Sara Evans is frazzled. Like any mom, she spent the morning trying to get her kids ready so she could make it out the door on time for work. But unlike many moms out there, her job is country superstar. Her seventh studio album, “Slow Me Down,” drops tomorrow. Evans rang us from her tour bus on her way to Nashville.
This is your seventh studio album. Has the process gotten any easier for you?
I watch the charts weekly and just so desire success. You put so much into making your records and all the little details that can either be just not even recognized or can take your career to the next level. You never know how a single is gonna be received, or if it’s gonna be bad timing — like, I was worried about our genre right now being so heavily male-dominated. I was like, “Are they gonna give me a slot?” And they did. … It’s always scary: No matter how many albums you put out, how much success you’ve had, you never want anything to fail.
There’s a cover of Gavin DeGraw’s “Not Over You” on it. How did that come about?
It’s just simply that I was a fan of the song. It was one of my favorite songs of that time, and I think almost every album since “Born to Fly” I’ve put a cover tune on. I was just thinking what kind of song, out of the millions and millions of songs out there, would I want to cover? And I don’t know why it just came to me to do that one. Something about the lyrics — that song moved me so much, and it sounds much like a Sara Evans song. It’s like he wrote it for me. And so we just went in and did it. … He went so far above and beyond our expectations. The stuff that he put on it was just phenomenal and it made it so dramatic.
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You also have a duet with Isaac Slade from The Fray.
I was just a huge fan of The Fray and love [lead singer] Isaac Slade’s voice. The song “Can’t Stop Loving You” was pitched to me it was written as a duet and so I just started like rubbing my hands together like a mad scientist — like “who will I get to sing with me?” I just thought his voice would be so perfect on this because of the range and the key that it’s in. He came in and he completely took ownership of it and just gave it everything he had.
Were you worried Gavin might be offended by you wanting to do your own take on his song?
No, not at all, because I think that’s a huge compliment to any artist when another artist covers their song. He wrote it with [OneDirection singer] Ryan Tedder and so I’m sure they are excited about those royalty checks. (Laughs)
The video for your first single, “Slow Me Down,” features you in a wedding dress.
It was just something that I wanted to do. … It’s just symbolic. It’s almost me saying “why did I marry him? If it doesn’t change I’m going to have to leave, but I really want him to stop me and I really want him to chase me down.” And every girl loves idea of — not in the way of playing games but just — if I told you I was leaving you, would you chase me? Would you try to stop me? I just completely related to that song because everybody wants to be pursued. And guys do too!
What was your mindset like when you were working on this disc?
If an actor chooses to play the part of a wife-beating, drug-addict thief, that doesn’t mean that in their personal life they’re thinking those dark things. It’s acting. With me that’s what I love about going in the studio and creating these songs, because I’m completely acting.
It must be hard to constantly defend yourself to people who think you’re writing about your life.
Yeah. When I write songs I go into a fantasy world, writing things that I think would make great music. I write something that I think would move people. I don’t mirror things that I’m writing or recording. … Everybody wanted to say that “A Little Bit Stronger” was about my divorce — it completely wasn’t. I found that song so long after my divorce.
On the opposite spectrum are artists like Taylor Swift.
Exactly. She’s definitely one of those personal writers. Or so she says — who knows? She could be totally like, “I never had a boyfriend.” [Laughs]
Do you read what critics write about you?
I cannot read negative stuff about myself and then just carry on. It really bothers me, it really hurts my feelings. I try to stay away from that kind of stuff. I mean, it doesn’t matter —you have to say to those people, “OK, that’s your opinion, but what have you ever done?” I’m doing the best that I can, trying to support my children, and I’m trying my hardest, making the music that I think is the best and that I love.
Who’s an artist people would be surprised to know you listen to?
I love rap. I love Eminem. To be honest with you like I don’t really listen to country like you would think because it makes me think about work too much. I also listen to what my kids want to listen to.