Sara Evans has long been considered among the elite women of Country Music. Her emotionally charged hits have lit up the charts for years and her genuine approach to life and artistry have inspired fans globally to be ‘A Little Bit Stronger’. The 'Born To Fly' beauty is set to release her seventh studio album, entitled after lead single, ‘Slow Me Down’ on March 11, 2014. I caught up with Sara for a candid discussion about making this album, her take on the evolution of the Country genre and some of her favorite things, like hit TV show Downton Abbey, The Fray and 'Friends In Low Places'.
She began, “I just turned 43 and I’m a woman and I’m in Country music, which is a genre that is currently completely male dominated. I could not just make a record. I knew I needed to make a record that was undeniable.” Adding, “I knew that I had to go in there and kick ass.” What resulted is eleven tracks that include a duet with The Fray’s Isaac Slade, a cover of Gavin DeGraw’s hit single, ‘Not Over You’ featuring his vocal harmonies and a feature by Country legend in his own right, Vince Gill. She has taken her artistry to the next level on this album and by doing so hopes to stir up this prevalently male genre. “That is the single greatest challenge, being a woman in this industry.” Sara relayed, explaining, “Because you’re fighting against so many men. Even someone who is brand new, who is a guy, is having an easier time of it than me, an established country star. But I’m up for the challenge.”
To raise the bar the feisty singer pushed herself to new levels in her artistry as well as vocally revealing, “I was singing a lot of these songs in higher keys than I normally do.” But it really all began with her song selection. Divulging her process she told me, “It sounds so simple but, just finding great songs and songs that move me emotionally. They have to have the level of smart lyric that I want and beautiful melody and emotion.” Continuing, “I won’t compromise my lyrics. I just will not do it. I would rather fail and believe that I put out quality music or quality lyrics than succeed on crappy lyrics.”
With songs in hand, she aimed at her bucket list and strategically selected the vocalists to feature on the album. At the top of her list, Isaac Slade of The Fray. “I’ve always been a huge fan of The Fray.” Evans confessed and went on, “I’ve been to their concerts, bought their music and I always have related to Isaac’s voice.” Continuing, “When I heard this duet (‘Can’t Stop Loving You’), I was like, ‘I have to ask Isaac Slade to sing with me!’ It was also sort of like a dream. He was on my dream list of duets.” Proving even superstars such as herself, aren’t immune to being starstruck, she acknowledged the whole experience was a bit surreal. “As soon as I heard him singing… You know, it’s one thing to hear someone on the radio, or listen to their albums and love them so much. But when he started singing on my record and it was his voice, that I’m so accustomed to hearing, it was kind of overwhelming! I was in disbelief!” Summarizing, “We had an awesome time, he just went in and he killed it.”
With smart lyrics and raw emotion as her emphasis on this album, Gavin DeGraw’s single, ‘Not Over You’ hit her radar the minute she first heard it. She started, “I mean, after I heard ‘Not Over You’, I was like, ‘I should have recorded that song,’ that is a Sara Evans song. That is so a song that I would write and sing. The lyric is so brilliant!” She went on, “Of course we asked him to come in and put a harmony on it and what he did was took it so far above and beyond just the harmony part.” Finishing, “He made it like this overwhelmingly emotional song that starts off sad but it builds and builds and builds to the point where it takes your breath away.” Inserting, “I want the Gavin song to be the next single. I’m praying that we can do that.”
‘Slow Me Down’ is as appropriate of a title for Evans’ seventh studio album as it gets. The reigning Country songstress is full steam ahead, poised to command the attention of the industry and fans alike. Intelligently styled, the album exhales finesse and articulates a softer side of the genre. She discloses, “It’s easy to write a beer song or about your truck and jeans. I could do that in five minutes.” Clarifying, “I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever write a beer or party song. That’s not what I’m saying. But write it smartly.” Finishing, “One of the smartest beer/party songs is Garth Brooks, ‘Friends In Low Places’. That’s a smart way to say that. But once its been said a certain amount of times you gotta just move away from it.”
Sara Evans maintains a clear, focused commitment to her music and is prepared to turn the tide on this male dominated genre. She states, “Women have done so much throughout history to shape Country music. You talk about Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, me, The Dixie Chicks. It’s like, how in the world can we turn this genre to where there are no women?” She continues, “We need that female voice and the female perspective.” Concluding, “In every interview I’ve done, people are asking me about it. So, it makes me feel like something's about to change and maybe I’ll be lucky enough to have this album be one of the things that changes it.”
Beginning yesterday, the entire album is available for streaming exclusively at saraevans.CMT.com and on the recently launched CMT Artists App. Or, you can also pre-order the album by going to http://smarturl.it/itunesslowmedown and immediately receive a copy of the title track 'Slow Me Down'.