POSTED ON APRIL 18, 2012:
Sara Evans proves stronger than ever with latest album and tour
As Sara Evans arrives in Tulsa for a concert at The Joint this Saturday night, she does so in the driver's seat of a career that only looks to continue climbing. She's currently among the hottest artists in country music and in good company with the elite as a nominee for "Female Vocalist of the Year" in this year's ACM awards along with the likes of Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood (Lambert won the category). Even so, Evans still manages to balance career and family as a recording artist, author (she has co-authored three books in the past three years) and certified country star as she tours behind her latest album, Stronger, which was released in March 2011 and yielded her first platinum single "A Little Bit Stronger."
Although Evans started out with a more traditional sound, her career truly took flight in 2000 with the release of Born to Fly, which saw her transition into a more contemporary sound, blending her love of classic country and pop. With that transition, Evans found her comfort zone and her popularity take off with a sound that has continued to evolve through her current album.
Breezing Fool. Sarah Evans makes a stop at The Joint April 21, Part of her Stronger tour.
Howard Harlin (the song's co-author) was in the studio as Evans sang it, however, and loved her version of the song. Harlin promised Evans he would introduce her to Renee Bell at RCA Records and after arranging for the two to meet, Evans ended up signed to RCA.
"I got tagged as a real traditional country singer," Evans said, "so they ended up picking a producer, Pete Anderson in Los Angeles, who had worked with people like Dwight Yoakam." Although Evans was grateful to have a contract and the opportunity to record, in the end she shared that it "just didn't feel completely authentic."
That first album, Three Chords and the Truth, did nothing on radio, but received critical praise and its follow up, No Place That Far, did a little better, scoring Evans a pair of hits in the Top 40 country charts, including a number one single with "Cryin' Game."
"After the second album, I took a break and had a baby," Evans said, "and I remember being nine months pregnant, sitting on the couch and I said 'When I come back, I'm going to completely control my career,' and I did."
That transition began with what would be the title track to her next album, Born to Fly, which she co-wrote with Marcus Drummond and Darrell Scott. "Originally, 'Born to Fly' had this kind of bluegrass, train beat," she said. "That's how we wrote it. I was listening to a lot of pop at the time and was obsessed with The Wallflowers record at the time -- specifically the drums, so I had to know 'Who's the drummer?' and I found out it was a guy named Matt Chamberlain."
"So when we got ready to start the record, I met with my producer, Paul Worley (who has worked with Dixie Chicks, amongst others) and said "The first thing you have to do is find and get Matt Chamberlain to play drums,'" she continued. "He said 'Who's that?' so I told him and he found Matt in Seattle. He agreed to come out to Nashville and do the record and the sound was awesome."
"When I researched Matt, I decided to change the drum beat," Evans said, "and it changed the sound -- not just of that song, but the entire record. My sound is literally built around Matt's drums with bassist Glenn Worf and Paul Worley's producing."
From first listen, "Born to Fly" was a departure for Evans, with a different sound and swagger. It carried over from album to album since then, but was something I could never quite put my finger on. Once she explained it, however, it became crystal clear: the snap of the snare and precision of the drums is what subtly drove that song and album -- and has been part of her signature sound ever since.
Ironically, that initial session with Evans was the first time Chamberlain had ever been to Nashville. "It's funny," Evans said, "because everyone in Nashville uses him now. He's played on records for Faith Hill and Keith Urban and just about everyone else."
As Evans' career has continued to build, her sound has continued to develop, as has her songwriting and song selection. When asked about how she selects the songs for each album, Evans said that "It's really about a mood or what my tastes are at the time -- and that includes my taste outside of my own music. Every time, though, it seems like one song is central to the album. It's kind of like how you buy a couch and then everything else in the room goes with it."
When putting together her latest album, Stronger, she explained that the single "A Little Bit Stronger", co-written by Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, actually came in late in the process. "The song I really built around this time was 'Life Without Losing'," she said. "I loved that song and that was the one I was comparing the rest of the songs to. I thought if every song is as good as that one, we'll have a really good album."
Evans also shared that "I love a big guitar solo and a big fiddle solo. There are things that I like or need to have on each album: a big country ballad and a more upbeat, pop type song. I try to give respect to the music I love, people like Dolly Parton and George Jones, but I also love Stevie Nicks."
By following her own convictions and taste, Evans has risen to the occasion as one of the most popular artists in country music while remaining true to herself. Stronger has proven to be Evans' most successful album to date with a pair of hit singles, but although it has been out for a year, its momentum has not slowed down. Evans revealed that she'll be releasing her next single, "Anywhere", in late May or early June.
"'Anywhere' was written by my brother, Matt Evans," she shared. "He's written a lot for me, but this will be his first single, so I'm looking forward to it."
In other words, just as summer hits Evans will be releasing what could prove to be the perfect summer tune: the single built for your windows down and the wind blowing through your hair. A quick listen shows the song has all of the elements: Evan's signature sound and the snap of the snare, a breezy verse and soaring chorus.
Before summer arrives, however, Evans' ongoing tour brings her to Tulsa this Saturday night, April 21, for a show at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. As the show spotlights Evans' hits and her latest album, Stronger, it should be even more apparent that she's one of the stronger women in country music and is definitely the one in control of her direction.
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