Listen to the full interview here!
Sara Evans recently released, “Copy That,” a collection of covers spanning multiple decades. The whole concept – from song selection to the throwback album art – is outstanding. Nashline Country digs into the creative process of the album, plus Sara talks about how she’s using this time off the road to prepare her next record.
You produced this project with Jarrad K, who just worked with Ruston Kelly on his latest album. How did that relationship form, and how you decide he was the best fit for this record?
I’m really particular about music, and I’m not a huge fan of the bro-country style. When we were talking about the album, I wanted it to be a covers record, but I didn’t have a producer yet. My manager said, “Why don’t you listen to the Ruston Kelly record, it’s really good.”
It took me like two weeks to listen to because I was figuring I wouldn’t like it. But I finally turned it on, and it was absolutely amazing. It’s not bro-country at all. It’s just so cool. It’s like Americana, but parts of it are very country, parts of it are 90s rock and roll.
I looked up who produced it, and it was a guy named Jarrad K. He’s not a country guy, he’s from LA. We took a couple of meetings. He’s only lived in Nashville for about four years. We completely connected musically. The way we wanted to record the record, he was totally down with that. I just took a chance and went in and worked with someone I’d never worked with before, and it turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.
You grew up in a family band, so I’m sure you did your share of covers. How did you narrow down which songs to include on this album?
It was so hard. We started a big group text that had my brother, sister, all three of my kids, my husband, and my manager. And I would just say to them “Any time you think of a cool song, send it to the group text.”
And then I started listening to 70s on 7 and 80s on 8 on Sirius XM, just to try to refresh my memory because there are so many songs that I had not thought about like “Come on Eileen” or “My Sharona,” or “If I Can’t Have You.” All of those came from me hearing them on the radio. Then I’d make my son go in with me and meet with Jarrad. So Jarrad and my son would play, and we’d kinda sing the songs. The ones that felt like they’d be the most fun and most authentic to me. Then we’d keep narrowing our list.
You covered “6th Avenue Heartache” by The Wallflowers. You’ve worked with drummer Matt Chamberlain, who played on those original The Wallflowers records. He’s responsible for that iconic drum opening that kicks off “Born To Fly.” Since then, he’s played on your records and started appearing on so many country albums since then – were you Matt’s introduction to Nashville?
I am a musician, and I’m drawn to great drummers. There are a million great drummers in Nashville. I just thought, “The way he plays just resonated with me so much.” Paul Worley was producing me at the time, and I said, “You gotta do me a favor. You gotta find this drummer.” And he’s like, “Why? There are so many drummers here that we could just call.” And I said, “No, he has to be the one.” I knew that he would help me create this sound that would be original to me.
It was the first time he’d ever been in Nashville, the first country record he’d ever play on. And on the beginning of “Born To Fly,” he was just kinda joking around, and I was like, “I would love that, leave that.” He played on all my albums since then; he’s helped me develop my sound over the years. But I have a great guy named Eric Slick who played on the covers record, and he did a phenomenal job.
Watching you perform on the opening number at the CMA’s last year was incredible! I don’t know if you realize this, but you and Reba are the only female country artists to have a number one single in the 90s, 2000s, and this past decade. You’ve had such an impact on the genre and inspired many artists that grew up on your music. What was it like returning to the CMA stage?
I was just so proud of Robert Deaton, who produced the CMAs, for doing that. It’s important that we remind everybody how many great females there are in country music. It’s just so unfair and sad that we don’t get played even as a third, fourth, or eighth as much as men do. That was really cool, and I was so proud to be a part of it. I was honored and also in awe. I was next to Crystal Gayle and Dolly Parton. In the dressing room rehearsing, we were all kinda just sitting around singing acapella, and I looked over, and Dolly Parton is singing “Born To Fly,” so it was amazing.
Your first record for RCA in 1997 really had that retro, classic country sound. “Three Chords and the Truth” will always be one of my favorite songs ever. And you included some country standards like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “She’s Got You,” on this album. Do you ever see yourself making a full-on pure traditional country album again in the future?
That’s almost what the covers album was. I knew I wanted a specialty record. So I thought about doing old school, but luckily we were able to get “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “She’s Got You,” so we do have two that have that real country sound. I would love to go back to that hillbilly style.
You’ve got Phillip Sweet and Old Crow Medicine Show on “Copy That.” And you’ve had Ricky Skaggs, George Jones, Vince Gill, and others play on your past records. Plus, you’ve shared the stage with Maroon 5, REO Speedwagon, and so many others. Are there any dream collaborations you want to do in the future?
I want to sing with Ruston Kelly. Dwight Yoakam would be a great duet. John Mayer. I like really cool original voices but also voices that sorta sing like me with the same kind of vibrato or the country twang like Dwight Yoakam. We have this running joke; now I tag John Mayer on all of the Closet Chaos episodes because I’ve been talking about him for years, and I’ve never met him. I don’t even want to meet him.
Let’s talk motherhood. You were doing all the things – radio tours, shows, and interviews when “No Place That Far” hit #1 in 1999…and you did it all while around the time you had your first child. Looking back, do you ever think, “how did I manage to balance it all?” Because your kids seem to be very grounded and talented, so you have obviously done something right!
Thank you. I think about that all the time. Especially by the time I had Audrey, Avery was five and Olivia was two, I was doing over 200 dates a year, other appearances, and I was making albums. I took them with me everywhere I went, with a nanny. Part of it was that I refused to be away from them that much, and I was just determined to do it. Then I think about them growing up on the road and the tour bus and how it made them really cool people because they didn’t just sit in a classroom, they were having these amazing life experiences.
You’ve got the album out, a new book that I cannot wait to get my hands on, anything else that you have planned for the near future?
I’m praying to God that we can just get back on the road. I cannot imagine waiting until 2021. All these tours that I see popping up that people are announcing are all in 2021. I’m like, “That is literally a year from now.” I can’t imagine that. I want to get back out on the road. I know the fans want us to get back out on the road, I’m praying that that happens sooner than later. Until then, I’m just trying to be creative. I wanna go ahead and start the next record. This is a really good time to be writing a new record since we can’t be on the road. I’m planning on starting that really soon.