of Birmingham, Alabama, where Evans relocated after marrying Jay Barker in 2008.

Bringing writers to her home turf was an apt choice, given that much of Words is a family affair for Evans.

Evans teamed with Victoria Banks and Emily Shackelton to pen “Letting You Go,” an ode to her 17-year-old son Avery, who will begin his senior year of high school this year.

“It was so overwhelmingly sad, we were sobbing,” Evans says of the writing session. “I had a hard time doing a work tape for it because I was crying. I loved that I could pay tribute to Avery since it will be another couple of years before I make another record.”

The track comes full circle for Evans, who notes that Avery’s voice can be heard on “I Keep Looking,” a track from her 2000 project Born To Fly, which was recorded soon after Avery was born.

“I was such a protective mom so when we were tracking the album I was singing scratch vocals and I would just hold him the whole time so you can hear him,” Evans says. “We just left it on the record and now I just wrote this song about him graduating.”

Evans’ 14-year-old daughter Olivia contributed vocals to “Marquee Sign,” while Evans’ siblings, who have spent years touring with their sister, lent harmonies to “Night Light.”

“I told Olivia, ‘Just sing how you sing.’ She’s much more like Beyoncé/Ariana Grande. She will end up being a better singer than me, and she wants to do that—not country, though. We didn’t fix her vocals at all. She was very adamant about not having anyone fix her vocals. Avery is a musician also and they are so concerned about being legit.”

That passion and desire for authenticity and respect is one their mother shares and still fervently pursues, even within an industry where she has co-written two of her five No. 1 singles and notched three platinum and two gold albums. Still, Evans has had to fight to have her voice as an artist heard—sometimes even in her own co-writing sessions.

“I’ve always wanted to prove myself. Even when I started writing as an artist, I was like, ‘I will not sit in here and have you two write and only sort of include me.’ I even had an experience like that writing for Words. These two really young, although successful writers who write together all the time literally came down and kind of ignored me. One said, ‘Seriously though, the song should be like this…’ It’s amazing that so many people still have that idea that the singer doesn’t really do anything and isn’t legit.”

Evans took control of the project, overseeing every detail from writing, recording, sequencing, and musicianship. It was a deeply hands-on process that rendered some of her most commercially successful albums including Restless and Born To Fly.

“I literally lived in the studio on those albums,” she says. “I didn’t let any detail go without being there [in the studio]. There have been times in my career where I haven’t been as careful or particular with the albums. More than ever, I have to prove myself over and over. There is something weird about turning 40. All of a sudden people start questioning your abilities. I’m better now than I’ve ever been and I know myself better. With this album, I remembered the respect that I have for my music.”

 

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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